Iran: protests at funeral of reformist cleric

Thousands of Iranians gathered to chant "down with the dictator!" at the funeral procession for dissident cleric Ayatollah Jalaluddin Taheri in Isfahan June 4, signaling a renewal of opposition activism ahead of the upcoming presidential elections. Mourners called for lifting the continued house arrest orders on opposition leaders Mehdi Karroubi and Mir Hussein Mousavi. Ayatollah Taheri was the Friday prayers speaker in Isfahan, Iran's second city, until his resignation in 2002 when he shocked the country’s governing religious establishment by condemning the regime and protesting the country’s political and economic situation.

In his resignation letter, ignored by Iran's official media, Ayatollah Taheri said he could not remain silent on the "tangible realties…and the suffering of people." He denounced "life-long powers; mafia-type gangs…that act under the name of religion, and authoritarian fascists…walking up the ladder of religion and riding on the back of political camels." The letter continued (stilted English from original translation): "Until when indifference and ignoring people’s legitimate demands? Neither the Shah nor the Americans have any influence in this country, then why blaming them for shortcomings, failures and problems? Why not listening to positive critics and using real competences and brains."

In the 2009 elections, Taheri supported Mir Hussein Mousavi. When incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claimed victory, unleashing protests and repression, Taheri again criticized the authorities, accusing them of having rigged the elections.

The protests at the funeral were also ignored by the official media, but reported on the opposition websites Sahamnews and Kaleme. (Daily Star, Lebanon, June 5; Al Arabiya, UAE, June 4)

See our recent feature, Whither Iran's Democratic Opposition?

  1. Iran president summoned to criminal court
    Outgoing Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was summoned to a criminal court on June 17. Although the charges were not specified, this may be the continuation of a longstanding political battle between Ahmadinejad and Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani, who recently filed a complaint against him. While Larijani, a conservative leader, has repeatedly criticized the president, Ahmadinejad has returned in kind by attempting to publicize incriminating evidence against Larijani’s son in recent months. When Ahmadinejad played an audio recording of alleged evidence against Larijani’s son in parliament, it was incomprehensible, and Larijani quickly asked the president to leave. Retaliatory actions ensued, and it is believed that the criminal charges will be revealed to be a part of this ongoing confrontation.

    This summons comes only three days after the candidate Ahmadinejad supported failed to meet the threshold amount of support to make the June 17 presidential ballot. Ahmadinejad, who has already completed two terms, was constitutionally barred from running for office a third time. Hassan Rouhani, a moderate and former chief nuclear negotiator, won the election and has vowed to move towards more peaceful negotiations with the west regarding nuclear and human rights issues.

    From Jurist, June 17. Used with permission.

  2. Will White House please just shut up on Iran?
    With the conservatives divided (see above) and Iranians pouring into the streets to celebrate Rouhani’s victory, the White House has of course got to make a counter-productive statement “congratulating” the Iranians for their “courage in voting” and being “determined to make their voices heard, despite the limitations the ruling government imposed on the political process.” (Zee News, June 16) Nothing could weaken the position of Iranian progressives more than portraying them as on the same side as Washington. We wish the White House would just shut up. But of course that isn’t going to happen…

    And of course, before we rejoice overmuch, recall that Rouhani, while a “moderate,” is still a cleric. But we have noted that Iran’s ruling clerics are themselves divided, and some have scolded Ahmedinjad for being too much of a yahoo.

    It will be interesting to watch how this plays out…