Khamenei's visit to Qom shows the power of propaganda

Fervor about Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's visit to Qom shows that in Iran, propaganda meant to inspire religious devotion has worked.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (l.) meets with top Iranian clerics in the holy Shi'ite city of Qom, 75 miles south of Tehran, Oct. 20.

• A local, slice-of-life story from a Monitor correspondent.

Propaganda has been an art form in Iran since before the 1979 Islamic revolution. Back then, Supreme Leader Ruhollah Khomeini rallied the faithful with these words: “Propaganda is explosive as a grenade.”

The same applies today as Ayatollah Ali Khamenei makes his first official visit in a decade to Qom, the religious heart of Iran.

Behind the scenes, Mr. Khamenei’s top priority has been to demonstrate that he controls Iran’s religious establishment, which has been deeply divided since June 2009, when controversial elections were followed by protests, violence, and anger among some clerics.

But broadcasts about the 10-day visit that began Oct. 19 aimed to illustrate the perfect union between the ruler and the ruled.

Footage showed Khamenei’s armored bus, first from the outside – swamped with the crowd going wild – and then from the inside, where Khamenei waved appreciatively to his faithful flock, which pressed hard against the glass to glimpse “God’s representative on earth.”

For two young women wearing black chadors, the moment was overwhelming.

“I was waiting here from 6:30 a.m. for the leader to arrive. I’m very happy that I saw him,” said the first, with tears in her eyes.

“I’m so happy that I saw my leader,” said the other, her breathing coming in gasps as she turned away, overcome with emotion and unable to say more.

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