Quds Day: Hunger Strikes

More

Click here for all the installments of this account of the protests in Tehran last month.

This is a small point. I have mentioned the funny hats, the parade of uniforms, the howling masses seeking to be heard and then entertained. What kept the event from being even more like a carnival or state fair (think Shriners, Boy Scouts, crowds at a sideshow) was the total absence of food, let alone Cokes and funnel cakes. Quds Day fell, as it does every year, on the last Friday in Ramadan. Pervading this fiesta of Palestinian solidarity and anti-Semitism was hunger and thirst.

Ayatollah Khomeini started Quds Day in 1979, during a period of Israeli bombing in southern Lebanon and acute anti-Israeli sentiment among Shia. He explicitly intended the selection of the last Friday in Ramadan--a month recognized as holy by Muslims of all sects--to unite Sunnis and Shia behind a single banner. That Khomeini himself originally hoisted that banner would, not coincidentally, establish him as first among equals in the Muslim defiance of Israel and the West.

But that timing also guarantees that all observant protesters will be out with growling stomachs and parched mouths, famished and peevish after nearly a month of daytime fasting. At this year's march, the weather was hot and dry. I witnessed a government-sponsored march in Iran once before, in 2004, on the occasion of the Islamic Republic's 25th anniversary. Food was not only available but paid for by the government: Revolutionary Guards threw juice boxes and plastic-wrapped muffins from the backs of trucks, to keep the energy up among the marchers. And the energy was indeed much higher then than at this year's Quds Day.

guy with picture graeme.JPG

guy screaming graeme.JPG

Death to America: 2004.

Why does this matter? The fasting certainly helped change the tone of things, keying down the energy but also keying up the bitterness, the anger, the irritability. Year by year, the lunar and Islamic calendars trot forward by a couple weeks, so next year's Quds Day will be hotter and the day of fasting longer. And the year after that even more so. I look forward to seeing if these conditions make any difference.

Jump to comments
Presented by

Graeme Wood is a contributing editor at The Atlantic. His personal site is gcaw.net.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

What Crazy Tech Idea Could Become Real?

"There could be great intelligence enhancements, like infinite memory."


Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

A Time-Lapse of Alaska's Northern Lights

The beauty of aurora borealis, as seen from America's last frontier

Video

What Do You Wish You Learned in College?

Ivy League academics reveal their undergrad regrets

Video

Famous Movies, Reimagined

From Apocalypse Now to The Lord of the Rings, this clever video puts a new spin on Hollywood's greatest hits.

Video

What Is a City?

Cities are like nothing else on Earth.

Video

CrossFit Versus Yoga: Choose a Side

How a workout becomes a social identity

Video

In Online Dating, Everyone's a Little Bit Racist

The co-founder of OKCupid shares findings from his analysis of millions of users' data.

Writers

Up
Down

More in Global

Just In