Iran cleric's funeral becomes opposition protest

December 22, 2009

A huge funeral procession for Iran's most senior dissident cleric became a show of defiance against the country's rulers Monday as mourners flashed green protest colors and chanted against the Islamic leadership in Iran's holy city of Qom. The response by authorities was not as punishing as in recent demonstrations - an apparent attempt to avoid bloodshed and chaos during the cortege for one of the patriarchs of the 1979 Islamic Revolution and the onetime heir to lead the country. But the major outpouring for Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri by opposition supporters could signal a restive week ahead. Tens of thousands of demonstrators, if not more, filled the main boulevards in Qom, the hub of Islamic scholarship and study in mostly Shiite Iran. Iran is marking one of the most important periods on the Shiite religious calendar with ceremonies that draw deeply on themes of martyrdom and sacrifice, which could inspire fresh opposition marches.

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