Former Iranian president Hashemi Rafsanjani leads Friday prayers

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Friday, July 17, 2009

Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani
Image: Mesgary.

Hashemi Rafsanjani, the Iranian cleric, former president of Iran, and current head of the Expediency Council, has given his first Friday prayer service in Tehran since the disputed June 12 Iranian presidential election.

In the sermon, which was held at Tehran University and twice disrupted by loud chanting from demonstrators, Rafsanjani first discussed the earliest days of Islam and Mohammed's lessons of the importance of human rights for all people and unity among all Muslims. He then made reference to Ja'far al-Sadiq, an 8th century C.E. Islamic leader who, while assisting a rebellion against the Umayyad caliphate, preferred to keep his own views on the conflict to himself.

In his first direct reference to current news events during the sermon, Rafsanjani called upon Chinese leaders to stop their violent suppression of unrest among the largely-Muslim Uyghur people of Xinjiang.

Turning to the disputed June 12 presidential election, Rafsanjani stated that "what happened after the election was not what we expected it to be." The people's participation was to be lauded, he said, and to not listen to the people's voice is against the advice of Ayatollah Khomeini. Rafsanjani first called for the government to obey the rule of law:

We all need to follow the law. And I'm talking about the government, the parliament, the Islamic Courts and the security forces. We need to follow the laws. All problems can be solved if we only follow the framework of the laws. We need to create an environment where all sides could come together and discuss their issues. We need to be able to sit down like brothers and sisters and talk about our differences.

Rafsanjani listed several specific "proposals" for restoring unity and trust, all aimed at the government, and making particular reference to the Guardian Council's certification of the election results, which many have termed fraudulent:

Unfortunately, The chance that was given to the Guardian Council of five days to get people together and regain their trust was not used. [...] We shouldn't imprison our own people, 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 should sit together with mourners, And we should console them, And bring them back closer to the system. We should not be impatient now. Please do not censor media outlets that have legally obtained permits. Let them do what they want to do legally.

Rafsanjani did not specifically mention any current Iranian political figure by name.

Rafsanjani's speech was not broadcast by any Iranian state media outlet, in contrast to the usual practice of broadcasting the Friday prayers live.

IRIB headquarters
Image: Zereshk.

Loud chanting was occasionally audible in the speech, with large crowds reportedly present around Tehran University. Unconfirmed reports say that after the sermon ended, a large crowd began moving toward the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB)'s headquarters on Vali Asr Avenue. According to an update to Mir-Hossein Mousavi's Facebook page posted last night and a report by Reuters news service, the candidate attended the ceremony.

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This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.