Iran Election Guide

Donate to EAWV

Or, click to learn more


Entries in Michael Slackman (2)


Iran Special LiveBlog: Ayatollah Montazeri Has Died

MONTAZERI2UPDATE 2225 GMT: Rah-e-Sabz has published what it claims is the circular issued by the Ministry of Islamic Culture and Guidance on coverage of Montazeri's death. It states that reference should be made to Montazeri's differences with Ayatollah Khomeini, but there should be no mention of his political career.

There are also stories that newspapers have been taken off printing presses to be altered. So far only Etelaat has a full obituary of Montazeri. so far.

Latest Iran Video: Montazeri’s Criticism of Supreme Leader Khamenei (October 2009)
Latest Iran Video: Demonstrations in Memory of Montazeri (20 December)

The Latest from Iran (20 December): Montazeri Death; Regime Scrambles for Legitimacy

1710 GMT: "Following the announcements made by a number of Grand Ayatollahs inviting public to mourn the departure of the great shia scholar and noble combatant, Grand Ayatollah Montazeri, in a joint statement Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi declared Monday to be a national mourning day and invited the grieving public to attend Grand Ayatollah Montazeri’s funeral which will be held (then)."

1650 GMT: Ahmad Qabel, a religious scholar and one of Montazeri's disciples of the late Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri, has been arrested while en route to Qom from Mashhad. Qabel is an outspoken critic of the Supreme Leader. There is no information about Qabel's captors or where he is being held.

Meanwhile, some political activists and journalists are claiming that security agents on Sunday afternoon have threatened to arrest them if they participate in Montazeri's funeral.

1635 GMT: Both Mir Hossein Mousavi (text in Persian and English) and Mehdi Karroubi have published their condolences over the death of Montazeri.

1555 GMT: Enduring America's Mr Smith has some sharp observations on the messages of the Supreme Leader and Hashemi Rafsanjani (1540 and 1545 GMT):

The Leader's message is not really congratulatory: he was forced to act (after half a day's delay, compared to the senior theologians who went to Montazeri's house in Qom), and he refers to the incident that led to Montazeri's dismissal in 1989. He essentially states that Montazeri did Khomeini wrong on that issue and reserves judgement for God. Khamenei couldn't stay silent on the issue of his death, but his message is anything but congratulatory.

Same for Hashemi Rafsanjani: his message is terse and quite dry, as it was Rafsanjani himself who engineered Montazeri's dismissal. His condolences contain nothing about Montazeri's political activities, (which spanned some 50 years, and notes only his theologian qualities, saying that "the seminary system and Islamic society will miss his presence".

So, all in all, these two are messages who were forcibly spat out, rather than being heartfelt

1545 GMT: And now the message from the Supreme Leader....It refers to Montazeri's important role in the early years of the Islamic Republic:

[He was a] well-versed jurist and a prominent master....Many disciples have benefited greatly from him....Ayatollah Montazeri spent a long period of his life serving the late founder of the Islamic Revolution and made many efforts and suffered much hardship for advancing this cause.

However, Khamenei also mentions the incident that led to the cleric's dismissal in 1989.

1540 GMT: Hashemi Rafsanjani's condolence message for Montazeri is carefully framed, omitting any reference to the cleric's political activities and instead limiting itself to the religious sphere: "The seminary system and Islamic society will miss his presence."

1535 GMT: Both Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi have confirmed that they will attend Montazeri's funeral tomorrow.

1525 GMT: Back from an appearance with Al Jazeera English on another topic to catch up with developments. Both Ayatollah Sane'i and former President Mohammad Khatami have issued public condolences.

1205 GMT: Pictures indicate that the city of Najafabad has shut down, with all shops closed, in memory of Montazeri.

1155 GMT: The regime seems to be almost panicked in its response to the news of Montazeri's death. EA sources report that initially the Ministry of Islamic Guidance and Culture ordered newspapers to ignore it. When this proved impossible, outlets like Raja News and Fars News insulted Montazeri by dropping his titles and emphasising his "support of positions against the Islamic system".

Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting finally mentioned Montazeri's death in its 1 p.m. bulletin, belittling the cleric and using an interview with his physician to establish that Montazeri had died of natural causes.

1100 GMT: Reports that Montazeri's funeral will be Monday, 9 a.m. local time.

The pro-Government Raja News has announced the death of "Hossein Ali Montazeri" in a derogatory article, dropping any clerical title and denouncing Montazeri for working with and sheltering the "gang" of Mehdi Hashemi, the son of former President Hashemi Rafsanjani.

