Edited/Updated @ 3:53 a.m., June 17, 2009 [Uploaded better translation of text, with a few personal edits based on the Persian]
Grand Ayatullah Husayn (Hossein) 'Ali Montazeri has issued a statement supporting peaceful protests to "claim rights", condemned the violence, and called the Iranian presidential election results into question. For more on Montazeri, see the previous post.
"Confirmation" in the Western media seems to be slow in coming, but the statement (in Persian) has been released on Montazeri's official web site.
A better translation than the one posted previously, based on a quick look at some of the sections in Persian, has been posted below, and is also available HERE. The new translation does not have the shortening "edits" and "streamlining" that I discussed in the original post, i.e. namely the abridging of the Persian text. Again, confirmation from a reader whose Persian is much better than mine is welcome. I have made a couple of edits, such as at the very end, where it should read "May God's peace and blessings be upon you all," which is a more complete and literal translation of this Arabic phrase, which has been adopted into other Islamicate languages... :
In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful:
[To the] Noble and Oppressed Iranian Nation,
Greetings and salutations. In recent days, I witnessed the exuberant and devoted endeavor and presence of you dear and honorable brothers and sisters -old and young, men and women - from all strata of society, on the scene of the 10th presidential campaign. During this period, the youth came out, full of hope to pursue their rights, and counted the days to Election Day. That was a perfect and suitable opportunity for the officials of the system to take the best advantage of to establish the best religious, affectionate, and national bond with the massive stratum of youth and all the other strata of society.
Unfortunately, however, the worst use was made of this "golden" opportunity. Following the announcement of [election] results, which cannot be accepted by anyone of sound mind - and, based on reliable evidence, substantial alterations have been made in the votes of the people - and subsequent protests by some parts of society against such a conduct, and before the eyes of these very people - who have endured the heavy load of the victory of the Revolution and eight years of an imposed war [1980-88 Iran-Iraq War], and resisted the bullets of the Shah's regime and the enemy's tanks and artillery, without bearing arms - and the world, and in the presence of the cameras of the domestic and foreign media, they encountered the children of these people, the defenseless men and women and the dear students, with full force, suppressing, arresting and injuring them. And now they have started to settle political scores with activists, intellectuals and progressives, and are detaining and arresting many individuals, some of whom were among the high-ranking officials of the system of the Islamic Republic, without any reasons.
Now, owing to my religious and national duty, and based on the verse in the Holy Qur'an, "Advice is of benefit to the believers," I would like to give the following pieces of advice:
1. The distinction of a powerful government, Islamic or not, is its ability to heed both similar and opposing views and, with religious compassion, which is a prerequisite of government, allow all the strata of society, whatever their political beliefs, to participate in the running of the country, instead of totally alienating them and constantly increasing their [the dissidents] number. Since this government is known as a religious government, I fear that the conduct and actions of the officials may ultimately harm the religion and undermine the people's beliefs.
2. The current situation and the issues that have occurred since the recent elections have made many people astonished and cynical. Based on religious and ethical teachings, the rulers and relevant officials are expected to demonstrate the trustworthiness of the government and its officials in such an important matter - which entails the rights of the people in general and to which the principle of assumption of innocence cannot be applied - through reliable and impartial means that are acceptable to both sides. In such circumstances, one expects the government to provide a rational and satisfactory response, and to eliminate people's doubts, cynicisms and suspicions through correct means. Otherwise, it will merely increase the people's cynicism toward the government, cast doubt on the legitimacy of the system and its elected representative, and undermine its credibility. I have emphasized so many times that the votes of the nation are sacred, and a government that is based on appropriating the votes has no religious or political legitimacy whatsoever.
3. I urge all the people, in particular the youth, to pursue the realization of their rights with patience and grace, to maintain calm and security in the country by virtue of sagacity and intelligence, and to refrain from aggression or any action that may harm their image and legitimate demand, and which would give an excuse to those of unfit character, who infiltrate the crowds, to create turmoil and disorder, and set people's homes and belongings on fire, in a bid to generate an atmosphere of fear and insecurity. So, it is essential that, while remaining on the scene, they [the people] exercise total wisdom to allow the candidates whose rights have been violated to pursue their actions through legal means.
4. I advise all the officials, particularly the military and security forces, to uphold their religion and not sell their souls; they must understand that the claim that "officials are excused [because they are only doing their duty]" would not be accepted by Almighty God on the Day of Judgement. They must regard the protesting youth as their own children, and refrain from violent and cruel actions. They must learn from the mistakes of the predecessors and understand that those who oppress the people will receive justice one day. In this day and age, one cannot hide the truth from the people through censorship, closures and the restriction of communication.
In conclusion, I ask Almighty God to grant success to all those who serve Islam and the Muslims, and to bestow honor and glory upon the beloved Iranian nation.
May God's peace and blessings be upon you all.
Hossein 'Ali Montazeri26 Khordad 1388 [16 June 2009]
As I wrote previously, I think that this is big news because of Montazeri's stature as a well respected religious scholar and a man of principle, who even stood up for his principles in front of his friend and teacher, Grand Ayatullah al-Sayyid Ruhollah Khumayni, founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Based on anecdotal readings from Iranian demonstrators, he also seems to be respected by many of them, and he is certainly respected by the leading Reformists. Montazeri and Grand Ayatullah Yusuf Saanei, and Hujjat al-Islam Mohsen Kadivar, are all principled and brave men.
U.S.-based Iranian-American news outlet Tehran Bureau is reporting additional support from other senior Iranian religious scholars:
Tehran Bureau [June 14, 2009]
Mir Hossein Mousavi’s, the main reformist rival to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, letter to the important ayatollahs in the holy city of Qom, asking them to protest the fraud and declare it against Islam, has sparked protests by the ayatollahs and clerics as well.
The Association of Combatant Clerics, which consists of moderate and leftist clerics and includes such important figures as former president Mohammad Khatami, Ayatollah Mohammad Mousavi Khoiniha, and Grand Ayatollah Abdolkarim Mousavi Ardabili, issued a strongly-worded statement, calling the results of the election invalid.
Grand Ayatollah Saafi Golpaygaani, an important cleric with a large number of followers, warned about the election results and the importance that elections in Iran retain their integrity.
Grand Ayatollah Yousef Saanei, a progressive cleric and a confidante of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic, has declared that Mr. Ahmadinejad is not the legitimate president and cooperation with him, as well as working for him, are haraam (against Islam and a great sin). He has also declared that any changes in the votes by unlawful means are also haraam. Several credible reports indicate that he has traveled to Tehran in order to participate in nationwide protests scheduled for Monday (June 18). It is said that he has planned a sit-in in some public place, in order to further protest election fraud. His website has been blocked.
Credible reports also indicate that security forces have surrounded the offices and homes of several other important ayatollahs who are believed to want to protest election fraud. Their websites cannot be accessed, and all communications with them have been cut off.
The nation is waiting to hear the views of Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, the most important ayatollah living in Iran and the strongest clerical critic of the conservatives. He has been asked to issue a clear statement, explaining his views about the election fraud.
Mr. Khatami, who campaigned strongly for Mr. Mousavi, is also under house arrest.