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Iranians, in a rebellious mood, look to Israel

Quds Day, usually a chance for Iranians to express anti-Israeli sentiment, may provide a cover for those opposed to Ahmadinejad.

A driver sits behind a steering wheel in his minibus in Tehran, Sept. 9, 2009. The capital is the focal point of Quds Day, when anti-government protests are expected. (Morteza Nikoubazl/Reuters)

TEHRAN, Iran — It’s 8 p.m., news time on Iranian TV, and Mustafa Qaderi is sticking his ear to the speakers because the house is full of guests and a loud, vibrant conversation is reverberating.

“He listens as if he’s going to take an exam on the news tomorrow morning,” his wife Zahra said.

Mustafa and his wife are school teachers living in the Sadeghiye district in the southern part of the capital Tehran. Since the Iranian election in June, Zahra said, Mustafa has changed.

“I remember Mustafa from just a year ago,” she said, “when he fervently supported [President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad and even called friends and family before the election to ask them to vote for him.”

But this year, Mustafa took to the streets after the election and even received a bruise or two from the Basij, which is a volunteer militia founded by the order of the Ayatollah Khomeini.

“I’m still healing from the bruises, but what won’t be healed anytime soon is my dignity and my heart,” he said in a sad, low voice. Elsewhere in Iran, Ali Kazemi works as a researcher at a dairy production facility in Golpayegan, a small town near Isfahan. He doesn’t look you in the eye (an act of piety), and his wife wears the chador — a loose, usually black robe worn by Muslim women that covers the body from head to toe. He recounted the last few weeks at work where “everybody does nothing except find ways to get around blocked websites and read the day’s news.”

“Since Ahmadinejad became Iran’s president, not a single rial [equivalent of a penny] has been devoted to research here at the facility,” he said. “Instead, just go to them and say that you might be doing something about nuclear energy, and they don’t even ask what it is, they will give you good funding.”

Mohsen Naji, owner of a factory near Isfahan that produces spare parts for cars, said that if it weren’t for his wife’s salary, his family of four would have starved to death over the past three months.

Under a new law, passed last year, factory owners rather than the government are responsible for paying workers insurance. And the amount they have to pay is double what the government used to pay. This comes as a rude shock for the owners, and most are facing a huge budget deficit.

Government mismanagement, a high unemployment rate and an unclear future have made many everyday Iranians weary. They yearn for a chance to protest against the status quo.

The government crackdown has put a lid on the protests, but it seems that the opposition has found a way around this in a novel way: they plan to use the occasion of Quds Day, the last Friday of Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting — a day usually reserved for expressions of anti-Israeli sentiment.

(A video posted on YouTube that purportedly shows thousands of opposition supporters on Karim Khan Street in Tehran Friday.)

Quds means holy in Arabic and is also the name used for the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Symbolically, the temple represents the struggle of Palestinians against the Israelis.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/middle-east/090917/iranians-march