Published on People’s World, by Jane Green, December 29, 2009.
The death of reformist cleric Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri on Dec. 19 has sparked a run of protests in Iran which have both caught the authorities off guard and surprised the opposition by their scale. Official reports suggest that the turnout at Montazeri’s funeral on Dec. 21 was up to 500,000 people. Opposition sources claim that the numbers were nearer to one million. Either way, this convergence upon Qom, a city with a population of only 700,000, is significant.
Montazeri had been one of the pillars of the 1979 revolution in Iran but fell out with Ayotollah Khomenei, whom he was designated to succeed, over the Islamic Republic’s human rights record and specifically the mass execution of political prisoners in 1988. Montazeri questioned the legality and necessity of the execution of political prisoners. Montazeri was put under house arrest in1997 for criticising the current Supreme Leader, Ayotollah Ali Khamenei. Earlier this year he made clear his opposition to the manipulated outcome of the June 2009 election, which returned Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the presidency by a “landslide” and sparked the current wave of nationwide protests in Iran …
… If true, this final point is perhaps the most significant, as the identification of the security and armed forces with the cause of the people would signify a major shift in the balance of power. While it may be too early to proclaim such a shift in the power balance in Iran, the fact that protests have not subsided following the June election and that they have increasingly focused upon the authority of Ayotollah Ali Khamenei will give the authorities cause for concern. Such a shift begins to raise questions about the legitimacy of the Islamic Republic itself, not just the government.
How this balance changes will be the critical factor in determining the fate of Iran into 2010 and in particular the fate of the Islamic Republic. The ongoing response of the Iranian people to continued repression should be matched by an equal level of solidarity in the labor, trade union and peace movements across the world to ensure that Iran moves in the direction of genuine democracy. With the hovering threats of both Israel and the United States casting their shadow, it is vital that regime change in Iran is by the people, for the people and not imposed by external forces to meet an external Western agenda. Moving into 2010, this will be the main task of those across the world looking to support the true voices and the actions of the Iranian people. (full text).
(Jane Green is the national campaign officer of the UK-based CODIR, Committee for the Defence of the Iranian People’s Rights).