Million-Person Crowd Comes out for Friday After-Prayers Protest

Borzou Daragahi in Beirut and Ramin Mostaghim in Tehran have just filed a summary of Friday afternoon’s events in Tehran. They let slip about two-thirds down the article that opposition sources are claiming that a million protesters filled the capital’s streets and that even their political foes admitted that the crowds were enormous. It is easy to over-estimate the size of crowds, but given the government’s harsh crackdowns on demonstrators, even 500,000 would have been very impressive.

The occasion of the crowds massing was the Friday prayers sermon of former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, which took the form of a traditional Shiite lament against the injustice of the world rather than offering practical suggestions for a resolution. He complained that doubt about the election results on June 12 had beset the Iranian nation, dividing it and visiting on it the worst possible calamity. He complained about the hasty and high-handed certification of the official election results (awarding the victory to incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad) by the Guardian Council–Iran’s clerical senate– which convinced no one in the opposition.

Mostaghim reports from Tehran that the crowds seemed older and grayer than in past demonstrations, suggesting the depth of dissatisfaction with Ahmadinejad in the general public– this is not just a youth movement as some have attempted to depict it.

In the end, the security forces deployed motorcycles, beatings and tear gas in an attempt to break up the multiple demonstrations. Crowds fought back, including by setting trash fires to burn up the tear gas and by waving burning cigarettes in front of each others’ faces.

In the course of the crackdown it is said that the Basij or popular rightwing militia beat up opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi.

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