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Posts Tagged ‘ Grand Ayatollah Montazeri ’

  • 6 October 2010
  • Posted By Setareh Tabatabaie
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran

Monolithic Myths

I could not help but laugh at the irony when I read successive articles in the New York Times on Monday in which, in the first article, Iran’s government was referred to monolithically as “the mullahs”, while in the second, the Times reported that senior clerics in Iran are actually being targeted for government censorship.

The divided and competing interests within Iran’s political scene is nothing new.  But following the 2009 election crisis, this reality was exposed even to those who do not closely follow events in Iran. And the un-Islamic nature of the Iranian government, despite official claims, has been revealed time and time again, especially in the past two years–including in the brutal crackdown on protesters and the government’s attacks on dissident clerics’ homes and offices.

Despite all these obvious divisions, the New York Times published a news analysis discussing Bob Woodward’s new book and what it may reveal about Obama’s policy towards Iran. Throughout the article, author John Vincour constantly refers to the Iranian government as “the mullahs.”

Yet as the Times reported the same day (“In Sign of Discord, Iran Blocks Web Sites of Some Clerics”), Iran’s government is  censoring the websites of Grand Ayatollah Yousef Sanei and Grand Ayatollah Asadollah Bayat-Zanjani. Those attempting to access the websites were instead redirected to the standard Iranian government filtering page.

The most likely reason? Both Sanei and Bayat-Zanjani openly condemned the violent crackdown on the street protests following the fraudulent presidential elections in 2009. Muhammad Sahimi, a UCLA professor and political columnist for Tehran Bureau, said of the censorship:

“Filtering their sites is precisely because of the public positions that they have taken… This is part of the ‘cyberspace war’ that the hardliners have publicly announced against the Green Movement and its supporters.”

As Grand Ayatollah Sanei said on his website in response to the censorship, “Let it not go unsaid that freedom of expression is emphasized under Islam.”

So why does John Vincour talk about Iran’s government in shorthand as “the mullahs”?  It doesn’t just happen once. Vincour continuously refers to the Iranian government as a group of mullahs, as if they are all united and of the like mind.

Now, I’m not talking about being politically correct. I’m just talking about being correct. Vincour ignores all the rivalries and complexities in Iran’s leadership and unites them all under the same banner.

Many clerics refused to congratulate Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on his supposed election victory; Ayatollah Dastgheib called on the Assembly of Experts to review the performance of the Supreme Leader; the homes and offices of Montazeri, Karroubi, and Sanei have all been attacked; and recently, a dispute erupted over Azad University. These are but a few examples of the many rifts and complexities in Iran’s leadership.

To be perfectly honest, considering how often Iran is in the news today and how often it is the subject of policy discussions, I expect more from not only the New York Times, but also of those who are leading the debate on Iran. And I am not only bothered by Vincour’s ignorance, but also surprised.

Perhaps as we debate and formulate policies regarding Iran, it is time to do ourselves a favor and be mindful of the intricacies of Iranian politics before we talk about Iran as if it were a monolith.

  • 20 December 2009
  • Posted By NIAC
  • Events in Iran, Iran Election 2009

Grand Ayatollah Montazeri Dies

Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri died on Sunday at the age of 87.

Though Montazeri was a father of the Revolution in 79 and a drafter of the Iranian Constitution, he like many became disenchanted by the path of the Iranian leadership. According to AP, ” he accused the country’s ruling Islamic establishment of imposing dictatorship in the name of Islam, and he persisted with his criticism after June’s disputed presidential election.”

The Iranian government is once again caught between a rock and a hard place as Iranians have already begun the mourning process by pouring into the streets.  To not allow crowds in the streets would mean disrespecting the a revered Iranian cleric but allowing them the government runs the risk of more anti-government protests.

Radio Free Europe reports that shops have been shut down and that people have already hit the streets, shouting, “We congratulate you on your freedom” and “Innocent Montazeri, your path will continue.”


Montazeri had once been designated a successor to Ayatollah Khomeini, but was replaced by Khamenei due to political differences. He was later placed under house arrest from 1997 to 2003 because he said Ayatollah Khamenei was not qualified to rule as Supreme Leader.

Though the Reformists have lost a key intellectual and leader, by publicly mourning in the streets, they are able to keep his desire of freedom in the Islamic Republic and their Green movement alive.

  • 31 August 2009
  • Posted By Matthew Negreanu
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iran Election 2009

Iran, “neither Islamic nor a Republic”

Iran’s senior clergy are deeply divided about what an Islamic government means and how it should treat its citizens. Brtain’s The Guardian published an article by Massoumeh Torfeh, an Iranian author, in this regard:

As the second act of the post-electoral drama unfolds in Iran, internal weaknesses are exposed more clearly than ever before. Behind the facade of victory lie deep divisions among the top clergy about what an Islamic government should be composed of and how it should treat its citizens.

Ayatollah Ali Montazeri – who is not a state official but has great religious authority in Iran – addressed “top officials” directly when he wrote: “At least have the courage to admit this is neither an Islamic state nor a republic.”

The former head of Iran’s judiciary, Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi, addresses the head of the powerful expediency council: “Mr Rafsanjani, you did not perform your Islamic or revolutionary duties.” Ayatollah Mojtahed Shabestary, an influential conservative cleric, says in the Friday prayers in the north-western city of Tabriz: “People are awaiting the trials of the leaders of the riots and if they do not repent they must receive the harshest punishment.” Clearly the Islamic daggers are no longer hidden. Behind the long black cloak the second act shows the clergy in full fighting spirit, and thus reveals a regime falling apart from within.