1030 GMT: Parleman News reports that Montazeri’s followers are moving --- from Tehran, Isfahan, Shiraz, Najaf-Abad and other cities --- toward his home in the holy city of Qom to pay their respects. There are also gatherings in the homes of Grand Ayatollahs Mousavi-Ardebili, Shobeiri-Zanjani, Bayat-Zanjani, Sane'i, and Amini.

0800 GMT: Radio Farda has the Persian transcript and audio of Ayatollah Montazeri's last public statement, delivered on 11 December as he accepted a human rights award.

0730 GMT: Grand Ayatollah Montazeri's website is not available to confirm the news of his passing. The Associated Press posts, however, that his grandson has verified initial reports, and his son Ahmad has reportedly said the same to the Iranian Labor News Agency.

We awake this morning to the news, from the Iranian Students News Agency, that Grand Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri has died.

Montazeri, 87, was one of the most prominent clerics in Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. In the 1980s he was the designated successor to the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khomeini, until he was sidelined because of political and religious divisions and a falling-out with Khomeini. Ayatollah Khameini eventually became Supreme Leader. Montazeri was isolated and then placed under house arrest after clashes with Khamenei.

In recent months, Montazeri was one of the most vocal supporters of the opposition movement, going as far as to criticise the legimitacy of the Supreme Leader. For example, at the end of October, he refused to commemorate the birthday of Imam Reza, the 8th Shia Imam, as a protest:
Since many of our beloved scholars, those who are not only faithful individuals but also served this revolution and country passionately, are unfortunately in prison for false accusations; and to show solidarity and sympathy with the respected families of these loved ones, we did not hold a celebration today....During Shah’s time because many people were under oppression, Imam Khomeini announced not to hold the ceremony for the Birthday of the hidden Imam.

On 11 December, the Defenders of Human Rights Center in Iran named Montazeri as its Human Rights Activist of the Year. In his acceptance speech, Montazeri said, "None of those [aggressive actions by the Iranian Government] are legal."

As he became the most vocal high-ranking clerical critic of the Iranian Government after the 12 June election, Montazeri caught the attention of international media. In October, the BBC had an e-mail interview with Montazeri on Islam and the legitimacy of the Iranian Government and Islamic Republic. On 21 November, Michael Slackman of The New York Times published a profile, "Cleric Wields Religion to Challenge Iran’s Theocracy".

The Latest from Iran (14 December): Taking Stock

IRAN GREEN1745 GMT: Swinging Wildly. A couple of punches from regime supporters this afternoon. The Supreme Leader's representative to the Revolutionary Guard, told Presidential staff that the Khomeini Archive, run by the late Imam's family, is "a base for monafeghin (hypocrites)". The term "monafeghin" is commonly used to refer to the Mujahedin-e-Khalq, the group which has tried to overthrow the Islamic Republic since 1979, often through violence.

And Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi took aim at Hashemi Rafsanjani. Yazdi claimed that, when he was head of Iran's judiciary, Rafsanjani asked him to cover up a criminal case against the former President's daughter, Faezeh Hashemi. Yazdi also questioned the intellectual credentials of Mir Hossein Mousavi.

1604 GMT: Confirming the Sentence. We had learned days ago that economist and journalist Saeed Laylaz had been sentenced to nine years in prison. The break-down of the sentence has been released: five years for acts against national security by holding meetings with foreign embassy officials, one year for participating in the protest march of 15 June; two years (and 74 lashes) for insulting officials, one year for propagandizing against the Establishment in his economic analyses over the last eight years.

1558 GMT: Pushing the Issue. For the first time in months, Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi have requested a permit for a march from the Ministry of Interior.

NEW Latest Iran Video: And Your University Protests Today…. (14 December)
NEW Latest Iran Video: Challenging the Regime’s Forces on 16 Azar (7 December)
NEW Iran: Scott Lucas in La Stampa on “Khamenei’s Final Warning”

NEW Iran: “Arrests” and the Regime’s Sword of Damocles
Iran Analysis: Sifting the Propaganda – Government About to Arrest Opposition Leaders?
Latest Videos from Iran’s Universities (13 December)

The Latest from Iran (13 December): Bubbling Over?

1555 GMT: Sanctions? Oops! "A senior official says that a meeting by five world powers on Iran's nuclear program has been canceled due to China's opposition.

The U.S., Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany had planned to meet Friday. The official from one of the five world powers demanded anonymity Monday because his information was confidential.

The meeting was to be in Brussels or on the sidelines of the Copenhagen summit." (hat-tip to EA reader)

1510 GMT: Josh Shahryar's latest Green Brief, covering Sunday's events, is now out, covering protests at up to nine Iranian universities, the threat of arrests, and the Supreme Leader's speech, amongst other events.

