Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri has passed away yesterday at age 87. He died of a heart attack, or stroke, when sleeping in his bed at home. Hundred of thousands of mourners are right now gathering in Qom, where he is supposed to be entombed in Hazrat-e Masoumeh’s shrine, one of Iran’s holiest sites. His former rival, Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, Iran‘s Supreme Leader, has described him as a “well-versed jurist and a prominent master,” very much belittling his role as one of the few real architects of the Islamic Revolution. The entire establishment is alert of mass protests these first ten days of the holy month of Muharram, climaxing next Monday, the day of Ashura, when Imam Husayn’s martyrdom in 680 CE is commemorated.
For many Iranians any hope for fundamental reforms is vanishing little by little. But the demise of Montazeri, the much revered Grand Ayatollah, a marja-e taqlid, or source of emulation, has not so much to do with the urgently needed modernization of the society. In the West, Montazeri appeared as castigator, even a reformist. The regime considered him, at least since 1989, a troublemaker. And in general, he has always been a backing of the regime, Iran’s Islamic Republic. However middle-term, Iran’s future does not lie in a theocracy, the only one if one considers the Vatican as an absurd anachronism.
When now late Ayatollah Khomeini’s companions and other Ayatollahs in Qom and throughout the country, and supporters in the present establishment die off, Iran’s main concern must be that eventually the Revolutionary Guards, or pasdaran, do take over all power. The presumed bitter power struggles in the aftermath of the, to say the least, controversial presidential election are not solved yet. Neither are the country’s tremendous economic and social problems. Not mentioning its more than ever pariah state within the international community. It was interesting to note that mainstream media hardly reported on President Ahmadinejad’s recent appearance at the Copenhagen climate conference. The illegitimate ruler is being ignored now, something what the hardliner and radical populist can hardly bear. Iran’s new proposal for a swap of its low-enriched uranium on Kish, a tiny island in the Persian Gulf, has been angrily rejected by the US administration.
The regime falters. It won’t simply implode. The next coup will be concocted by the pasdaran, I am afraid. Some believe they did it already.