(CNN) – Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei is leading Friday prayers in Tehran for the first time in eight years.
The event comes after several tumultuous weeks that saw Iran admitting to shooting down a passenger jet with 176 people on board, sparking major protests, and ongoing tensions with the US.
It is rare for Khamenei — the highest spiritual and political authority in Iran — to lead Friday prayers.
The last time he did so was in 2012 to mark the 33rd anniversary of the Islamic Revolution. He also led prayers in 2009 amid protests that erupted after disputed presidential elections.
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Khamenei is also viewed as the most articulate and knowledgeable Friday prayer leader, and his status as Iran’s highest official means what he says is supposed to be a kind of final word on the issue at hand.
Over the past few days Iranian radio broadcasts and television have been encouraging people to join the prayers.
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