January 18, 2020
A video and photos showing the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s unusually quick departure from today’s Friday Prayers, led by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, have filled timelines of Iranian social media users.
Hundreds are commenting on the reason behind Rouhani’s alleged anger and shaking hands while Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani looked at him in astonishment when he got up to go. Most of the people commenting seem to be supporters of the Islamic Republic who are criticizing Rouhani.
In the video Rouhani is seen praying along with other state dignitaries behind Khamenei but gets up to leave as soon as the last word is uttered while Khamenei is still prostrate. What makes the move suspicious to many is that minutes before that the camera recorded him praying with a visibly upset face trying to steady a badly shaking hand with his other hand. His departure was interpreted as an insult to Khamenei by hardliner social media users.
Video showing the shaking of Rouhani’s hands while in prayer.
Some Iranians in their comments say Rouhani was angry because a eulogist had insulted him in a pre-sermon poem. The verses that he recited implied that the “choice” to elect Rouhani’s was “erroneous” and corrupted the revolution.
Eulogists are professional religious singers who recite poems in praise of Imams and other religious figures. They form an influential force in the Islamic Republic and are almost entirely merged with the hardliner faction. In today’s ceremony the crowd chanted “Death to hypocrites” after the eulogist’s pointed words.
Video showing Rouhani’s departure.
Yet others think Rouhani was angry because in his two sermons on Friday Khamenei took an uncompromising stance against the United States and particularly the European sides of the Iran nuclear agreement.
In his speech Khamenei also said “some people” had spoken to “appease the enemy”. It did not escape social media users that the camera of the state-run television which was broadcasting the ceremony live, zoomed on Rouhani’s face when Khamenei was saying that.
One Twitter user wrote: “What do you expect from Rouhani? He left to say to Europeans that he is against the Leader’s views and sides with them”. Another user wrote: “It was obvious that people’s ‘Death on hypocrite’ slogan was meant for Rouhani”.
In the absence of official reports or comments on the incident these interpretations which are entirely based on videos from the ceremony are not verifiable by any means.
People walking to the Friday prayer venue in Tehran walk around the US flag.
Today’s Friday prayer had another big surprise in store: Even some of the people participating in the Friday prayers, normally thought to be pro-regime, refused to walk over the U.S. flag and chose to walk around it. There was no time for the state-run television to do what it usually does, censor the footage.