So we ended up going to the Toronto protest in solidarity with the Iranian protesters on Sunday. The protest was at Queen's Park from 2pm to 4pm. We ended up there around 3pm. The front lawn of the provincial parliament building was fairly occupied, I would say that there were a few thousand people. At that point, most of the speeches were either in Farsi, or badly amplified anyway, so I couldn't understand much. From time to time, there would be some people chanting "Marg bar dictator" (Down with the dictator), and "Natarsid! Natarsid! Mah hameh bah ham hastim!” (Don't be afraid, don't be afraid, We are all together!), although mostly the former. There was also a lame "Iran, Iran, Iran" cheer going on. Can't people be more original than this? Finally, very tellingly, not once did I hear Allaho Akbar. It's good enough for the rooftops of Tehran, but Torontonian Persians seem to have better slogans than them!
You could see a fairly good contingent of socialists/communists, with signs that were more vitriolic, "Down with the Islamic Republic of Iran". One interesting thing is that even though there were tons of Iranian flags, the only version you could see was the monarchist or pre-revolutionary flag, with the lion in the centre, as opposed to the Islamic Republic's flag, with the Farsi text along the coloured borders and the swords in the centre. A lot of people had gotten t-shirts pressed or made their own t-shirts with various slogans along the lines of "Where is my vote?"
Eventually the speakers were done but many protesters decided to stay. The communists decided to do some sloganeering of their own, in complete rejection of the Islamic republic but not touting any program of their own (Other than on some flags, which said Freedom, Equality, Socialism). I accompanied them for a bit with their "Marg bar joomheira islami", "down with the terrorist state", etc. not really convinced but for the sake of yelling something, anyway. A larger part of the protest had moved further south, away from the communists, but they were also saying "Down with the islamic republic".
I thought later on that people's slogans should really have been about the elections and asking for democracy. That is the basis of what's missing in Iran. Maybe many Iranians do want to live in an Islamic republic after all? Maybe (hopefully!) not forced veiling and stoning of adulterous women, but still living under a version of Islam's moral code? Moussavi's extremely reformist statement did come from a position of trying to coopt/split security forces, and of course he is a former ultimate insider, having been the Prime Minister under Khomeini as Supreme Leader and Khamenei as President. But it also made me think that the first priority should be to have a democratic process, both at the level where you elect free parliamentarians (not supervised by an unelected veto-er) and have a free press, but also at the level of popular organization. Everything else flows from there. The Danger of Hijacked Rallies
State-run TV in Iran is showing demonstrations in other countries such as the US, however with some serious editing. They are not broadcasting the majority of people standing and shouting in solidarity with people in Iran. Rather, they show images of demonstrators who shout, “Death to the Islamic Republic,”
In Paris on June 20, the National Council of Resistance of Iran helped bus in several thousands from all across Europe to hold a rally where the leader of NCRI, Maryam Rajavi spoke. Busing in people from out of town. sound familiar? Just today, June 21, in Washington DC, a rally organized by monarchists – though attended by many non-monarchists – featured Reza Pahlavi, the son of deposed Shah. Many sat down when he arrived, while others moved to the periphery obviously uncomfortable with his presence. Like a celebrity, he spoke for five minutes about democracy in Iran interrupted by cries of “We love you” and was ushered away. “I sensed he was being very opportunistic,” remarked an onlooker.
If one truly aims to help the people in Iran, then one should follow the people lead and not try to hijack their movement by imposing one’s own agenda. Demonstrations outside of Iran should be filled with unity, peace, and reflection for the brave Iranian people fighting for basic freedoms, and void of flags and slogans that undermine their cause with the burden of past political divisions.
After the protest, by sheer coincidence, we had to get to Finch station to get something else. That part of the city is home to many Iranian businesses, so we decided to go try Persian food. There were many people driving around, having decked their cars with many monarchist flags, honking and cheerfully yelling out loud. It felt more like a world cup match victory celebration than a worried protest in support of brave Iranians facing off against the Basij. Some of these seemed to have made it quite well in life, driving cars that I can't afford.
...RAFSANJANI POISED TO OUTFLANK SUPREME LEADER KHAMENEI
Now that Ayatollah Khamenei has become inexorably connected to Ahmadinejad’s power grab, many clerics are coming around to the idea that the current system needs to be changed. Among those who are now believed to be arrayed against Ayatollah Khamenei is Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the top Shi’a cleric in neighboring Iraq. Rafsanjani is known to have met with Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani’s representative in Iran, Javad Shahrestani.
A reformist website, Rooyeh, reported that Rafsanjani already had the support of nearly a majority of the Assembly of Experts, a body that constitutionally has the power to remove Ayatollah Khamenei. The report also indicated that Rafsanjani’s lobbying efforts were continuing to bring more clerics over to his side. Rafsanjani’s aim, the website added, is the establishment of a leadership council, comprising of three or more top religious leaders, to replace the institution of supreme leader. Shortly after it posted the report on Rafsanjani’s efforts to establish a new collective leadership, government officials pulled the plug on Rooyeh.
Meanwhile, the Al-Arabiya satellite television news channel reported that a "high-ranking" source in Qom confirmed that Rafsanjani has garnered enough support to remove Ayatollah Khamenei, but an announcement is being delayed amid differences on what or who should replace the supreme leader. Some top clerics reportedly want to maintain the post of supreme leader, albeit with someone other than Ayatollah Khamenei occupying the post, while others support the collective leadership approach.