End Violence Against Mourners
Rising tensions with approach of Shiite holy day of Ashura
(23 December 2009) The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran denounced attacks on followers and admirers of the late Grand Ayatollah Hussein-Ali Montazeri today, as police used tear gas and pepper spray on protesters in Isfahan. While the authorities have banned all memorial services for Ayatollah Montazeri, the Campaign called on the Islamic Republic of Iran not to infringe upon the right of Iranians to gather and express their grief about his death.
“The authorities should not infringe on the rights of Iranian citizens to mourn for Ayatollah Montazeri, or anyone else,” stated Aaron Rhodes, a spokesperson for the Campaign.
“There is a real danger that citizens expressing grief and their religious feelings may be violently attacked in the days ahead amidst increasing tensions with the approach of Ashura rituals on 27 December,” he continued.
Citizens taking part in the funeral for Ayatollah Montezari on 21 December were attacked and injured by plain-clothes government agents. Ceremonies that would have taken place on the third and seventh days following his death have been cancelled because of interference by Basiji militiamen. The late Ayatollah’s home and office have been attacked, as was that of his son.
Ayatollah Sanei, a prominent religious scholar and reformist and close friend of Ayatollah Montazeri, was denied permission to take part in the funeral ceremony, and his home also attacked.
While further ceremonies in Qom were cancelled, his followers announced ceremonies in other cities. On 22 December, Ayatollah Taheri, the former Friday prayer leader who resigned recently, held a ceremony in Sayed Mosque. A few minutes after the ceremony started, around 2000 plain-clothes and anti-riot security forces reportedly closed the mosque’s gates and attacked those who had gathered with tear gas. Hojatoleslam Masoud Adib, who was to be the main speaker, was reportedly arrested along with more than 50 others including four reporters and photographers. The house of Ayatollah Taheri was under control by the anti-riot agents.
“It is imperative to permit such expressions, in order to comply not only with Iranian and international law, but to also comply with standards of basic human decency,” Rhodes said.