Saturday, July 18, 2009

After the Sermon

Though the size of the crowds could not be confirmed and the rapid, early proliferation of videos on YouTube purporting to be of yesterday’s clashes deviates from the post-June 12 norm, “even supporters of the hard-line camp who attended the prayer session to show support for Khamenei acknowledged that the crowds were huge.”

Unprecedentedly, the prayer-attendees responded to exhortations of “Death to America,” not in kind, but with “Death to Russia” or “Death to China.” Like last Thursday’s protests, the clashes following Rafsanjani’s sermon remind us that the Opposition is alive, vibrant, and defies easily recognizable categories.

The LA Times reports:

After the sermon, downtown erupted in violence. Security forces attacked
demonstrators, older and grayer than at recent gatherings, who were chanting
"Death to the dictator!" and "God is great."

Tear gas filled streets as protesters sought to enter the gates of the university, which riot police had locked. The crowds swarmed through downtown, chanting slogans, lighting cigarettes and holding them in front of their faces to counter the effects of
the tear gas.

Masked demonstrators also set fire to trash in the middle of roadways to burn off the tear gas, video posted on YouTube showed. One group shut down two highways, while a second handed flowers to smiling policemen and kissed them on the cheeks, witnesses said.

Another large group gathered in front of the Ministry of the Interior, which is under the control of Sadegh Mahsouli, a wealthy ally of Ahmadinejad."Mahsouli! Mahsouli! Give my vote back," they chanted, according to a video posted to YouTube.

Rafsanjani’s sermon will be culled for phrases shedding light on just what his position is. While he called for both unity and respect for the rule of law, he also said “We should let our media even criticize us.” And then

People became hopeful about the elections, we should have been proud of this election, because people went to vote, in large numbers, we should thank them for voting, for taking part in the election is such huge numbers, alas, if only that environment continued to this day. What happened after the election was not what we expected it to be. Let us ask ourselves what we want, what does the revolution want? You are listening to someone who has been with the revolution every minute of the revolution we know what Imam Khomeini wanted, what his ideas were, Imam Khomeini always said that you should always listen to the people, see what the people want, if the people are with us, then we have everything. The Islamic Revolution was the way of Mohammed. People should be brought into the system first, this is why Imam Khomeini was successful.
Taken together, these two statements strike me as a vague call for an Iranian glasnost and a popular sovereignty. Some might view a call for popular sovereignty as a radical break from the past for such an establishment figure, as Rafsanjani, but it is not. Rather, it is a call for a return to the Revolution, before the June 12 fiasco.

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