This year’s pro-Palestine Quds Day saw protest and PR amid ongoing Israeli apartheid
Quds Day was marked across the world between 14-16 April. Many protests were genuine shows of solidarity with the Palestinian people. But some, like the state-sponsored Iranian ones, may have served more as PR exercises for its repressive government. And still while these were going on, Israel continued to brutalise and repress people in the occupied territories.
Rallies across the world
Quds Day is generally observed on the last Friday of Ramadan since 1979. In 2023, support for the event, and for Palestinian people, showed no signs of waning.
Thousands of people rallied in Gaza:
In Jerusalem itself, vast crowds attended Friday prayers at Al Aqsa: around 250,000 people, according to the Jordanian Waqf Islamic affairs council which administers the mosque compound.
Then, people also held a huge rally in Yemen:
Pro-Palestinian activists commemorate Al-Quds Day in Yemen pic.twitter.com/QAJgqhTFpQ
— Chris Hutchinson (@ChrisHu34451470) April 16, 2023
And Iraq saw one as well:
Tens of thousands of Iraqis have flocked to the streets of Baghdad on International al-Quds Day, to show support and solidarity with the Palestinian people and affirm Iraq’s position towards liberating Palestine from the evil Zionist occupation 🇮🇶🇵🇸 pic.twitter.com/xPBIKS66Ok
— أبو سجاد الكربلائي | HST 🇮🇶 (@Twelver313) April 14, 2023
People gathered in Toronto, Canada too:
Al-Quds Day is being commemorated around the world to demand the liberation of Palestine. We heard from @ysxsh of @palyouthmvmt at the Toronto rally. pic.twitter.com/9upP70OLEW
— Kawsachun News (@KawsachunNews) April 16, 2023
Lahore, Pakistan also saw a large rally:
Highlights of ‘Al-Quds Rally’ in Lahore under the supervision of Ustad Syed Jawad Naqvi [H] Palestine 🇵🇸 ♥️ pic.twitter.com/xILVBjdLk1
— Dr. Muhammad Asad (@asad1623) April 16, 2023
There were also rallies in Vancouver, Venezuela, Kashmir, South Africa, and New York. In the UK, London also saw a fairly sizeable demonstration on Sunday 16 April.
Quds Day: Iran whitewashing recent human rights abuses?
Al-Quds is the Arabic name for Jerusalem – hence Quds Day. As the Iranian Embassy in Norway wrote on its website:
The International Quds Day is a legacy of the late founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Imam Khomeini, who designated the day in solidarity with the Palestinians and in opposition to the Israeli regime.
People across the world mark the International Quds Day to express their solidarity with the Palestinian people and denounce Israeli atrocities in the occupied territories as well as the besieged Gaza Strip.
In Iran, the government used a state-organised protest to try and whitewash its recent appalling human rights record. As the Canary previously reported, Iran’s security forces have killed at least 573 people since the death of Mahsa Jina Amini, whom Iran’s morality police accused of wearing the hijab incorrectly. However, on 14 April the Iranian government used a Quds Day protest to try and blame foreign powers for the waves of protests against it. Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported that Iran’s parliament speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf said:
We have witnessed conspiracies by enemies in recent times… If it wasn’t for God’s grace and our nation’s intelligence… they would have had their dreams.
This is despite the Iranian state now installing surveillance cameras to spy on women – monitoring if they’re wearing the hijab or not. Iran’s protests were also marked by the usual militarism, with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Basij paramilitary group being out in force.
Regardless, protests in support of Palestinian liberation were held across the rest of the Middle East and beyond – minus the state propaganda.
London: a heavy police presence
The Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) was involved in organising London’s Quds Day protest. It told the Canary around 15,000 people attended, which it said were “record numbers”:
The march started at the Home Office and continued to Downing Street (via Parliament), where speeches took place.
There was a fairly heavy police presence:
Activists commemorate International Quds Day in London and show their support for Palestine. 🇵🇸 pic.twitter.com/y2y6P4Lmgb
— Ruhida Malik 🇵🇰🇵🇸 (@RuhidaPTIPK) April 16, 2023
Crowds heard from Black Lives Matter (BLM) activist Delia Mattis, rapper Lowkey, Rabbi Weiss, and Palestine Action’s Huda Ammouri. Chair of the IHRC Massoud Shadjareh said:
Unlike 40 years ago, when Al-Quds Day began, today it is quite clear that we can and will see the end of the Israeli regime and its brutality. The only question is when.
The organisation told the Canary:
The Zionists did a counter protest with around 15-20 people, one was arrested for trying to attack one of our stewards. Other than that there was no trouble and it passed very peacefully.
You can watch the recording of the London rally below:
Overall, 2023’s Quds Day came against a backdrop of increasing violence and repression by the Israeli state.
Israel: violent apartheid, protests, and killings continue
AFP reported that on Saturday 15 April, Israel’s security forces cracked down on the annual Orthodox Christian Holy Fire rite. It takes place at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, in Israeli-occupied east Jerusalem. However, for the second consecutive year, Israeli police told church leaders that access would be considerably restricted – from 10,000 previously to just over 1,800.
On social media, footage and images were shared of Israeli security forces’ violence towards worshippers:
الان من القدس في سبت النّور المقدّس. اعتداءات ومنع المحتفلين من دخول كنيسة القيامة. ينغّص الاحتلال على شعبنا الفلسطيني في أعياده، ولكن ارادة شعبنا عالية في الصّمود والتّواجد والثّبات في تثبيت هُويّة المدينة ومقدّساتها. أعيادنا هُويّة للقدس وفلسطين. وكل عام وشعبنا بأحسن حال. pic.twitter.com/sEWSAMIXth
— Neveen Abu Rahmoun نيفين أبو رحمون (@NeveenAbuRahmon) April 15, 2023
Also on 15 April, thousands of Israelis turned out again to protest against their government’s judicial reforms – the 15th consecutive week of demonstrations.
However, Palestinians have still been bearing the brunt of Israeli violence. As the Canary previously reported, on Monday 10 April Israel’s soldiers shot and killed 15-year-old Mohammad Fayez Balhan in Aqbat Jaber refugee camp near the West Bank city of Jericho. Undercover Israeli forces infiltrated the camp and took up sharpshooter positions on the rooftops. The soldiers also injured two other young men and detained five more.
Israeli forces’ murder of Mohammad means authorities have killed at least 96 Palestinians this year, 18 of whom were children.
Quds Day is a crucial date in the fight for Palestinian freedom. Its use by the Iranian state is highly questionable, but the events around the world show the strength of public feeling that still exists against Israel’s brutal apartheid – while governments of the world look on, with hollow words and little action.
Featured image and additional images, and reporting, via Agence France-Presse
Additional images via the Islamic Human Rights Commission
Additional video via Gerry Tasker
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