Friday Prayers (Updates)
17 Jul 2009 13:03
More from Pedestrian's blog:
We were all on the bus, wondering if the person next to us was going to the prayer. I guess after a while, the tensions melted, we mustered enough courage to ask one another, and found out that we were all going to the same location.
When I got off the bus at Kargar St. [near the University of Tehran campus - the site of the Friday prayer] I decided to walk around and have a look. For one entire semester, I had classes every Friday [so I could see the Friday prayer up close]. I wanted to do a little comparison.
The crowds were massive. But one other difference was that there were guards everywhere. It would definitely be harder now to speak up in unison.
I didn't want to get beaten up, so I shut my mouth and went further to Taleghani St. It was the same story throughout. Hoards and hoards of security guards everywhere. I could make out voices, but the dominant voice all around was coming from Taghavi [the speaker who went to the podium before Rafsanjani]. As I was walking, one of the militias turned to me and said: "Hello!" And I was startled to see how everyone had changed today. I had only gone a few steps farther when I suddenly heard people chanting loudly: zendaniyeh siyasi azad bayad gardad [Free the political prisoners]. Everyone was chanting this. I suddenly realized everyone there was on our side!
The more I kept walking, the more chants I would hear: Death to Russia, Death to China, Free Political Prisoners. So I had to get out my radio to hear the sermon.
I was walking down and listening to the sermon when I suddenly saw my aunt. I wanted to go say hello when I saw our neighbor in the row in front of her. And my old classmate!
And amidst all of this, Rasanjani was going on with an awesome sermon! We were riled up. We would only repeat the Allah o Akbar we were invited to chant. No one felt like saying Death to America or any of the other stuff.
After the sermon, we got up to pray. And we suddenly noticed how cozy everyone had become [Many leading clerics believe that men and women should not stand side to side when praying (Sane'i is amongst those who doesn't). But today, they were praying next to each other which is unprecedented].
After the prayer we got up to leave, but we were being instructed to chant Death to America. We would answer back with Death to Russia. He would want us to say the blood in our veins is a gift to our leader, but we would say the blood in our veins is a gift to our nation.
We were walking happily along until we reached 16th of Azar Street. And there we got to know what tear gas really means. And this is how our dear militia finally got into the game! Later on I heard from a friend who had been elsewhere that this had been going on from 12:30 in other locations [before the prayer]. There was a guy beside us, who kept instructing us to escape using the street routes. But we would insist that we wanted to go farther. We could see armed men standing behind the gates of the University of Tehran. The guy beside us kept saying: "Do you know what will happen if these guys are ordered to come out?" We finally agreed to let him take us out of the crowd. We were happily leaving when we saw a HUMONGOUS crowd run our way. People were scrambling to escape. When I spoke to one person later, when he had calmed down, he just kept saying: "Whatever that was, it wasn't tear gas. My entire body is burning."
Once on the main street, we could see our dear militias on their motrocyles.
I just got on a bus and went home.
From another friend:
There was violence today, but not as bad as the previous demonstrations. People were bruised and beaten, but not as many and not as severely.
We were getting up to leave the prayer, when we saw a truck coming our way from the distance. We could makae out a dozen or so militias in black uniforms in the back of the truck. Someone yelled: "don't get up! sit!" We sat, frightened, as there were only 30 or 40 people and the truck was getting closer. Suddenly, people around us all ran to our side. They all sat down. We were at least a few hundred now. The truck backed up and left.
Rafsanjani did not let us down today. Go back and carefully listen to everything he said. He spoke in an uncontroversial, fatherly tone and with words that could only serve the betterment of this crisis. He spoke of the prisoners and the dead. He gave us an "inside peek" into the talks that are going on behind the scenes that we were never sure of (it was reported today that Khatami met with Abdullah Nouri as well). There are many factions within the IRI that want this charade to come to a peaceful resolution. I certainly hope and pray for such an outcome.
Mehdi Karroubi, loses his turban in a confrontation.
Mir Hossein Mousavi spotted at Friday Prayers today.
