Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Ahmadinejad Gets Cold Reception in Mashhad

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Rooz Online

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s “first provincial” tour since he was appointed president for the second time this year ended on Friday as administration efforts to demonstrate that he enjoyed popular support ended in failure while a quarter of the space in the eight Shiite Imam in Mashhad remained empty as he delivered his public speech. Ahmadinejad began his first “provincial trip” - as his visits to the Iran’s provinces have come to be known as – on Thursday by going to the holy city of Mashhad while special measures were taken to bring as many people as possible to hear his public speech. This trip coincided with the anniversary of the birth of Imam Reza, the Shiite eight imam, which is when many Shiites travel to the mausoleum of the imam in Mashhad as pilgrims. For this trip, special measures were taken to welcome Ahmadinejad, which included a wedding ceremony for 1,200 members of the martyrs of the eight-year war in the 1980s with Iraq, 15 special air flights to Mashhad two days before Ahmadinejad’s trip, and the launching of a caravan pilgrim trip of Basijis to the city coinciding with the chief executive.

In addition, Ahmadinejad’s public speech was to take place during the congregational Friday prayers which is when the mausoleum of Imam Reza is packed with pilgrims and prayer sayers. But this time, this did not happen, forcing the prayers to begin a half hour later than scheduled so that more people would gather in the hall. Witnesses told Rooz that they had seen individuals carrying placards that displayed “Requests from the president” messages among the pilgrims and residents of Mashhad. The placards asked people who had requests from the president to put their written petitions in blue-colored envelopes and handed to the men carrying the placards. This was Ahmadinejad’s second trip to the city since the June 12 elections (the first one was a private visit), but as in the first the trip, the highest religious authority in the province, ayatollah Vaez Tabasi, the chief custodian of the Imam Reza shrine in Mashhad refrained from welcoming him. The ayatollah is viewed as an Ahmadinejad critic in the conservative camp. (Read more...)