By Nazanin Kamdar, Rooz Online
As the war of words between Iran and Israel reaches new heights and the military officials of each country threaten the other side with annihilation, the absence of regime supporters in the annual Quds (Palestine) day march by pro-regime groups, despite the massive propaganda by the national radio and television and the facilitation of the government, was not only noticeable but even brought forth criticism from Principlist websites.
Social networks posted photographs of the event in various marches that not only showed small crowds of people participating in the event, they even showed marchers who were clearly eating during the fasting month of Ramadan. Opposition figures also posted some women who wore heavy makeup and asked officials why these women were not treated the way the regime normally attacks similar scenes. Some photographs even showed young men and women who would under different circumstances be labeled un-Islamic, sinful and insulting to the divine values.
What is significant is that these photos from the Quds Day were posted by official government websites, including Fars news agency which is closely associated with the Revolutionary Guards.
They showed a video that was broadcast by the national radio and television service showing a man who was drinking water while in the Quds procession and pointed to the indifference of the official site.
In its report on the occasion, Gooya wrote, “Even though the official Quds march this year began at 10:30am, the streets and path between Imam Hossein circle to Meydan Enghelab (Revolution Square) were less populated than even normal days and by noon, there were less than ten thousand marchers in the path. Many of those that did participate were government employees and those of government owned banks which carried placards that indicated their affiliations. Many were also members of the Basij para-military force and its parent Revolutionary Guards whose leaves had been cancelled and who were forced to participate in the march. A pro-government group carried a coffin which had images of Israeli president Netanyahu, US president Obama, and Saudi king Abdullah, among others, on it.”
The report continued, “This year’s Quds Day march was so scattered that some government news sites skipped over the event and showed images of scanty streets. Even the national radio and television network which never showed the end of a demonstration, this time showed empty spaces around the march and the small size of the marchers.”
This meager public participation has brought forth criticism from official websites.
Khabar Online for example, quoted Mousa Ghorbani having said, “I participated in the march like many other people but when we came to Palestine Street I unfortunately witnessed some people end their participation and turn around and walk back. I first thought that these people were not interested in the march to begin with; but noticed that they in fact did carry signs indicating that they belonged to the official march and had stayed in the procession, but then had decided to abort it because they had to wait for another two hours to participate in the special congregational prayers.
Another official site Mashreq also implicitly acknowledged the lack of wide public participation in the Quds Day march but blamed this on reformists. A reporter from this site wrote that many people took photographs of the occasion. It said while former reform president Mohammad Khatami was said to perhaps participate in the march, he did not show up. It said the non-participation of the leaders of the reform movement in the Quds Day march was another indication that they supported the reformers, whom officials call “seditionists.”
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