Iran: On the death of Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri

Hossein Alizadeh

With Great sadness, I learned this morning that Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, a Shiite Scholar, a political activist, and a champion of human rights passed away this morning at the age of 87, writes Hossein Alizadeh. Ayatollah Montazei was a political philosopher and a social activist, who spent many years in jail, exile and under house arrest. He was the founder of a new political school in Shiitte Islam, known as Velayat-al-Faghih, which calls on Shiite religious leaders to lead the Muslim societies as their political leaders.

His book, under the same title, is a classic and has been used as the theory behind the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran. The Ayatollah was a follower of the Founder of the Iranian Theocracy, Ayatollah Khomeini . He was assigned as Khomeini's successor back in 1980's. However, few months before Khomeini's death, Montazeri resigned from his position in protest to the human rights violations of the Iranian government.

Ever since Montazeri was an outspoken critic of the Iranian government, and repeatedly denounced the merciless killings of people by the regime under the name of Islam. He openly supported the Green Movement in Iran and its leadership, arguing that the "only source of legitimacy is people's vote". Montazeri expressed regret at how his theory was manipulated to justify a dictatorship under the name of Islam. Feeling threatened by Montazeri's stand on the role of democracy in Muslim societies, the Supreme Leader of Iran and his supporters have accused Ayatollah Montazeri of being "a turban-headed idiot" and put him under house arrest. In the past two decades, many of Ayatollah Montazeri's followers and relatives were arrested and the public media were banned from covering his speeches.

Ayatollah Montazeri was a champion of human rights, supporting the equal rights for all citizens, regardless of their religion or political views. He was against torture, discrimination, and the government's violation of citizen's privacy. His outspoken support for human rights principles earned him the 2009 Award of Human Rights by the Iranian Committee of Human Rights Defenders.  Mr. Montazeri received his award 8 days ago.

By Hossein Alizadeh
Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator
International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission

Hossein Alizadeh also interviewed Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri in 2004, when the Ayatollah was still under house arrest. Please follow this link to read the full interview.