Ayatollah Rafsanjani went probably as far as he could to attack the hardliners supporting President Ahmadinejad and support the reformists ranged behind Mir-Hossein Moussavi at his Friday prayers speech. He declared Iran to be in crisis and demanded the release of those detained in the post election crackdown.
Moussavi, Mehdi Karroubi and other top reform leaders were present, along with a large number of their followers wearing green bands that were apparently smuggled in (one woman admitting she had hidden hers in her bra) and trading chants with hardline supporters. Outside some clashes erupted between security forces and the huge public gathering and tear gas was fired. Moussavi supporters later issued a statement fully endorsing what the ayatollah had said.
Rafsanjani said the central problem Iran faced was the loss of trust brought about by the election and its aftermath. “We need to restore this trust.” He made no direct mention of President Ahmadinejad’s victory nor, pointedly, did he congratluate the president on winning a second term in office. More significantly, according to seasoned Friday prayers observers, he made no mention of supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei, a complete break with protocol.
Initial reports on the speech interpreted it as a firm if indirect challenge to supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei, who has strongly backed Ahmadinejad and dubbed the protests the work of Iran’s foreign enemies. Rafsanjani spoke of one side in the dispute – clearly Ahmadinejad’s – carrying on after the election as if nothing was wrong while on the other side were “a large portion of wise people who say they have doubts.”
He made a clear call for unity and consensus among the leadership, but even this contained digs at the hardliners. “We are all members of the same family. We must remain friends and allies. Why have we gone so far as to pain some of our [top religious leaders]? I hope this sermon will create a way out of this current situation, a situation that can be considered a crisis.”
Rafsanjani also criticised the Guardian Council’s handling of the complaint of election irregularities. “Unfortunately, the Guardian Council did not make good use of the extra five days given to them by the leader. But we still have time to unite.”
Outlining his proposals for a way out of the crisis, Rafsanjani said people’s trust could only be restored by strict observance of the law by everyone “and I’m talking about the government, the parliament, the Islamic courts and the security forces. … All problems can be solved if we only follow the framework of the laws.”
He also demanded an end to censorship and, singling out the state broadcaster for mention, said conditions needed to be created where all sides could sit down and discuss their problems. “We need to be able to sit down like brothers and sisters and talk logically about our differences.”
And he said it was time to stop “imprisoning our pepole. We should let these people return to their homes. We shouldn’t let our enemies laugh at us because we’ve imprisoned our own people. We must join hands with those who have incurred great loss and try to console them and bring them back closer to the system.”
His speech, especially the early part, made repeated reference to the importance of “the people” in Islam, a clear riposte to hardliners who have openly stated they regard elections as little more than window dressing. The prophet Mohammed, he said, made constant reference to the importance of people’s opinions and, when Imam Khomeini was consulted on Iran’s constitution, he too said it was essential to listen to the people.
“Let us ask what sort of society the prophet wanted. Mohammad wanted all humans to have all the rights. He didn’t want anyone’s rights to be infringed.”
He also pointedly referred to the demonstrations that were a key force in the revolution against the Shah. “We remember when people filled the streets, when they took to protesting with the Imam Khomeini against a government that was getting help from the East and the West. But the people stood firm and they succeeded. … [Imam] Khomeini would always say that without the participation of the people the Islamic government would never be successful.”
He added: “We are all together in the Islamic revolution; we’ve all spent years in suffering; we’ve all given martyrs for the cause of the revolution. This unity needs to fostered. I’m hopeful that we will be able to achieve this unity in the future and I’m hopeful we will get out of this situation based on the wishes of the people and a consensus among the leaders.”
The question his speech begs, however, is whether any of the hardliners are listening. Iranian television did not put out its usual live broadcast of the event, saying a recording would be broadcast late in the evening. The speech was reported on the evening news but important parts were left out of the report. Only the radio carried it live. Even a photographer from the semi-official Fars news agency was barred from entering the prayers arena. And several Twitter posts, later confirmed by Moussavi’s website, said Shadi Sadr, a leading human rights activist, was attacked by plainclothes officials and taken away as she made her way to the university.
Moussavi’s supporters, however, were clearly delighted.”Viva Hashemi”, the unidentified person in charge of the page wrote. “The ‘confessions project’ failed. The [edited] post said: “Ayatollah Hashemi-Rafsanjani, by adopting a moderate position, but leaning to the left, talked about all the minimum essentials for the ‘Green’” movement, despite the great preparations to put him under pressure, either in the Friday prayers or before when, by arresting his daughters [they] sent a message that they would not spare any crime! Despite the pressure of those who intended to sell the homeland in our absence, not only did he not confess to being an agent of foreigners or being deceived, but he also endorsed the nobility of all those who were supposed to confess after him. Today he, as one of the rings of the ‘Green’ chain, connected us to history.”
Another entry by Moussavi supporters summarised Hashemi’s remarks as:
1- Release political prisoners
2- Free television and the media from government control
3- Try to reinstate people’s trust
4- Revise the constitution
It added: “An interesting fact in Hashemi’s speech – Hashemi used these exact words: ‘The people, or the so-called protesters’! And, just like that, Hashemi, from the greatest political podium in Iran, officially announced: The people of Iran are all protesting.”
Here is video of the crowd outside Tehran university today: YouTube