Muhammad Sahimi stayed up all night to listen to the sermon and speak with those in Tehran who attended the Friday prayer ceremony. Please click here his analysis.
From an Iranian source in the Middle East [unconfirmed] | "Satellite jamming devices (manufactured locally by Saberin Co., an IRGC company) installed on Milad Tower. "Now we know why Milad tower was constructed. The current jammers have capability of jamming satellites serving the Middle East, Turkey and Europe as we have seen during past few weeks." Photos posted here.
Tehran update | 2:07 pm [US Eastern] Allahu-Akbar volume ultra-high tonight! (northern Tehran) ... mixed with "Death to USSR" (??!!) and "Death to Khamenei!" (!!!!)
From Tehran Bureau's Saya Ovaisy in Tehran:
Man, in his 30s: "I was at the main entrance to Tehran University (the landmark gateway on Enqelab) at 10 am. It was already packed as people had come even earlier than us. I didn't want to go inside because that entails a full body search and check-in of bags and cellphones.
The loudspeakers aired nohe-khani (a form of religious mourning song) for half an hour as today was the death anniversary of Mousa bin Jafar (the 7th Shiite Imam). During that time, the crowd was in constant flux, circulating to keep the security forces from moving to disperse us. Green wristbands and Vs were ubiquitous as usual. Slogans were bold and we chanted with impunity.
About ten minutes before Rafsanjani's sermon was due to start, teargas was shot into our midst. We dispersed but gathered again as soon as the fumes cleared up. To our surprise, they didn't shoot tear gas a second time. Generally, it seemed the police wanted to avoid clashing with us, perhaps because of our highly-visible location -- or because of our numbers and our vehemence!
I left by 3:30 after the prayers. I saw no violence, but my friend heard gunshots on Valiasr Avenue on his way home at that hour."
From Tehran Bureau's Saya Ovaisy in Tehran:
Eyewitness report from a 64-year-old university professor of Strategic Management:
I was outside the east gate of Tehran University on Qods St. (former Anatole France St.) at 11:30 am.
The crowd, amassed in all directions as far as the eye could see, was so thick and compact that security forces could do nothing but stand by passively on the sidelines.
They were so docile that the crowd thanked them by chanting: "Police Forces, thank you!"
Unhindered, the crowd chanted an entire repertoire of slogans, including:
* "Down with this people-fooling government!" (Marg bar in dolat-e mardom-farib)
* "Coup d'etat government, step down!" (Dolat-e kudeta, estefa, estefa!)
* "As long as it's Ahmadinejad, every day shall be thus!" (Ta Ahmadinejad-e, har rooz hamin basat-e!)
* "Die Mojtaba, before you see the Leadership!" (Mojtaba bemiri, rahbari o nabini!) [in ref. to Khamenei's son]
* "We are not chaff -- we are the nation!" (Ma khashak nistim, mellat hastim!) [in ref. to Ahmadinejad labeling protesters 'chaff']
* "Political prisoners must be freed!" (Zendani siasi, azad bayad gardad!)
Before Rafsanjani began his sermon, a chant addressed to him warned:
* "If you maintain silence, you commit treason!" (Agar sokut koni, khaeni!)
During the overture speech to Rafsanjani's sermon made by Friday Prayer organiser Reza Taghavi, whenever Taghavi spoke praisingly of Khamenei (e.g., "The Supreme Leader upholds the law"), the crowd outside erupted in boos and chanted:
* "Death to Liars!" (Marg bar dorugh-goo!)
A dozen or so people seated near the gate tried a few times to counter with pro-Khamenei slogans: "Until there's blood in our veins, Khamenei's our Leader!" (Ta rag dar khun-e mast, Khamenei rahbar-e mast!) but they were drowned out by a several-thousand-strong roar of "Get lost!" boos.
They carried placards depicting Mousavi as well as photographs of Sohrab and Neda. Hand-written signs of "Death to Russia!" were also seen (a new slogan slamming Russian support for Ahmadinejad). Another first was that there was a number of shahrestanis (people from provincial towns) among the crowd. One told me, "If it weren't for you Tehranis, the game would be lost!"
