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July 17, 2009

New Iran Protests

Another big day of protests in Iran. Today's actions were triggered by former President and current head of the Assembly of Experts (the body that theoretically oversees the Supreme Leader) Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani's decision to lead Friday prayers at Tehran University.

Opposition leaders have been reporting that Rafsanjani was trying to build clerical support for the ouster of the current Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. While he didn't go that far in his speech, he did take his shots at the government and its response to the protests.

Doubt has been created (about the election results)," Rafsanjani said. "There is a large portion of the wise people who say they have doubts. We need to take action to remove this doubt."

Rafsanjani couched his sermon in calls for unity in support of Iran's Islamic Republic. But his sermon was an unmistakable challenge to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who declared Ahmadinejad's victory valid and ordered an end to questioning of the results. Rafsanjani said the dispute has split clerics and warned of "crisis."

Worshippers interrupted Rafsanjani with chants of "azadi, azadi" — Persian for "freedom" — and the cleric got tears in his eyes as he spoke of how Islam's Prophet Muhammad "respected the rights" of his people. Rafsanjani said the leader of the 1979 Islamic revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, "knew that people's vote was the most important thing in our country" and insisted it be enshrined in the founding of the Islamic Republic.

"Where people are not present or their vote is not considered, that government is not Islamic," Rafsanjani said.

He criticized the postelection wave of arrests, saying the leadership should show sympathy for protesters and release those detained. "Sympathy must be offered to those who suffered from the events... and reconcile them with the ruling system," he said. "We need to placate them."

Today was the first time that defeated presidential candidate and vehicle for the protesters Mir Hossein Mousavi has appeared at Friday prayers, though the brave, brave mullahs refused to broadcast the event on national TV for the first time ever.

After the prayers demonstrators once again took to the streets and were met with violent reactions from security forces (scroll around a bit for links, including crowd estimates of a million or more, though add appropriate doses of salt).

I wish someone would ask Obama if Iran's fist is still clinched.

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posted by DrewM. at 10:29 AM

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