Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Irans president, has again outdone himself with his vile comments calling for Israel to be wiped out from the map of the world.
Ahmadinejads speech on 26 October preceded the annual Qods (Jerusalem) rally in Tehran, where (as CNN reported) thousands of Iranians staged anti-Israel protests across the country and repeated calls by their ultraconservative president demanding the Jewish states destruction. The Qods rallies have been held since the early days of the 1979 revolution, when Ayatollah Khomeini declared that the last Friday of the month of Ramadan would be marked as a day of solidarity with the Palestinian people.
Ahmadinejad and his ilk surely remember those early days when the gathering was called the million strong march when hundreds of thousands of Iranians did indeed willingly turn out. But despite the headlines, the rally this year was a total flop with a pathetic turnout especially given the harassment and pressures to attend exerted on state employees, civil servants, members of the armed forces, teachers, factory workers and students.
Nasrin Alavi is the author of We Are Iran: The Persian Blogs
Also in openDemocracy on Mahmoud Ahmadinejads speech:
Trita Parsi, The Iran-Israel cold war
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My word is the same as that of [the] Iranian nation, Ahmadinejad now tells the outside world. In reality he is having difficulty speaking even on behalf of the regimes inner circle. The latest evidence of elite divisions is a purge of Iranian ambassadors in important postings, including key regime figures such as Mohammad-Hossein Adeli in London, Saddeq Kharrazi in Paris, Shamsoddin Kharghani in Berlin and Amir Hossein Zamaninia in Kuala Lumpur.
It is known that these four ambassadors are politically aligned with Ahmadinejads defeated opponent in the presidential election, Hashemi Rafsanjani; all have been heavily involved in the nuclear negotiations of the last two years. Several other diplomats, like Muhammad Reza Alborzi at the United Nations, have been recalled to Tehran.
These abrupt dismissals are unprecedented, since traditionally Irans foreign-policy apparatus has been impervious to electoral change. The removal from office of such key figures would amount to declaration of war between the Ahmadinejad and Rafsanjani camps.
Even in Irans majlis, the hardline-dominated parliament, things arent going well for the new president. In August, the majlis rejected four of his proposed cabinet ministers; four ministerial posts are still vacant months after his election victory.
Ahmadinejad comes from and is endorsed by the hardline core of the regime that has ultimately controlled power in Iran since the revolution. His ability or otherwise to keep his campaign promises in the next four years will be a critical challenge for Irans revolutionary elite. Yet the presidents campaign pledge of social justice and distribution of oil money to the poor seems increasingly unrealistic.
The new parliament has announced plans to reduce subsidies on the sale of imported petrol, bread and cement. With rising chicken prices during the holy month of Ramadan, some observers are already reporting the the beginning of the end of Ahmadinejads honeymoon period.
The power of dissent
The sabre-rattling of fanatics (as ever) is also drowning out Irans pro-democracy voices. On 26 October at a gathering of over 1,000 people (including the elected heads of Irans largest nationwide student union, Tahkim Vahdat), Mohsen Kadivar made a speech directed at supreme leader Ali Khamenei: a symbol of freedom is for your opponents and those that criticise you to be safe in this society; otherwise merely talking of social justice is easy...Why are Akbar Ganji, Abdolfattah Soltani and Nasser Zarafshan still in jail? Kadivar added: I ask the security officers who are at present amongst us to take my words to the leader...
Also in openDemocracy, two articles on the imprisoned journalist Akbar Ganji:
Masoud Behnoud, Akbar Ganji in the prison of Iran
Dont miss too openDemocracys IranScan 1384 blog for commentary, analysis and links by Iranian expert voices, from Hossein Derakhshan to Afshin Molavi, Mr Behi to Farideh Nicknazar and Nasrin Alavi herself
Amnesty International has again expressed grave concern about the safety of Akbar Ganji, Irans longest-serving imprisoned journalist. According to his wife, he was severely beaten by Iranian security officers who wanted him to apologise in writing for his books and letters, and to undertake not to give interviews in the event of his release from prison.
It may be hard for outsiders to believe, but the one-time revolutionary guard Ahmadinejad fears the writings of activists like Akbar Ganji more than any United States threat. Indeed the two opponents are connected in his mind. Ahmadinejad beams triumphantly as he takes questions from the press about Israel and the United States, for he knows that conflict with these powers strengthens his power base as even those Iranians who oppose him are tempted to move to his camp in the face of foreign aggression. He also knows that such conflict gives him a pretext to crush dissenters with more force than before.
The writer and journalist Ahmad Zeidabadi, a former jailmate of Ganjis, has said that Ganji is a stubborn south Tehran (working-class) lad that will fight any force or harassment. Ahmadinejad became president with the backing of the noble south Tehran poor. He has promised them prosperity and jobs. He is more fearful of a confrontation with the great and good lads of south Tehran than any dirty war with the west.