Friday, November 12, 2004

World Qods Day

Today is the day of a huge anti-Israel rally. World Qods Day. Qods is the name for the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem: the third holiest site in Islam. For two weeks, television programming has been mainly anti-Israel & anti-America. "They're getting people on to the streets again," K said, as we watched the early-morning coverage of the demonstration near the university in Tehran.

This, of course, is combined with the drama of Arafat's death. "They're saying that Israel poisoned him."

It's an election year in Iran. Most of the programming shows Rafsanjani and Khameini. Rafsanjani is poised to be the "once and future" president of Iran.

K and I were mesmerized by hours and hours of programming featuring Khameini meeting with the families of people killed during the Iran-Iraq war. (We watched for about an hour.) Families came who had lost all of their sons, one son, one husband, four brothers… They kissed Khameini. His aides wrote the names of the families. Khameini promised to visit some of them. Sometimes he gave a young man his checked scarf: a symbol of the Hezbollah. His aides brought him a new scarf.

Later in the week, we saw a speech by Khameini to students in Tehran. I recognized some of the students. (Believe it or not… K often recognizes people in the audience of speeches. That's the nature of Iran. It's not such a very big country.). They seemed to spontaneously and wholeheartedly break out into chants of "Death to America." About a month ago, in Isfahan, the crowd barely joined in for the obligatory "Death to America" chant. That said, it's impossible to gauge how Iranians feel about politics by their participation in chants and demonstrations. Superficial assessments get you nowhere in Iran.

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