The influential religious scholar suffered persecution and imprisonment.
A "very brave man and a great human being" is how Iranian religious scholar and dissident Ahmad Ghabel is being remembered by those who knew him and those who had followed his activities from afar.
Ghabel passed away earlier this week at a hospital in the northeastern Iranian city of Mashad where he had undergone surgery for a brain tumor. He was 58. With his death, Iran lost one of its most outspoken critics of the establishment who refused to be silenced despite pressure, multiple imprisonments, and solitary confinement.
Ghabel, a student of the dissident and former Grand Ayatollah Hussein-Ali Montazeri -- known as the godfather of the opposition Green Movement -- publicly challenged Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and accused him of absolute dictatorship and state violence. Mehdi Khalaji, an Iran expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, maintains that Ghabel preached a more liberal and modern Islam that was not acceptable to the hardliners in power in the Islamic Republic.
"Ghabel was trying to give an interpretation of Islamic jurisprudence that was more practical for today's life," he says. "For example, regarding the hijab, which is an important issue for Muslims, Ghabel was trying to introduce an interpretation under which covering women's hair was not mandatory. That was against the views of many other clerics. Ghabel was also against apostasy [charges] and he also rejected an Islamic government."