Saeed Montazeri on Protests in Iran 'It Can't Go On Like This'

Part 2: 'Let Them Arrest Me'


SPIEGEL: Do you think Mousavi is the right man for the position? Isn't the former prime minister also a politician of the past?

Montazeri: Mousavi never claimed to be the leader of the movement. As far as the future of our country is concerned, a council would have to be convened that would include both Mousavi and the opposition politician and cleric Mahdi Karroubi, as well as the highly respected reformist former president, Mohammad Khatami. Former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani should also be included. They are my friends, and I share their positions. Mousavi and Karroubi attended my father's funeral and paid a -- nonpolitical -- visit to my house to offer their condolences. I do not see myself playing an advisory role. I see my role as a human rights activist, not as someone who is active in politics.

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Photo Gallery: 'I Still Hope Those in Power Will Come to Their Senses'

SPIEGEL: Can those things even be separated in the current situation?

Montazeri: You're right, that's difficult in Iran today. These days, every ordinary police officer, every bazaar merchant and every teacher is politically active. Those on the frontlines, when things start to escalate, are usually young people, students and workers. But the peaceful demonstrations now include people from all levels of society and from all age groups -- men, women, deeply religious women in full veils and those with more secular views, hardly veiled at all. Mousavi and Karroubi speak the language of one part of the opposition …

SPIEGEL: … and yet one sometimes has the impression that they are running after the movement. Haven't they in fact become merely the figureheads of the opposition, while those who are willing to do anything are the ones calling the shots?

Montazeri: Mousavi and Karroubi have consistently stressed that they do not represent all of the disappointed. And they don't want violence, either. My friends and I have repeatedly recommended that the people in the streets remain calm, and that they should practice patience. A problem like ours cannot be solved in a day. But if young people are forced to look on as their friends are beaten, arrested or even shot dead on the streets, any attempts to convince them to exercise moderation will soon fail. And, to be honest, I find it understandable, even if I don't approve of it.

SPIEGEL: Mousavi's nephew was shot and killed during the Ashura protests. Do you know any further details about the incident?

Montazeri: It wasn't as if he were simply shot by accident. It was undoubtedly a targeted effort. We have heard from several sources that it was planned well in advance by the authorities, who also carried it out. It may have been intended as a sort of final warning to Mousavi. I don't possess prophetic gifts, which is why I don't known whether he'll be shot and killed one day, or whether the regime will arrest him. The consequences would be catastrophic.

SPIEGEL: What would they be?

Montazeri: It has been shown, again and again, that suffering and casualties accompany historic processes, with many people arrested, tortured and executed. Many lose their families. The outcome can only be evaluated at the end of such bloody processes. Revolutionary leader Ayatollah Khomeini once said: "Our fathers are not our guardians, and what right did they have to determine this form of government for us?"

SPIEGEL: You expect to see revolutionary excesses, with a bloodbath?

Montazeri: I hope that it doesn't happen that way. I still hope that those in power will come to their senses, that they will accept compromises and choose the path to national reconciliation. If they don't, my country will be in far worse shape in a year's time than it is today.

SPIEGEL: Will Ahmadinejad still be president in 12 months, and will Khamenei still be the supreme religious leader?

Montazeri: Ahmadinejad is not suited for the office of president.

SPIEGEL: For which office is he suited?

Montazeri: Perhaps for the office of mayor of a small town. I prefer not to comment on Khamenei. However, my late father was firmly convinced that he lacks the qualifications for his office.

SPIEGEL: By making such statements, you are running the risk of being arrested yourself. Aren't you afraid for yourself and for the safety of your family?

Montazeri: I have been in prison several times already. Most recently, I spent 325 days in solitary confinement. I'm not afraid. Let them arrest me. Let them come, if they want to.

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