Following Public Criticism
Less than two weeks after grand ayatollah Montazeri spoke to a group of his followers on the occasion of Eid-al-Fitr, celebrated at the end of the fasting month of Ramazan, in which he criticized Iran’s rulers and the administration, pressures on him, his office and his home have been growing. Soon after a member of his office, Mojtaba Lotfi was arrested, the house of another associates, this time his son-in-law Mojtaba Feiz was searched by agents from Qom’s intelligence bureau.
As has now been the practice, a public prayer session was held in the city of Qom under the prayer leadership of ayatollah Ibrahim Amini last Wednesday on the occasion of Eid-al-Fitr. At the same time, grand ayatollah Montazeri, who also holds his own separate public prayers for his followers, held his session in his office, which was attended by several hundred individuals. After the congregational prayers, the cleric’s public talk turned to a criticism of President Ahmadinejad’s government. Quoting the president from a talk he had in New York that Iran was “the freest country in the world”, Montazeri asked, “Why do your words not match your deeds inside the country. You call Iran the freest country in the world when you are outside, but inside Iran you deprive us of our basic and legal rights.”
“When someone like me who played a key role in the victory of the Islamic revolution [of 1979] is treated in this [oppressive] fashion, while our buildings are confiscated and our words are censored, you can imagine what they do the regular folks. If these gentlemen [i.e. authorities and officials] know of these actions, and still claim to have freedom, then you are doing the wrong thing. If you do not know what is going, then things are even worse,” Montazeri continued, saying that he prayed to God to give reason and thought to authorities so that what they say and do is based on reason and thought.
Some observers believe that because of Montazeri’s age, illness and large number of followers, the regime no longer pursues a plan to suppress the senior cleric, but recent days have demonstrated that measures continue to be taken by authorities against him. Mojtaba Lotfi who was responsible for communications in the ayatollah’s office, was arrested on orders from the special clerical court by agents from Qom’s intelligence bureau, after the critical speech by the ayatollah. Following the arrest, Lotfi’s house was searched.
Last week, the house of Mojtaba Feiz, the ayatollah’s son in law was searched as well, but no arrests were made.