Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, the plain-spoken senior Shiite cleric who helped forge Iran’s system of religious government and went on to become a fierce critic of its hard-line rulers, died Sunday morning at the age of 87. He died of heart failure while sleeping in his home in Qum, his son Ahmad told Iran’s official IRNA news agency.Read more.
The ayatollah, who was once designated to succeed Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini as Iran’s supreme leader, stepped away from the country’s hard-line path in the 1980s. He later embraced the reform movement, which has come to view him as the spiritual father of its cause.
In the months since Iran’s disputed June presidential elections, he has issued stinging denunciations of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s government, saying the Islamic Republic is neither Islamic nor a republic, and that its supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has lost his legitimacy. Only two weeks ago, he warned that the Basij militia - which has brutally suppressed opposition street rallies - was forsaking the “path of God” for the “path of Satan.”
From BBC News: Crowds gather to mourn reformist Iran cleric Montazeri
Crowds of mourners are gathering in the Iranian city of Qom following the death of leading reformist cleric Grand Ayatollah Hoseyn Ali Montazeri at 87.Some pro-reform websites say thousands of people are travelling to the city ahead of Monday’s funeral.Other unverified reports say opposition supporters are also gathering in some squares in Tehran, fuelling government concern of increased political tension.Grand Ayatollah Montazeri, one of Shia Islam’s most respected figures and a leading critic of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, himself said in August that the turmoil following the election “could lead to the fall of the regime”.He said Iran’s clerical leadership was a dictatorship and issued a fatwa condemning the government after the election.
Neo-Resistance: The Green Godfather Passes Away.
This is a loss the Greens will mourn in all their courageous glories ... And this is perhaps a death that Khamenei and his ilk should fear most ... without people like Montazeri, the entire religious establishment becomes vulnerable to the Greens fed-upness with clerical rule.
More updates from Tehran Bureau.
Background from Pedestrian: Ayatollah Street.
Background from the BBC Radio 4 series, Analysis, October 25th: Ayatollogy
The programme contains an exclusive email interview with one of Shia Islam’s most senior and respected clerics, Grand Ayatollah Hoseyn Ali Montazeri, who calls on Iran’s clerics to work with political activists to bring about reform and “be in step with the people”.
Background from The New York Times, November 21st: Cleric Wields Religion to Challenge Iran’s Theocracy.
Background at Khordaad 88:
September 24th, The Letter of Ayatollah Taheri Esfahani to Grand Aytollah Montazeri.
November 3rd, Ayatollah Montazeri Speaks On the Hostage Crisis.
Earlier related post: Iran’s dissenting clerics.