Former Iranian President Criticizes Hard-Liners in Sermon
By Edward Yeranian
17 July 2009
Former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani delivered a blistering Friday prayer sermon at Tehran University, before a crowd of thousands, warning those in high places to abide by the will of the people and to heal the wounds of the recent crisis.
Thousands of people chanted as they listened to former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani deliver his much-anticipated Friday prayer sermon, and key figures of the opposition movement, including defeated presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi and former President Mohammed Khatami, attended in a calculated show of force.
Former President Rafsanjani delivered a scathing attack against those in power, arguing that "if the people are not content with the government, it loses its legitimacy." He said this was the "way of the Imam, [Islamic Republic founder Ayatollah Khomeini]" and also the "way of the Prophet [Mohammed]."
The former president also peppered his sermon with anecdotes of his years alongside the founder of Iran's Islamic Republic Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini noting that the Ayatollah withdrew his support for (former Prime Minister Mehdi) Bazargan, after he had lost the support of the people.
In a clear allusion to the incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, former president Rafsanjani argued that the Prophet (Mohammed) warned one of his followers that "if the people aren't happy with you, then you cannot rule over them."
He stressed "The people are the backbone of the Islamic Republic," and he said,"we have an Islamic system, but we are above all a republic, which rests on the will of the people, and all of our officials are elected by the people."
The former president insisted that the only way out of the current crisis, which began with the disputed June 12 presidential election, was for "everyone to follow the law, including the president, the parliament and [the other] branches of the [republic]."
Only Iranian radio broadcast Friday's prayer sermon, however, in an apparent display of hostility by the pro-Ahmadinejad faction which controls Iranian TV.
Iranian TV, instead, focused on a speech by embattled President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the city of Mashhad, Thursday, in which he launched his usual attacks against the West.
Al Arabiya TV reported that those in charge of the official Iranian Broadcasting Corporation (IRIB) had been warned at the beginning of the week "not to televise the Rafsanjani sermon," and also "not to film the crowds in attendance."
The former president Rafsanjani also lashed out at the Iranian media for being biased in its coverage and insisted that the official government TV must "be a place where the people can debate their ideas," demanding that its airwaves be opened to everyone.
In the sermon, the appeal for a free media was followed by an appeal for the release of all prisoners who are now being held by the government in the wake of weeks of unrest following the disputed presidential election.
Former Iranian President Abolhassan Bani Sadr, who lives in exile in Paris, however, thinks that Rafsandjani's remarks reveal that he has submitted to the will of Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei:
He says that Rafsanjani did what was expected of him, since he's a man of the regime. He's submitted to the will of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and will accept Mr. Ahmedinejad as president. In exchange, Rafsanjani didn't ask for much, he complains: the freeing of prisoners, compensation for those who were killed, and a small measure of free speech. It remains to be seen, he argues, if Mousavi accepts the deal, and if he does, then, this part of the saga is over. But, he notes, the people of Tehran are still chanting "down with the dictator," and they don't accept the proposal; they want their freedom.
Eyewitnesses say tens of thousands of supporters of Mr. Mousavi demonstrated in parts of the Iranian capital, after Friday prayers.
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