Iran’s president rushed away from anti-Israel rally amid taunts

Crowds heckle Rouhani at al-Quds Day protest after reports of increasing tensions with supreme leader Khamenei

A week after being heavily criticized by Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, President Hassan Rouhani was heckled Friday during an annual pro-Palestinian rally in Tehran, with protesters comparing him to a former state head who was impeached and later exiled.

According to the Guardian, Rouhani was rushed to his vehicle following the incident. The Iranian president had been participating in the Quds rally, which is held every year on the last Friday of Ramadan.

“Rouhani, Banisadr, happy marriage,” protesters chanted, referring to exiled president Abolhassan Banisadr, the Guardian reported. “Death to liar, death to American mullah,” others cried.

Iran held major anti-Israel rallies across the country Friday, with protesters chanting “Death to Israel” and declaring that destroying the Jewish state is “the Muslim world’s top priority.”

Rouhani, in remarks carried by the official IRNA news agency, said Israel supports “terrorists in the region.”

A Shahab-3 long range missile is displayed during a rally marking al-Quds (Jerusalem) Day in Tehran on June 23, 2017.  (AFP PHOTO / Stringer)
A Shahab-3 long range missile is displayed during a rally marking al-Quds (Jerusalem) Day in Tehran on June 23, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / Stringer)

The anti-Israel rallies are an annual event marking al-Quds Day, a historic Arabic name for Jerusalem. Iran says it’s an occasion to express support for the Palestinians and emphasize the importance of Jerusalem for Muslims.

Earlier this month, Khamenei publicly rebuked Rouhani, warning the president not to split Iranian society as he claimed Banisadr had. “In 1980-81 the then president polarized society in two camps, and divided the country into opponents and supporters; this should not be repeated,” Khamenei said.

Banisadr, who was driven from power by first supreme leader Ruhollah Khomeini in the initial post-revolution years, told the Guardian that Khamenei was concerned over the increase in reformists’ power following last month’s elections in the country, in which the president won by a landslide.

“During my time, they closed down universities and carried out executions to undercut the civil society and make it passive. Now Mr. Khamenei is worried, particularly if he dies, because Mr. Rouhani is saying that his successor should obtain people’s vote.”

Last month, Rouhani won 57 percent of the vote in the Iranian elections, scoring a convincing victory over hardline cleric Ebrahim Raisi on 38.3%.

“The message of our people has been very clearly expressed. The Iranian people have chosen the path of engagement with the world, far from extremism,” he said on state television.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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