The regime supporters' partial double strategy for Quds Day in Frankfurt 2024

by Emil Mink

You can find the detailed research on Frankfurt Quds Day 2023 here (HTML version, english) andhere as a PDF version (german) with a foreword by Frankfurt Mayor Dr Nargess Eskandari-Grünberg. The MFFB press release on Quds Day 2024 in Frankfurt can be read here.

At this year's Quds Day in Frankfurt, the protagonists of the Avci network used a double strategy more than in the previous year in order to present themselves to the outside world as human rights activists, while the reference to the Islamic Republic and its ideology became all too clear to the audience.

Around 700 people responded to this year's call from the Avci network to the Main metropolis. This year's Quds Day demonstration was advertised without any obvious reference to the Iranian regime's globally organised propaganda event. "Stop the extermination of Palestine! Big demo for Gaza" was simply written on the picture that was distributed, showing suffering people in front of a horizon of falling bombs. Only the central marching day and the contact number made it clear that the demonstration, which started at 2 p.m. on 6 April at the main railway station, was this year's largest march on Quds Day in Germany.

The fact that the demonstration was able to reach a peak in its nine-year history with 700 participants can certainly be attributed to this dual strategy. Another factor, however, is the massacre by Hamas and its allies on 7 October and the subsequent anti-Semitic mobilisation, which came up with counterfactual accusations of genocide, genocide and apartheid that could be connected to a left-wing activist milieu. It is precisely these accusations that were used this year in slogans and speeches (at least in German and English). The slogans to be shouted, such as "Freedom for Palestine", "We are all Palestinians", "Stop the genocide", were given at the start of the march by moderator Yunus Çakar from Osterholz-Scharmbeck, who also announced in this short speech why the Avci network was demonstrating on this day. They are for the Palestinian people, against tyranny and ghettoisation, settlements and occupation. The "apartheid system" of Israel is a serious crime against international law and human rights, says Çakar, a supporter of the Islamic Revolution.

In order to increase the level of mobilisation, two fundamental principles of recent years were also dispensed with. Firstly, no flags were waved from those Islamic states that are imagined to be part of Iran's sphere of influence and were present at all previous demonstrations - the flags of Syria, Bahrain, Yemen, Iraq, Lebanon and others. Only the flags of Palestine, the Islamic Republic and one flag of the Federal Republic of Germany could be seen. On the other hand, the march was not generally divided into gender-segregated blocks, although the well-known cadres of the Avci network led the march as in previous years.

In addition to the son of network founder Ismail Avci, Imam Halil Karamercan from Augsburg, Ibrahim and Yunus Çakar from Osterholz-Scharmbeck and Seyyid Musevi from The Hague were also present. As last year, Abdürrahim Almaz took over the Koran recitation. This year, however, women and men were able to take part in the demonstration side by side, although larger groups of men and women from the strictly religious spectrum were recognisable. The bloc formation was therefore only partially or seemingly dissolved.

The more inconspicuous mobilisation, the chants that sounded like human rights activism and the softening of the Islamist image made the demonstration more attractive for participants outside the network, who are currently recruited from various spectrums due to the antisemitic zeitgeist.

This worked to some extent, even though the majority of the demonstrators were still from the religious Shiite milieu. A group of Arab men belonging to the Frankfurt-based "Kuffiya Network" chanted Arabic chants to the accompaniment of a drum. In addition, a few participants from the left-wing authoritarian spectrum could be recognised. Two key players from the so-called "Studis gegen rechte Hetze" (students against right-wing agitation) as well as members of the group "Widerstand 4.0" (resistance 4.0), which is now more associated with the post-left and conspiracy ideology milieu, were present at the Frankfurt Quds Day. The demonstration was advertised in advance by "FreePalestineFFM" and the "Revolutionary Left Hesse" in addition to calls from Palestine groups in Marburg and Wiesbaden. The latter deleted the call again after the planned alliance was publicly criticised. For the anti-Western and authoritarian left, it seems to be no contradiction to promote a central propaganda event of a regime that imprisons and executes political opposition en masse and successively undermines human rights.

At this year's Quds Day, several people were asked about their motivation or statement via the channel of a Shiite influencer. It was noticeable that, with the exception of Yavuz Özoğuz, no people from the fundamental religious spectrum were interviewed, but rather those who wanted to mobilise beyond the network this year and who were particularly concerned with the jargon of human rights and peace. In a video broadcast by Hessischer Rundfunk, one participant doesn't mince his words and calls for "Free Hamas" without further ado.

The fact that the march on 6 April in Frankfurt is a central event for networks loyal to the regime is not only demonstrated by the organisational structure and the flags of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Despite all the strategic adjustments, the organisers did not miss the opportunity to position the portraits of their spiritual leaders at the front of the march. In addition to the Iranian revolutionary leaders Khomeini and Khamenei, the likeness of Offenbach imam and network founder Muhammed Avci could be recognised in multiple versions.

The actual agenda was particularly clear in the agitation, which was neither in English nor in German. For example, a song by the Shia-Lebanese AL-ISRAA band about the "liberation" of Jerusalem was played several times. Hezbollah fighters are heroised in the band's videos, while the propaganda station of the Lebanese terrorist organisation Al-Ahed News described the song played in Frankfurt as the official anthem of Quds Day, to which Hezbollah boss Hassan Nasrallah and Ramadan Abdullah Shalah, General of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), still listened together in the early 2000s.

It is a similar story with the music that the network has used to accompany its own video analysis for this year. In the music video for the song "Al Quds is Ours" by singer-songwriter Mojtaba Allahverdi, who is loyal to the regime, a catastrophe is conjured up over Jerusalem that causes the Jews living there to tremble and force them to flee. He himself finds himself in a mystical catacomb and calls for the Prophet Ali, who had already managed to subjugate the Jews in Chaibar during his lifetime. Various protagonists of the regime come together at a laid table, a revolutionary guard gazes in awe at the entering Ali, who has come to cleanse Jerusalem of the Jews. The (visual) language is more than clear.

The same was true of the closing speech of the Quds March by the son of network founder Ismail Avci, whose speech the previous year had already been peppered with all kinds of anti-Semitic rhetoric. In Turkish, he talked about the Zionists as bloodthirsty and greedy world-eaters who would exploit the riches of the world and the labour of the people, who would drive humanity from massacre to massacre and manipulate the peoples. At the end of the speech, Avci compares the Zionists to vermin such as blood-drinking bats, centipedes and snakes, whose exploitation of humanity would stand in the way on this Quds Day. It is the beginning of an era in which the supposedly righteous will rule and, out of their good nature, even allow the Zionists to live on.

Further proof of the proximity to the central control centres of the Islamic Republic was the media support provided by at least two of the regime's propaganda channels. Firstly, the foreign channel of the Iranian state broadcaster Press TV, whose reports have repeatedly denied or relativised the Holocaust and blamed the coronavirus on "Jews and Americans", for example. On the other hand, Fars News, the news channel closest to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards (IRGC). Both proudly reported on the Frankfurt march.

The double strategy of the regime supporters around the Avci network has worked in part. They were certainly able to mobilise participants outside their network by means of the inconspicuous call, the tailored slogans and speeches and the adaptation of the strategy regarding the formation of blocks. At the same time, the Frankfurt march was sold as a great day for the export of the Islamic Revolution, particularly in the online reception of media close to the regime and on the regime's own publication platform.