1500 GMT: There's Mahmoud! The President has met our concerns about his absence (0905 and 0725 GMT) from the domestic crisis with this comment, "The enemies of the Iranian nation are now frustrated and want to take revenge through insulting the country's sanctities....The enemies should fear the typhoon of the Iranian people's anger." Ahmadinejad accused the opposition of being "against the nation" and "agents of foreigners".

1215 GMT: Your New Top Story (if You're Not in Iran). Looks like the "Western" media will surge this morning with a single sentence from Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki at a news conference, passed on by the Associated Press via The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times: the three US hikers detained this summer in Iran had "suspicious aims" and will go on trial. CBS News is now headlining, and CNN now "confirms" (cracking journalism since the press conference was hours ago).

1050 GMT: The Regime's Scramble. A reader reminds us that the Peyke Iran "exclusive" (0915 GMT), on the Armed Forces self-confessed failing to contain the opposition, is from a memorandum from September after the Qods Days protests. The question that prompts is whether, again in light of our analysis this morning, the Armed Forces would revise that assessment three months later.

1040 GMT: The Regime Persists. I guess the Government can't just step away from its "burning Khomeini" game, despite all the complications it has caused. Tehran Prosecutor General Abbas Jafari Doulatabadi has claimed that several people have been arrested over the incident.

1030 GMT: Don't Give Them an Excuse. Mir Hossein Mousavi has moved to pre-empt any regime pretext for a crackdown, such as the alleging burning of Khomeini's image, as well as to contain any notion of a "radical" opposition: "From now on all protests and demands should be pursued peacefully and lawfully. Nobody among us should make a pretext for those who are against people."

Mousavi then renewed the "peaceful" challenge:

People have a right to question, they should not be confronted violently....If people's questions were answered and they were not confronted violently we would not see some controversial moves today. People want an end of the security-obsessed atmosphere as in such an atmosphere radicalism grows.

0915 GMT: Analysis Confirmed, Regime Scrambling To Contain Opposition? An EA reader, commenting on our morning analysis about the weekend's threat of arrests, points out a Peyke Iran story: the article claims to have an admission from Iran's Armed Forces that it has failed to contain the Green Movement.

The report from the General Staff allegedly evaluates that the Green Movement has not been fostered by foreign intervention and that it is not following a specific political agenda but is a social and cultural movement. The officers say that, despite isolating the movement's leaders (Mousavi, Karroubi, and Khatami), the opposition has persisted. Efforts to out-number and overwhelm the demonstrators through counter-protests of Government workers have been hindered by the apathy of the workers or, in some cases, their refusal to heed the call.

An interesting note: the General Staff evaluates that women have been the chief instigators of the protests.

0905 GMT: The Regime Keeps On Spinning. Press TV puts out a boiler-plate story under a dramatic headline, "Figures slam sacrilege of Imam Khomeini portrait". We reported almost all of the comments in yesterday's updates but there is one interesting addition today, in light of our question (0725 GMT), "Where's Mahmoud?".  "Iran's President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, on Tuesday described the incident as an 'objectionable' move 'that he wished he had never witnessed'."

Hmm, that's six days ago, which is about six years on the calendar of Iranian political developments --- what's Mahmoud been doing since then?

0725 GMT: After a weekend of tension which did not culminate in 1) high-profile arrests or 2) a resolution of the mysterious letter/audio purportedly from Iranian army units ready to "stand with the people" if violence continues but did point to the persistence of protest on university campuses, it is a morning to pause and assess. We have a special analysis on the meaning of the regime's threat, capped by the Supreme Leader's speech yesterday, to vanquish the opposition once and for all.

There's also an important related issue for us to consider before an analysis tomorrow: Where's Mahmoud? It's notable that, in all the public manoeuvres of the last few days, President Ahmadinejad has been off to the side, meeting foreign delegations and waving his fist on the nuclear issue but saying little about the internal situation. Is he being politically sensible in standing back from the front line or has he been put to the side by others, i.e., the Supreme Leader, returning to the shadows that he occupied in the early weeks of this crisis?

Much of this is beyond the "Western" media. The New York Times, for example, has a good article by Michael Slackman this morning on the "burning" of the image of Imam Khomenei. Unfortunately, it's a piece already overtaken by events --- Slackman never notes the threat of arrests of opposition leaders and thus the wider significance of Ayatollah Khamenei's Sunday address.

CNN is just catching up with the "We Are All Majids/All in Hejab" protest over the detention of Majid Tavakoli.  The Times of London, meanwhile, is going off on one of its regular sensational strolls in the nuclear woods, claiming from mysterious (and unnamed) sources and buttressing the claim with Israeli comment, "Secret document exposes Iran’s nuclear trigger".