It is seen as a regime that is happy to lie and deceive, to detain and torture, to threaten to kill to get false confessions, and to do all that in the name of Islam. Ayatollah Mehdi Karoubi, who was a presidential candidate, speaks directly of show trials, torture and rape of the detainees in prisons. He demands an investigation and threatens to bring witnesses to give evidence, but his accusations have been rejected. Former president Khatami rejects all accusations, saying they had made a mockery of Islamic justice. Rafsanjani calls for “rational” thinking.

But most symbolically, the regime’s weakness was revealed in its treatment of Saeed Hajarian – the main strategist of the reform movement. Hajarian who survived an assassination attempt in 2000, is partially paralysed, confined to a wheelchair and unable to speak. Despite that the regime fears him. He was made to confess that he was the mastermind of the post-electoral rallies. Someone else read out his statement in court because he is unable to speak.

Montazeri is right to say this is neither an Islamic state nor a republic. But then it was Ayatollah Montazeri who designed the Islamic Republic’s political structure that called for the full power of the supreme leader, thereby automatically contradicting the idea of a republic. Those contradictions ignored 30 years ago will increasingly reveal themselves in the months ahead.

  • 4 August 2009
  • Posted By Sanaz Tofighrad
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iran Election 2009

Ayatollah Montazeri: no pious court can try someone based on these confessions

montazeri_4Grand Ayatollah Montazeri issued a statement today regarding recent trials, condemning forced confessions and other human rights abuses:

With complete surprise and regret, our dear and suffering people are witnessing the broadcasting of unlawful and immoral interviews by their captive love ones; those who have been detained for more than 40 days and some of them have become martyrs.

These confessions, which have unfortunately been common in the Islamic Republic for years and have been taken in illegal prisons under abnormal conditions by threatening and deceiving the prisoner, cutting off his relationship with realities of the society, and by imposing physical and psychological pressures, are completely against the law and religion and are considered to be “major sins…”  The overseers and executor of these must be tried and punished…One the other hand, no pious court can try and sentence someone based on these confessions and interviews. […]

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Tell Google: Stop playing Persian Gulf name games!

May 14, 2012
Larry Page
Chief Executive Officer
Google Inc.
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View, California 94043

Dear Mr. Page:

It has come to our attention that Google has begun omitting the title of the Persian Gulf from its Google Maps application. This is a disconcerting development given the undisputed historic and geographic precedent of the name Persian Gulf, and the more recent history of opening up the name to political, ethnic, and territorial disputes. However unintentionally, in adopting this practice, Google is participating in a dangerous effort to foment tensions and ethnic divisions in the Middle East by politicizing the region’s geographic nomenclature. Members of the Iranian-American community are overwhelmingly opposed to such efforts, particularly at a time when regional tensions already have been pushed to the brink and threaten to spill over into conflict. As the largest grassroots organization in the Iranian-American community, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) calls on Google to not allow its products to become propaganda tools and to immediately reinstate the historically accurate, apolitical title of “Persian Gulf” in all of its informational products, including Google Maps.

Historically, the name “Persian Gulf” is undisputed. The Greek geographer and astronomer Ptolemy referencing in his writings the “Aquarius Persico.” The Romans referred to the "Mare Persicum." The Arabs historically call the body of water, "Bahr al-Farsia." The legal precedent of this nomenclature is also indisputable, with both the United Nations and the United States Board of Geographic Names confirming the sole legitimacy of the term “Persian Gulf.” Agreement on this matter has also been codified by the signatures of all six bordering Arab countries on United Nations directives declaring this body of water to be the Persian Gulf.

But in the past century, and particularly at times of escalating tensions, there have been efforts to exploit the name of the Persian Gulf as a political tool to foment ethnic division. From colonial interests to Arab interests to Iranian interests, the opening of debate regarding the name of the Persian Gulf has been a recent phenomenon that has been exploited for political gain by all sides. Google should not enable these politicized efforts.

In the 1930s, British adviser to Bahrain Sir Charles Belgrave proposed to rename the Persian Gulf, “Arabian Gulf,” a proposal that was rejected by the British Colonial and Foreign offices. Two decades later, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company resurrected the term during its dispute with Mohammad Mossadegh, the Iranian Prime Minister whose battle with British oil interests would end in a U.S.-sponsored coup d'état that continues to haunt U.S.-Iran relations. In the 1960s, the title “Arabian Gulf” became central to propaganda efforts during the Pan-Arabism era aimed at exploiting ethnic divisions in the region to unite Arabs against non-Arabs, namely Iranians and Israelis. The term was later employed by Saddam Hussein to justify his aims at territorial expansion. Osama Bin Laden even adopted the phrase in an attempt to rally Arab populations by emphasizing ethnic rivalries in the Middle East.

We have serious concerns that Google is now playing into these efforts of geographic politicization. Unfortunately, this is not the first time Google has stirred controversy on this topic. In 2008, Google Earth began including the term “Arabian Gulf” in addition to Persian Gulf as the name for the body of water. NIAC and others called on you then to stop using this ethnically divisive propaganda term, but to no avail. Instead of following the example of organizations like the National Geographic Society, which in 2004 used term “Arabian Gulf” in its maps but recognized the error and corrected it, Google has apparently decided to allow its informational products to become politicized.

Google should rectify this situation and immediately include the proper name for the Persian Gulf in Google Maps and all of its informational products. The exclusion of the title of the Persian Gulf diminishes your applications as informational tools, and raises questions about the integrity and accuracy of information provided by Google.

We strongly urge you to stay true to Google’s mission – “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” – without distorting or politicizing that information. We look forward to an explanation from you regarding the recent removal of the Persian Gulf name from Google Maps and call on you to immediately correct this mistake.



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