These days, the Iranian regime has been surrounded by enormous dilemmas both inside the country and abroad, while people from different walks of life continue their socio-economic protests across Iran on a daily basis. At the same time, the regime’s mullahs are losing their hopes of further concessions from Western governments through the revival of the 2015 nuclear deal.
In his lecture on July 27, the regime’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei emphasized the importance of ‘Friday Prayers’. The regime touted these weekly ceremonies for decades as a sign of public acceptance. However, these state-back shows have failed to attract the regime’s loyalists, let alone ordinary citizens.
In his meeting with thousands of Friday prayer leaders, Khamenei said, “Friday prayers, with such characteristics, are an important link in the long chain of the soft power of the Islamic Republic.” The Supreme Leader, of course, did not make clear why he now insists on this importance.
The ruling theocracy has completely exploited the people’s beliefs to quell any grievance and demand. In this respect, Friday prayers are one of the dictatorship’s imperative means, but it doesn’t hide the fact that the regime is facing erosion in its advocates and closed allies.
On July 30, Mohammad-Ali Ayyazi, one of the Qom Seminary lecturers, said, “Only 0.2 percent of people in a city participate in the Friday prayer. As much as Friday prayer leaders’ dignity dwindled and weak and opportunistic people took this podium, the audiences and enthusiast people to these events would decrease.”
During his meeting, Khamenei implicitly mentioned the Friday Prayer leaders’ lack of piety and righteousness, despite the fact that his wealth equates to around $ 200 billion and he is in control of almost all of the moneyed incorporations in Iran.
Khamenei said, “In the same way that the Friday Prayer leaders invite everyone to piety during the Friday Prayers, they should do their best to be pious and act on this advice themselves. Otherwise, the opposite results will be seen.”
In an interview with the state-run Ofogh TV Channel on July 30, Reza Taghavi, one of the Friday Prayer Policy Council members, expressed his concerns over these events’ recession and the vast wave of defection among regime forces.
Responding to a question about the ‘too meaningful decrease in participants’, Taghavi said, “This is a question raised by many ‘people,’ and the Supreme Leader pointed to this issue excellently. Friday Prayers are not an event separated from society’s ups and downs.”
Taghavi also added that ‘high prices’, ‘political rivalries’, and the ‘mismanagement and weak response to people’s difficulties’ all impact people’s eagerness to attend Friday Prayers.
On July 29, the former Foreign Seminaries Organization chief Mohammad-Reza Nurelahian spoke about public hatred against the mullahs, saying, “Clergy’s popularity would not fall so much if clerics had sat among people and heard their cries.”
He further stated, “The signals show there is a severe fault between the clergy and society, and this distance would not wind up within today and tomorrow. We [clerics] severely harmed this authority, and many of us extremely hurt people with our function.”
In a sarcastic comment during the last Friday Prayer on July 29, Khamenei’s representative in Ardakan, Yazd province, admitted that, “no one pays attention to his sermon. Probably, today the weather was so warm and humid, and water coolers were failed; so, you said nowhere is cool as this place; let’s go and continue our talks there.”
Previously, when Khamenei’s representative in Amlash, Gilan province, attended a series of competitions for traditional wrestling, spectators welcomed him and another mullah with howls. Such a ‘warm welcome’ frustrated the Friday Prayer leader and his accomplice, forcing them to quickly leave the place.