Mir Hossein Mousavi at the July 17th Friday Prayers
I have not been updating as frequently as I would have liked to. One reason is that I can barely find time to follow the news, since I actually have a full-time job in the real world :).
Also I have written so much about the Iranian elections here that I am actually not sure what other sort of stuff I want to write here. I guess I’ll figure out in time.
What intrigued me to write now is the footage that has come from today’s Friday prayers (FP). It is just awesome. After the government refused to issue permits for gatherings of the Green movement supporters [which is our constitutional right, btw], and cracked down so violently, particularly after Khamenei’s Friday prayer sermon on June 19th that resulted in at least 20 deaths on the 20th (including Neda), there seemed to be no hope for peaceful gatherings. The atmosphere was that of martial law.
Mousavi repeatedly suggested in his statements that people be creative and try to find new ways for peaceful protests. There were/are various ideas releasing green balloons in the air at a particular hour, exhausting the power system by plugging irons and high-consumption electric appliances whenever AN speaks on TV, spraying green paint on walls, … but still none of these had the effect of the huge silent protests.
The next idea was participation in the Friday prayers. There is always one unifying prayer site in each city and Friday prayers are unique in Iran (in comparison with the rest of the Muslim world, as far as I know) since they have a vary political atmosphere to them, each city’s Imam(s) is(are) appointed by the supreme leader himself . Usually, only very pro-government people and typical basiji-like types go to Friday prayers, another sad example of how religious symbols are exploited by the Islamic Republic. There are 4 or 5 Imams for the Tehran Friday prayers and they have turns circulating between them. This week after postponing Rafsanjani’s turn two or three times, he was finally given a chance to lead the prayers, and of course, give the sermon. From the very beginning that this was announced talks of the Greens attending these prayers also started. There was fear that Rafsanjani, although being severely attacked by the AN clan, would have reached some sort of compromise with them, and thus may end up “betraying” us after we have made an effort to show up. There was also a high probability of being cracked down again (yes, even at the prayers), particularly since The final general consensus was that people should show up if Mousavi [and Karroubi] himself plans to come, and this is officially announced.
Eventually in a very short, yet remarkable statement on Wendnesday, which is worthy of another post in itself, he announced that he would come. He wrote that it is actually he who is responding to the people’s invitation, not the other way around. Anyhow, today we witnessed the largest gathering at Friday prayers in the history of Iran (link in Persian). Hashemi indeed served us right and defended our right to protest and criticized the turn of events, including the current government and the Guardian Council. He called for the release of the prisoners and empathy with the injured and families of the dead, said that nothing has come to an end and that the current situation can be described as a crisis. He also referred to some examples from the revolution and the prophet’s (pbuh) life, emphasizing the importance of people’s votes and the crucial role of unity. More of what he said can be found here.
The number of attendee’s was estimated to be at least a million. The outstanding point is that we actually managed to take a gathering that has always been a place to show their power for the hardliners into our hands and there was nothing that they could do about it. They were so afraid of what may happen that they did not even let some reporters from hardline news agencies (e.g. Fars News) to cover the event. Still there as been a constant stream of amateur videos and pictures coming out all day. There are some reports of people booing the “national” TV (IRIB) crew.
In the live radio broadcasting today, the slogans that are shouted by the people at crucial points of the sermon where actually censored this time, instead of being fully covered as a show of power, because people were shouting unconventional slogans in support of the Green movement. In one place where Hashemi spoke against the crackdown on protesters in China, a stance which the official government refuses to take due to their close ties with China, there were shouts of “Death to China”, as opposed to the usual “Death to …” slogans against America, Israel, and sometimes (like now, depending on the political circumstances) England. It was so load that it was still recognizable although they had turned down the volume in the radio broadcasting. This is unprecedented.
A particular video (you can see it below) that was most remarkable shows a group of people in the streets before the sermons start, moving towards the FP venue (it is usually held in Tehran University, which has a special area for FP whioc usually fills up and people overflow into the surrounding streets). The guy who always leads slogans in Friday prayers and official government gatherings (a.k.a. slogan minister (SM) ) is shouting the traditional lines, but people reply there own cleverely chosen similar ones instead. It is interesting that they do this so naturally, it’s actually funny. It is 40 seconds long, but he sound has been recorded for less than 30 second, and this is a rough translation of what they say:
SM: death to England
people: death to Russia
SM: the blood in our veins is a present [sacrifice] for our leader [khamenei]
people: the blood in our veins is a present [sacrifice] for our people
The FP gathering turned into a rally afterwards, that is still going on as I write this, there are unconfirmed reports of people moving towards the IRIB headquarters, Evin prison, and the Interior Ministry. There were confirmed reports of teargas being used even during the sermons/prayers, and of course the plain-clothes forces and basij would not keep quiet on such a day! I hope it can have a relatively happy ending.
There has already been this awful news of Shadi Sadr, a prominent lawyer and women’s rights activist being basically kidnapped in an extremely violent manner (dragging her into a car, beating her, and yanking her manteu and hijab off when she resisted and refused to go wtih them) by the plain clothes forces while she was on her way to the FP today. She is one of the Iranian feminists that I have the most respect for because she is not into the “business” of human rights and women’s rights and really helps real people. I hope she is safe and will be released soon, she also has a young daughter.
Mahdi Karroubi, after an attack that resulted in his turban falling off, at the Jul 17th Friday Prayers
Hashemi’s statements show that there is a tough battle going on between the different figures in power behind the scenes (e.g. between Hashemi, Khamenei, other high ranking clerics, AN’s clan), and it also means that there is still a long way before the end of this. A friend pointed out something that I find very true: Rafsanjani actually took the role that would have naturally been expected from the supreme leader. He took the tone of someone who cares about the revolution and wants to solve the crisis as opposed the stance of Khamenei who irresponsibly erased the question instead of attempting to solve it, threated and initiated violence.
Zahra Rahnavard at the Jul 17th Friday Prayers