One of Iran's leading religious authorities, the Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, has died at age 87. His story is an intriguing one, since he was one of the leading figures in the Iranian Revolution thirty years ago. As a Grand Ayatollah he was one of the highest ranking figures in the Iranian clerical system. He has become a sort of folk hero for opposition groups, even as the current regime has tried to silence and sideline him. The official responses accord him none of the respect due someone of his stature. After all, he took a leading role in drafting the Iranian Constitution and was in line to succeed Ayatollah Khomenei as Supreme Leader at this death -- but the two had an ideological falling out over the extent to which the clerics should exercise control over the state.
It has become clear that while the current regime remains in firm control there is enough push back going on that their ability to retain control will become increasingly tested. Perhaps in death Montazeri can become a rallying point for those who see freedom of expression and worship. Iran is a nation composed largely of younger people who want something different.
I remain hopeful for this people, who have a long and distinguished history -- one of the great civilizations of human history. Grand Ayatollah Montazeri reminds, in his death, that Iran is not monolithic.