Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Ahmadinejad's Isolationism

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"Neither Gaza, nor Lebanon, I will give my life only for Iran." That was the slogan of the opposition on Quds (Jerusalem) day: a day that since the revolution of 1979 has been devoted to solidarity with Palestinians, a day in which no one had ever dared challenge that assumption. This year the opposition broke with that habit. The slogan was meant for the Islamic establishment and for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who seems to many Iranians to be more concerned about the plight of Hamas and Hezbollah than about Iranians. And once the opposition rally was attacked, they shouted: "Torture, rape, false confessions will no longer silence us" – a direct reference to the brutal post-election clampdown.

Criticism of the government's strong pro-Palestinian stance has become more vocal recently. A banner showed a young boy who seems injured, walking barefoot with his T-shirt torn. He had the green band of the opposition round his wrist. The slogan on it says: "Palestine is here." And a popular song by Kiosk, an Iranian underground band, says: "We haven't a penny to spare: but all our savings go to Palestine." These sentiments are in no way against the Palestinians. Almost all Iranians care deeply about the plight of Palestinians. Yet, many are tired of Islamic Republic's hypocrisy in pretending to care about Muslims around the world while they treat Muslims at home so abhorrently.

Thus the united face of Quds day appeared shattered this year. Ayatollah Akbar Rafsanjani, the second most powerful political player, who has led Quds day prayers for 30 years, was barred from speaking. Other powerful clergy – including the former president Khatami, the former parliamentary speaker Karoubi, who have traditionally been in the front row of the ceremonies, were out in the street marching against the government. The clergy had never before been abused or attacked in the streets yet, on Friday, controlled crowds attacked Khatami and Karoubi immediately after they joined the demonstrations. (Read more...)