I stayed for the duration of the sermon but left when the prayer began. It was about 2 pm -- up to that time I did not see any clashes, nor tear gas, at that location.
In this clip, regardless of what chant leader calls for -- Death to America, Death to Israel, Death to England, etc. -- the crowd keeps chanting back, "Death to Russia!"
Reaction to Rafsanjani speech (expounding upon what he wrote earlier): Hashemi's sermon was neither great to make him a hero overnight as some people hoped, nor treacherous as some people feared. He did not refer to the fraud in the election nor did he criticize Ahmadinejad in any fashion -- evan after the radical stance he took toward him before and right after the election, the two topics that the green movement expected him to touch upon. Happily for the movement however, he mentioned the lost of the public trust as a result of what he called a crisis and stressed the need for efforts to bring it back and asked for the release of the recent prisoners.
Reading between the lines, he also pointed to his lobbies with the members of council of expediency and the assembly of experts in recent weeks for a solution to the crisis, news of which had been circulating ever since election day. That may have been the crucial part of his speech, especially when in his whole speech, he did not mention the supreme leader, Khamenei, something unprecedented in the Friday prayers. In fact his speech didn't change anything more than his silence would. His presence however created an opportunity to revive the movement and bring people to the streets.
Another Tehran resident, "Protests were shown on TV. Tried to make protesters look negative, but it did show normal people wearing the green color trying to listen to the sermons and being at the university. It blamed them for disturbing the uniting event of Friday Prayers."
WishOneDay says via FB, "Many top Iranian politicians were at the sermon on Friday, including Abdollah Nouri who hasn't gone for 11 yrs."
A friend in Tehran calls to say that, "Iran's state TV Channel 1 showed the protests! for the FIRST time. It wasn't much, a 5 minute report on the Friday prayers. They showed a clip of Rafsanjani asking for order. That's about it. They also showed the protests for a second -- the basij beating up the "Arazel & Obash."
From a friend's blog today: This is a day of triumph for the Islamic Republic of Iran when monarchist radio stations all over the world broadcast Friday Prayers without interruption. Recent events have not made the Islamic Republic of Iran weaker, but stronger. Tis may have long-term consequences for those of us wishing for a separation of religion and state, but for now, I'm so very proud for the wisdom my people have shown.
Iranian state TV is currently broadcasting via its five channels:
1) a discussion on havij bastani (an Iranian desert with carrots and ice cream)
2) a 1986 Japanese cartoon
3) an Indian movie
4) an even cheesier Iranian movie
5) a documentary on the Iran-Iraq war
I've had almost every Friday lunch I can bring to memory listening to the Friday sermon playing in the background. IRIB1 made sure to start the live program a full hour before the sermon began to showcase the environment and the "revolutionary spirit of our people."
Apparently the spirit was a no-show this time as there is no sign of it on TV.
An update from Palestine Square in Tehran: The asphalt was really hot! The chants included "Down with Russia!" as well [for supporting Ahmadinejad's claimed victory]. The police presence was mild at the beginning, but when the sermon was over, they came out in force. I think some units were new; but it was still the same combination of professionals and basijis.
I saw one young militia member try to detain an elderly lady. Elderly ladies are quite vocal when they meet members of these units -- but his elder commander interfered to let the woman go.
Overall I did not see much violence. I was on Palestine Square. However they apparently used tear gas. It was very hot, damn hot actually.
Hashemi's [Rafsanjani] speech was good, moderate, peaceful and yet it was a confirmation that it is not over. I am constantly amazed by the people who come to these events. They are great people.
From Tehran correspondent | 10 am [US Eastern] : Reactions to Rafsanjani's speech in Iran:
A witness present inside the salon during the sermon said at one point when opposition supporters broke out into chants, Rafsanjani asked them to be quiet by saying, "Man az shoma behtar migam!" ("I am saying it better than you," meaning essentially, 'I'm saying the same thing you are, only I have a sanctioned microphone!")
