The opposition Green Movement in Iran had been trying for days to get official permission for a demonstration, but it was denied. As a witty tweeter noted, Grand Ayatollah Montazeri took care of that by dying. The demonstrations in Qom are abundantly documented. Look at this video, for example; it is entitled to your careful attention.
We see several important things:
–first, the dimensions of the protest (enormous). There have been monster demonstrations against the regime for several months now, and they are not likely to stop;
–second, the discipline of the crowd. This is extremely rare, especially when you consider that Iran is now in the annual period of mourning, and passions are very high. Add to that the political dimension (Montazeri was a symbol of resistance to the regime), and the fact that there were regime provocateurs in the demonstration, trying to disrupt their disciplined chants. This is an organized movement, not a group of wild-eyed protestors;
–third, the regime is frightened. The supreme leader and his acolytes (Ahmadinejad is less and less visible. Somebody should tell Diane Sawyer) are groping for a way to survive. They seem not to realize that they died before Montazeri, and that nobody cares to mourn them. And so they stagger about, and find the worst possible gesture. As the indispensable Banafsheh tells us:
On Monday evening Saeed Montazeri announced that the Montazeri family was forced to cancel the post-funeral sacrament as the Islamic regime’s forces had invaded the A’zam mosque where the observance was to be held. Saeed Montazeri also added that the Montazeri residence has now been surrounded by various revolutionary guards, members of the Basij, intelligence agents, members of special force, etc.
It is reminiscent of Gorbachev at his most inept, finding a way to be mean enough to enrage the people, but not tough enough to assert his power, thereby provoking that most dangerous of all mass reactions: contempt for his person and his rule. Basij thugs attacked Green leader Mousavi’s car today, injuring one of his bodyguards, smashing a windshield, but otherwise failed to do any serious damage.
Ayatollah Montazeri, on the other hand, has now passed into legend, and his power has grown many times over. The regime he first helped create, and then condemned as a satanic failure, now faces a mass movement inspired by his courage, and his relentless honesty. It is one of history’s neat paradoxes that the remaining Green leaders also worked to create the Islamic Republic and then, recognizing its evil, turned against it.
Some of us who have long fought against the terrible regime in Tehran were fortunate to have received wise observations from Montazeri over the years, and I am confident that, with the passage of time and the changes that will take place in Iran, scholars will marvel at the international dimensions of the Grand Ayatollah’s understanding and the range of his activities. The leaders of the regime knew some of this, which is why they so feared him, but I doubt they have even a glimmering of understanding of his true role, even well into his ninth decade.
He did all this while formally under house arrest in Qom. Now freed from that contemptible captivity, he is free to exert his leadership with even greater energy. Perhaps even the feckless “diplomats” in our own capital will move beyond the pro forma expressions of sadness to do what he wished: support freedom for his oppressed people.
UPDATE: Don’t miss the great coverage from Josh Shahryar, who is terrific. Always. The dead tree crowd was better than usual today, but can’t compete with the best bloggers.