The Iranian reformist website Rooz has a brave tribute to the late Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, who died at his home in Qom on 19 December – see Historians and the History-Maker Ayatollah Montazeri, by Akbar Ganji, posted 22 December 2009.
Ganji writes that the people who make history do not resolve all problems, but if they behave ethically they act as role models for their people and for future generations.
No nation is without ethical role modes. Gandhi is the ethical role model of Indians and all freedom-seekers who believe in non-violent struggle.
He goes on to say that Ayatollah Khomeini did not want to become the Iranian Gandhi. It fell to Ayatollah Montazeri to stand up against prison, torture and execution, and he sacrificed his succession to the supreme leadership to do so. He would not be swayed or intimidated:
Ayatollah Khomeini’s charismatic personality was not something that would bind him to remain silent. The “post of supreme leadership” was not something that would trick him. Attacks and insults by thugs was not something that would frighten him. House arrest for years was not something that would force him into retreat. Comfort was not something that would entice him to sacrifice ethics. Loneliness was not something that would weaken his brave resistance. Massive insults by rulers, beholden clerics and the oppression machine were not things that would break him.
He stood and stood and stood until he became the symbol of the Iranian people’s struggle...
He had the courage to reform his beliefs, and continuously updated his legal-religious views, writes Ganji, so that in the end he reformed his philosophy about the role of religious leadership and came to prioritise citizenship rights.
Ayatollah Montazeri left and left everyone in tears. He was not only the father of his sons and daughters. He was the father of all of us. His body will be laid to rest at some place, but his character will be with us as our role model.
Why do I say that this is a “brave” tribute? Because the people who are contributing to the Iranian reformist websites can’t possibly imagine that the Ministry of Intelligence is not reading every word they write and marking them down for future attention when the time is right. Someone who publicly lauds Ayatollah Montazeri and in the process directly criticises the two Supreme Leaders, the Ayatollahs Khomeini and Khamenei, is courageous indeed.
For more background on Ayatollah Montazeri see Iran: A regime in trouble and New York Times on Ayatollah Montazeri’s legacy.