One resident of Tehran, previously skeptical that Rafsanjani would speak ambivalently and favor any side, said he surpassed her expectations by his calls for press freedom and releasing prisoners, as well as his nod to the people's discontent over the disputed election result. "Out of a score of 20, I'd give him a 13," she said. "He spoke less vaguely than I had anticipated."
Most people I've talked to rate his speech positively, compared to what they expected of him realistically given the positions he stands to lose by taking up the opposition side openly. Of course, they say it was far from the decisive stance they would ideally want to hear from such a senior figure at such an important juncture. But for Rafsanjani's "Machivellean" pragmatism, it could have been worse, so they are not wholly disappointed.
From a FB friend [thus unconfirmed] "BIG CHAOS" across Tehran the Government forces are not in control of the situation. estimate for now: a little over 1 million to about 1.5 million ppl out in streets of Tehran an eyewitness said: Tehran City Police Force not following orders to charge the people.
Correspondent in Tehran | 9:30 pm [US Eastern]:
- I saw helicopters overhead on Enqelab Avenue -- an indicator of the gravity of security response.
- Types of uniforms I saw: all-camouflage (Basij), all-black (special guard), plainclothes leaders (giving orders into walkie-talkies), plainclothes filming w professional cameras (intelligence agents), and, ones I'd never seen before in all-blue uniforms (navy??!)
- Many of the Basijis were teenagers, shockingly young... They wouldn't make eye contact with me as I walked by and tried to catch their eye. They seemed ashamed. The older Basij guys, not so... The burly ones who would glower fiercely seemed rabid and blood-thirsty.
- On the east side of Tehran University: No overt violence while we passed up and down from 1:30-3:30 pm [Tehran time]; security presence was heavy. Mass of 30-50 black guards at each intersection (we passed 4-5 blocks from Hafez St. to Vesal St.) Both sidewalks were lined with camouflage basijis (mainly of the young ones, who we called "scarecrows") standing 1-2 meters apart in chain-like formation ... plainclothes motorbikes whizzing by occasionally on avenue ...
- Interesting note: public transit buses were free to operate. They would go through Enqelab packed with ordinary people... and we'd hear the people in the bus chanting "allah-u-akbar" [God is Great!] ... on almost every bus we saw! : )
From Omid Habibia | 9:20 am: heavy Clashes at Keshavarz Blvd., Amirabad St, University Dorm, Ferdosi SQ, Jomhori, Azadi St., almost all central City
Gooya.com just posted some photos from today: http://news.gooya.com/didaniha/archives/2009/07/090872.php
From a correspondent | 9 pm: Friend in Tehran telling me that basij are on the rampage near Tehran Uni... many beaten. All I've heard so far.
From Tehran | 8:39 am: So far, one eyewitness told me the crowd was the second-biggest he'd seen since the initial Enqelab-Azadi [Revolution to Freedom Square] march ... He personally walked thru where it extended from Gisha to Teh Uni ... his estimate was 1 to 1.5 million ...
Apparently the crowd concentration was West of the uni ... (which makes sense that i didnt see it on the east side)
He said tear gas was fired so frequently that it was "suffocating" and b.c. of packed crowd, escaping to fresh air was difficult and he and his friends felt they "couldn't breathe"
Another guy I talked to said there is "sholughi" STILL going on (5 pm now) ...
From a friend, who also posted this on the NYT Lede:
the security presence was heavier than i'd even seen -- more even than "neda saturday" !!
I just returned from Enqelab. We couldn't make it to Tehran University because of the immense Guard/Basij presence -scores more than I'd seen at previous demos during the past month.
They had put up roadblocks to prevent traffic flow to that area and would force pedestrians to turn back. There was no violence where we were (east of the Uni), but people we met on the way back from other routes had teargas-reddened eyes and told us "they're beating people" and that crowds of protesters outside Friday Prayer grounds were "huge."
