By Golnaz Esfandiari, RFE/RL
Rafsanjani at Friday Prayers (November 2005)
Instead, they tend to spend the day off work
doing things like hiking in the mountains around the city. But this week many
people who have never attended the official Friday Prayers at Tehran University
say they will go to express their unhappiness with the political situation.
Tehran's Friday Prayers are a platform at which the establishment sets out the country's political agenda and sends messages to "enemies," usually the United States, Israel, or the West. Often the messages are directed against critics of the regime within the country.
A speech by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei at the June 19 Friday Prayers was seen as paving the way for the crackdown on protesters.
"Struggling in the street after an election is not the right thing to do. But also, it challenges the principle of democracy and election," Khamenei said in his sermon.
"I ask everyone to stop this. This way is wrong. If they don't stop this, then they will bear the responsibility and the consequences of this chaos."
The day after the speech, a peaceful protest in Tehran was brutally suppressed and at least 20 people were killed. Among the dead was Neda, a young woman who has since become a symbol of the Green movement.
What Will He Say?
Rafsanjani was not present at the June 19 prayers, and he remained absent for the next several weeks. Musavi and other key reformists, including former President Mohammad Khatami and presidential candidate Mehdi Karrubi, were also absent on June 19.
But President Ahmadinejad was sitting in the front row and listening to Supreme Leader Khamenei attentively, "like a little boy listening to his father," some observers quipped.
This Friday, Ahmadinejad will be the one missing. He is reportedly due to travel to Mashhad. But Musavi, Khatami, and Karrubi are expected to be there to hear what Rafsanjani has to say.
During a televised debate during the election
campaign, Ahmadinejad shocked the country by accusing Rafsanjani -- by name --
of corruption. In response, Rafsanjani said the president had lit a spark that
would spread beyond the election and could harm the establishment -- including
During the postelection unrest, Rafsanjani was largely silent. On the rare occasions when he spoke about the controversy, he made vague statements accusing unspecified elements of creating divisions between the people and the establishment.
Few observers expect Rafsanjani -- who heads the Assembly of Experts, which is charged with electing and removing the supreme leader -- to say anything controversial during his sermon. Yet even if the Greens do not get the support they are looking for, these Friday Prayers have great symbolic value and expose further the deep divisions within the establishment.
They could also provide a stage for the opposition to display its power, unity, and determination to continue protesting.
However, the opposition could also face harsh resistance from pro-government forces. A newly launched reformist website called "Mowjcamp" has warned that the government is taking measures to prevent the Greens from attending the prayers en masse and that a heavy security presence can be expected.
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