Supporters of the Islamic Republic of Iran gathered in cities around the world to call for the destruction of Israel, the US, and the West during the annual Quds (Jerusalem) Day celebrations in Europe and North America. They gathered to chant their slogans on the last day of Ramadan in mid-April. But for all their bluster, the Iran-promoted celebrations failed to draw the crowds of previous years.
This year, “Quds Day” protests instituted by Iran’s late Ayatollah Khomeini were hosted across the globe, including a handful of Western cities—London, New York, Houston, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dearborn, Detroit, Toronto, Vancouver, Ottawa, Calgary, Brussels, Frankfurt, Cologne, Paris, and Stockholm. While London drew a few thousand protesters and Frankfurt around 700, the other Western protests drew much smaller crowds than they have in years past.
FWI reporters observed a significant decline in U.S. protests. In fact, unlike previous years, Quds Day protests in the United States were barely advertised. In the past, regime sympathizers have hosted protests at Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C. This year, no protest was publicized and an afternoon trip to Dupont Circle, a traditional gathering point for such events, showed no protesters.
Hassan Dai with the Iranian American Forum (an anti-Iranian regime organization) said Iran’s influence through Al-Quds Day celebrations is declining. “Quds Day is not as popular as it was before. It’s not at the center of concern of the Muslim world. The regime itself is getting more unpopular amongst Muslims,” he said speaking to FWI, adding, “The majority of Muslim immigrants have been disillusioned with the Iranian regime and understand that Quds Day is part of the regime’s game to use the Palestine issue for its own sake.”
The weekend before Quds Day, one of Tehran’s prominent western mouthpieces, Hamza Sodagar, tried to boost participation in the declining celebrations by reminding supporters that Khomeini instituted this day of protests and telling listeners that the Islamic Republic and all that it promotes is central to the future of Islam. For Sodagar, the Islamic Republic is the “hope of Palestine” and will lead to the destruction of Israel.
Dai suggested that Sodagar is peddling an empty message. “The Islamic Republic doesn’t have the money to support Quds Day. They have abandoned many projects and with that a network of support for Quds Day. European governments have, under pressure, started to be more careful to not support Quds Day. It’s a real decline,” Dai said.
Declining as they are, the protests have certainly not softened in rhetoric. In London, a few thousand protesters gathered in the street, and an unidentified speaker opened the rally speeches saying, “Let’s get one message clear. Israel is a racist, settler colonial state. I said Israel is a racist, settler colonial state built on bloodshed.” In the crowd, protesters held signs calling for the destruction of Israel. “It only takes Pakistan (165 nukes) under 12 mins to end Nazi Israel,” read one sign. Another speaker, Farrah Koutteineh, founder of Key 48 said, “Israel is not a state. It is not a country. It is a group of settlers. It is a settler colony squatting on Palestinian land. We demand the dismantlement of the Israeli settler colony immediately.” Former Member of Parliament, Chris Williamson declared, “Let me be clear right from the start that the days of the apartheid Israeli state are numbered.”
Kazem Moussavi, German-based spokesperson with Iran’s Green Party, spoke critically of the protests, noting in a statement to FWI that “The Al-Quds march has been known to propagate the mass murder of Jews in Israel, a deeply troubling intention that should not be allowed to take root in Germany, a country that bears the responsibility of the Shoah.”
Susannah Johnston is Focus on Western Islamism’s investigative reporter.