Since people couldn't break out into chants in front of the thug squads, they had to resort to codified slogans. "Marg bar Diktator" ("Death to the Dictator") alternated with "Marg bar Russiye" ("Death to Russia") -- this was a sly jab at Ahmadinejad-Khamenei due to their alleged alliance with Russia in orchestrating the vote coup (Medvedev had promptly congratulated the fraudulent win and welcomed Ahmadinejad to a regional summit after the elections; Russia is widely believed to give behind-the-scenes support to Ahmadinejad's government, bypassing sanctions, selling arms, helping build the nuclear plant in Bushehr, etc.)
The day was scorching hot and I heard fellow Mousavites saying that just by being present on the streets, we oblige security forces to stand for hours in the hot sun in their heavy uniforms, helmets, vests, masks ... the best revenge we can muster nonviolently!
From Iranian FB friend (not in Iran) | 7:20 am: Hashemis [Rafsanjani's] sermon was neither great to make him a hero overnight nor treacherous as some people were afraid of. In fact, his speech didn't change anything more than his silence would. His presence however created an opportunity to revive the movement and bring people on the streets. He also smartly mentioned his lobbies with the members of council of expediency and experts which might be the crucial part of his speech.
From Pedestrian's blog
Bahman Agha is listening to the sermons on the radio from Tehran. I will be translating his words as long as he keeps them coming.
12:42 Taghavi the head of the organization that oversees the Friday prayer imams is still speaking. "Whoever participates in the Friday prayers is strengthening his ties with the leader."
12:47 Taghavi is going on still.
12:48 Taghavi: The Imam is speaking on the behalf of the supreme leader and thus must only speak of those policies approved by him. The Imam must organize his speech according to these policies.
12:50 Taghavi: This podium and this gathering must never be used on behalf of any political party or political cause. The Friday prayer is a prayer said in allegiance with the supreme leader. It is a prayer of unity and brotherhood.
12:52 Taghavi (again): The Imam must only speak of those policies approved by the supreme leader.
12:55 Taghavi: Unity is a policy that must be propagated by the Friday prayer. Respect for the law is another such policy. We must accept the law even if it is not to our advantage.
12:58 Taghavi: We must accept everything the leader said during his Friday sermon a few weeks ago.
13:05 Taghavi is done speaking. He ended with a few grudging words for the BBC.
(I'm now listening to the sermons myself . There is only the sound of prayer playing via a speaker)
The moazzen is saying the azan.
Rafsanjani just got introduced to the podium.
Sound of loud chants we can't make out.
Rafsanjani: Please sit down so we can make time for the speech.
Chants again. They're not letting him speak. I can only make out "leader" in their chants. (the blood in our veins is a gift to our leader)
13:20 Rafsanjani: We are approaching the anniversary of the Friday prayers and today's Friday prayer is in ways very similar to the first every prayers led by Ayatollah Taleqani. In hopes that we can use this prayer for the betterment of the future of our country and the goals of the revolution.
(Tehran radio is now cut off. The host just came on to announce that thousands of people are chanting Allah o Akbar in the streets. WTF?!)
13:23 Rafsanjani: I have a main part to my speech. It will be about the most critical aspects of Islam.
13:25 The second part of my speech will be about the goals of the revolution, the goals people have worked for and have given their blood for and the goals that our Imam [Khomeini] spent his entire life fighting for.
13:26 The third part will be about current events and the conditions we are in today. I will try to draw out solutions the way I see them. Of course, these will be my personal opinion.
13:27 Rafsanjani is speaking of Mohammad, the prophet, and the early days of Islam. This will go on for the first part of his sermon.
13:34 Rafsanjani is still speaking of Mohammad's early days as prophet and his attempts to establish rule in Medina.
13:36 He is reciting a sourah from the Koran and interpreting it.
13:41 Rafsanjani is getting teary. "The prophet respected the rights of all those under his rule." He brings an example from the end of the prophet's life where the prophet comes to the people and asks that they come to him to let him know if he ever treated them unfairly.
13:44 The prophet felt, during the last years of his life, that animosity was brewing amongst his people [he is crying now]. The prophet felt that his old friends are now enemies.
13:46 The prophet went to Baghi [where his old friends were buried] and said to them: you are lucky that you are no longer here to see that your old brothers are killing and destroying one another.
