QODS DAY: Protesters Transform Jerusalem Day Into Iran Day

Today a long time tradition of the Islamic Republic of Iran was transformed into nationwide mass protests against the government.

Qods Day (or Jerusalem Day) is an annual event in the Islamic Republic, ostensibly held in honor of the suffering of the Palestinians but whose other major theme is anti-Israel rhetoric.

Despite having banned all public demonstrations by an opposition movement that has suffered disappearances, prison abuse, gang rapes in state institutions, and all manner of threats, the government had no choice today but to convene Qods Day, and the people had no choice but to take this chance and make their voices heard once again.

They took the government's cue for Qods Day participation as a legal loophole for once again brimming the streets of Iran.

Iran Protests

But ironically for a government that has invested so much in its pro-Palestinian position, the Iranian public seems to have said today that they could care less about that issue.

"Not Gaza, not Lebanon. I die only for Iran," protesters have reportedly chanted in significant numbers across Tehran, Esfahan, Shiraz and other major cities across Iran today.

An image going around the Internet shows a protester holding a poster of the iconic Palestinian caricature Handala wearing a long green scarf with the words "Palestine is right here."

The message is clear, if unsympathetic: we Iranians have our own problems to solve.

Images and videos blogged, tweeted and facebooked show protesters weaving through the Qods Day event, clinging to winding green ribbons of fabric. The green wave connects them as they make their way through the avenues of Iran, flashing a vital sign to the world that a significant number of Iranians want change.

Some reports indicate that Mehdi Karroubi -- the former Speaker of Parliament, the National Trust party leader and the foremost voice against institutionalized rape and abuse of opposition protesters -- was there and that Mir Hossein Mousavi was, too. According to the Islamic Republic News Agency, Karroubi and Mousavi attended but were forced to leave prematurely due to security issues. However, there are no certain confirmations of those reports.

For protesters, however, their mere appearance amongst the people would be an assurance that the movement still has a leadership component.

It's reassuring but so far, despite the people's resistance to giving up, the violence continues. International news media have reported attacks on the protesters, with the Times of London stating that "Iran saw its most serious violence since the mass protests of the early summer".

Internet users have linked to websites that inform protesters how to treat wounds and conduct first aid. Protesters themselves have sometimes obscured their faces to avoid later problems of being tracked down by security forces who have reportedly taunted and threatened families even after the protests, just by studying images taken at the rallies.

For years, the prevailing opinion of Qods Day has been that the government's own elements were the main or perhaps only participants. For once, it seems, a large number of the people have decided to join in -- though for an entirely different purpose than the state intended.