by Patrick Appel
I noticed that they were not broadcasting Rafsanjani’s sermon on TV this morning. I headed out, and ended up on the west side of the crowd on Enghelab street at around noon. Right in front of the university there were large crowds of opposition supporters, then thousands more lined the street, but only in the shade (Iranians are experts at using shade it was at least 90 degrees today).
One first needs to understand how Friday prayers are usually run at Tehran University. For many of the people who went there today, it was probably their first time, so they might think that all of the blockades and cleared streets were because of the occasion. Not so. Every Friday morning the entire Enghelab street from the square west of the University to Vali Asr on the east side of the University is blocked off to traffic. People take chartered buses from all around the city and its suburbs to attend. Anyone can enter the university to hear the sermon, if there is room you just have to check our bag and any electronic devices. I have done this in the past without any problems and sat through several sermons. The first half of the sermon is religious, the second half is political. If the clergyman who is speaking is more famous, like a Rafsanjani, then thousands more attend. If it is a B-level guy, its more sparse. Woman are free to enter but must sit in a separate section. The sermon is broadcast through loudspeakers within about a mile radius of the University for your listening pleasure.
Today, of course, there were tens of thousands of people outside, with prayer-goers struggling to still go inside. I heard “Marg bar Rusya” and later was told that even “Marg bar Chin” was chanted. I guess the old 1979 slogan “Neither East nor West” still holds. Those sitting inside, the political elite of Iran (sans President), must have heard the crowds outside. Very few police were actually there in the beginning, in the middle of the crowd no less. Conservative-looking men held their young sons by the hand and guided them through this scene. I was wondering if they were going to actually let this continue. Finally, about 12:30, the police started arriving in droves and clearing the streets. Having suffered from a baton blow during a previous event, I left.
Ten minutes later and several blocks south I saw a man bleeding severely from his head on the back of a motorcycle. He was dropped off at a parked ambulance and was given care. He had been lucky and was able to flee the scene after being hit.
I wonder if the tear gas wafted into the University grounds. Reminiscent of the Shah and Carter in Washington D.C., no?
Here is a description of what happened when the Shah visited Carter.