PART VII: We are not dirt and dust, we are the nation of Iran

Friday, 19 June 2009

During the week I was attending most of the demonstrations and rallies, now called ‘Rallies of Silence’ after the main demonstration on 15 June. I also had to move house. Dad had rented a flat near their house for us and I had hired a few people to take care of the move under my supervision. I had delivered the keys to our former landlord and was driving towards my parents’ for lunch. The radio was on.

That Friday was unprecedented in the history of Iran’s Friday prayers. Friday, or Jumah, prayer is one of the cornerstones of Islam: a congregational prayer held at noon. The two sermons, one religious and one political before the actual prayers, have always played a crucial role in the government of the Islamic Republic. Tehran’s Friday prayers are always held at the University of Tehran, led by one of the most important clerics who is appointed directly by the Supreme Leader.

That Friday Ayatollah Khamenei announced he would lead the prayers himself.

Everyone I knew was either listening to or watching the sermons. Everyone expected the Supreme Leader to call for a reconciliation and a recount. But, instead of trying to calm both sides, the Supreme Leader waged war on the nation:

“Over the past centuries, the West has destroyed our culture. But our nation wants to regain that spirituality . . . The enemy wants to make us believe that we have been fooled . . . Zionist, American and British radios are all trying to say that there was a competition between those who support and those who don’t support the state . . . The President was insulted and wrongly accused . . . The legal mechanism in our country won’t allow any cheating. I will not accept any illegal initiatives. If the political elite want to fix something at the cost of something else and break the law, they will be responsible for the bloodshed . . . What people want and what they don’t want should not be taken into the streets. Street-wrestling is not acceptable after the election . . . I want both sides to put an end to this. If they don’t, then the responsibility of the consequences will be on them.”

The city had fallen silent. The flickering hope that the Leader would take a decision to investigate the fraud was snuffed out in an instant. I knew then that the next day, 20 June 2009, would be a day of fate. He had lit a spark in the already seething hearts of the people. The young would take to the streets.

And I knew that sermon had been a warning. ‘If you protest, we will kill.’