The first part of the speech is over. The second has begun.
13:51 He begins (as is the custom) by mentioning the upcoming religious dates of significance (e.g., the death of the seventh Shi'a Imam)
13: 52 May all the oppressors who make innocent people bleed be a witness to eternal condemnation
[the chants begin again]
13:53 I asked you, I pleaded for you to let me speak.
13:54 Rafsanjani condemns China. People chant "Death to China". He asks that people stop their chants.
13:55 Rafsanjani: China has a rational government. It must look at how it can benefit from its relations with the Islamic world. We hope that we will no longer be witness to such atrocities towards Muslims in China or anywhere else in the world.
13:55 But coming to our own problems. We started off very well in the race for the presidency. Everything went smoothly and fairly.
13:56 People became very hopeful. Everything was set for a glorious day. This glory was due to the people. They were the ones who went to the ballot box. And we must be grateful to them.
13:57 I so very much wish that that path had been continued. But unfortunately, that was not the case. I will now elaborate. We must first see what we [probably the ruling establishment] were after. This is coming from a person who was always by the Imam[Khomeini's] side [he is referring to himself]. For 60 years. The Imam was always after the people. After getting their approval and their participation. This was the art of the Imam which made him so successful. It took the Imam less than 20 years to get the people to come to the streets.
13:58 These people, the ones who were behind the Imam, broke the back of the Shah and brought him to his knees.
13:59 After the victory of the revolution too, we worked on a daily basis with the Imam. The Imam would always say that if the system is not backed by the people, nothing would stand.
14:00 The Imam would always quote the prophet [Muhammad] who would say to Ali [Mohammad's successor]: leave the people if they do not want you.
14:02 He is speaking of the Imam's command to Bazargan to form a temporary government. But the Imam tells him to keep it short to pave the way for the constitution.
14:03 We agreed that you will stop chanting. If we do not have the votes of the people behind us, we will have nothing. The guardian council, the expediency council, EVERYONE gets their legitimacy from the vote of the people.
14:04 Without Islam, without a republic, we have nothing. Ali [Imam Ali, the prophet's successor] waited 19 years until the people came for him.
14:05 Stop chanting.
14:06 Why did the elections come to this? Before the election, near the end, some people had doubts about what was going to happen. Maybe because of the way the broadcasting corporation behaved.
14:07 Rafsanjani: Some are chanting and I can't make out what they say. But I am speaking what you want to hear. I want unity too.
14:08 I have always acted above and beyond party lines, and now too we must search for unity to find a way out of our quandary.
14:09 I have some suggestions. I have spoken to some members of the the expediency council and the assembly of experts about them too. [Signaling that he is the chief of the assembly of experts and the expediency council and he is speaking from that platform]
14:10 We must bring back the trust of the people. First of all, everyone must accept the law. The people, the parliament, everyone.
14:11 We must create a condition so that everyone can speak. We must speak logically. And a part of this responsibility is on the shoulders of the broadcasting corporation.
14:12 The guardian council did not make good use of the extra fives days given to them by the leader.
14:13 We do not need people in prison for this. Let's allow them to return to their families.
[More chants of Allah o Akbar]
14:14 We must join with those who have incurred great loss and try to lesson their pain.
14:15 We must give freedom to the press within the confines of the law.
[not a word of the government]
14:15 We are all members of the same family. We must remain friends and allies. Why have we gone so far as to pain some of our marajeh [top religious leaders]?
14:16 I hope this sermon will pave a way out of this current situation. A situation that can be considered a crisis.
14:17 The sermon is finished.
14:18 Two chants can be heard: the blood in our veins is a gift to our leader and Hashemi, Hashemi, may god keep you safe.
The speech was brilliant. At least as far as my sleep deprived brain can think right now. Maybe I'll have a different opinion later. I would have liked him to criticize the mafia (i.e., government). But two problems: he's an old member himself, and he didn't even MENTION the government. How great is that?
Sorry for all the typos, grammatical errors, etc. I'll edit this soon!