Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Politics by Prayer

Attention over the Iranian electoral dispute is shifting to Friday prayers in Tehran, which will be led by Rafsanjani. It is normal for him to lead prayers on rotation with about three other leaders, but he missed his rotation--perhaps because he saw that as an effective protest, perhaps because Khamenei managed to sideline him.

Uskowi on Iran has a nice summary of the latest based on Persian sources:

Qalam news website reports that the opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi will attend the Friday’s Prayer which will be led by Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani [Qalam, 15 July 2009].

Mousavi, in a letter published in Qalam, declared his readiness to join his supporters in attending the service, characterizing the move as the best way to protest the “unjust” suppression of the freedoms by the government.

It is expected that Mousavi supporters will also attend the gathering, potentially creating a protest atmosphere on Tehran streets after the service.

Countering the opposition, Hossein Shariatmadari, the influential editor of the ultra-conservative Kayhan, in an editorial to be published in Thursday's edition of the newspaper, has called on government supporters to attend the prayer services as well and has instructed them to chant pro-Khamenei slogans, such as “Khamenei, we are your soldiers; Khamenei, we are at you command!” [Kayhan, 16 July 2009].

So Mousavi has apparently finally discovered a forum--public prayer--from which even the regime sees no way to exclude him. Therefore, to compete, the regime feels it must meet him on his own chosen ground and compete on his chosen terms.

Details on typical atmosphere for such a meeting would be very interesting.
  • Have they been politicized before?
  • What typically happens on the street after prayers?

As for Friday:
  • will the Basij be out in force on the street when prayers end?
  • what will be happening in Friday prayers in other cities, especially Qom, where a lot of leading clerics--supposedly the conscience of the nation--are still trying very hard to remain invisible?

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