Massive opposition turnout for Montazeri funeral

Tens of thousands of mourners crammed into the streets of Qom as the opposition took the opportunity to demonstrate its defiance of the regime.

The BBC is reporting some clashes between protestors and police occurred after the funeral:
Earlier, tens of thousands took part in a procession for Grand Ayatollah Hoseyn Ali Montazeri in the holy city of Qom.

Clashes reportedly broke out, but the scale of the confrontation is not clear, says a BBC correspondent.

Montazeri - who died aged 87 of natural causes in Qom on Saturday night - had decried President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's re-election in June as a fraud.

The reformist Jaras website said mourners chanted slogans in support of the cleric and also of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi.

Mr Mousavi took part in the procession, along with fellow opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi.

Another site,, said some members of the hardline pro-government faction Ansar Hezbollah tried to stop chanting in the crowd, but left "after clashing with some people".

Many mourners were carrying green banners or wearing green - the colour of Iran's opposition.

Opposition website said that following the funeral, some mourners threw stones at police surrounding Montazeri's house and clashes with security forces followed.

Footage broadcast on the internet showed crowds chanting against Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, calling him a "murderer" and saying his rule was illegitimate.

Other video showed thousands of mourners marching in Montazeri's hometown of Najafabad, near the central city of Isfahan.

The authorities are clearly frightened of what these demonstrations could lead to. They stopped buses carrying mourners and made some arrests. They have also forbidden foreign journalists from covering the funeral and even jammed the BBC Persian language broadcast into the country.

Massive traffic jams were reported outside of Qom as the "dissident cleric" as the BBC is calling him, was much respected as the foremost authority of the Koran for Shias. In truth, Montazeri's importance as a political figure can be overstated, although he was certainly a powerful symbol of the resistance. But he did not involve himself directly in the reformist movement, preferring to guide its religious underpinnings by granting it legitimacy while denying the regime the same.

Next weekend marks the Shia Muslim festival of Ashura where demonstrations had already been planned by the opposition. The BBC reports that there may be even larger demonstrations as protestors will also mark the 7 day anniversary of Montazeri's death.

Many in the reformist movement - although not its leadership - would prefer to see a secularized Iran. For them, Montazeri's critique of the Islamic Republic fell far short of what they consider what needs to be done. But the secularists - largely made up of Iran's huge under-25 population - will gladly embrace the dead cleric if his name can be used to advance the goal of a reformed Iran.

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