Iran taunted the United States on the 41st anniversary Tuesday of the ouster of its ally the Shah of Iran, as huge crowds gathered to mark the historic occasion.
Waving national and Shiite flags and holding portraits of the founder of the Islamic republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the crowds braved sub-zero temperatures in Tehran’s iconic Azadi Square.
“It is unbearable for the United States to accept the victory of a great nation and that a superpower has been driven out of this land,” President Hassan Rouhani told the gathering.
— WION (@WIONews) February 11, 2020
“It is natural for them to have dreamed, for 41 years, of returning to this land, because they know that we are one of the most powerful countries” in the Middle East, he added.
Tehran and Washington have been enemies since 1979, when the government of the US-backed shah was toppled and the Islamic republic established. Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi had already fled Iran after months of protests against his rule.
That November radical students demanding the shah’s extradition seized 52 hostages at the US embassy in Tehran and held them for 444 days, prompting Washington to sever ties.
The enmity between Tehran and Washington worsened in 2018 when US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from a deal that froze Iran’s nuclear programme and reimposed crippling sanctions.
On the packed streets of the Iranian capital, the atmosphere was mixed.
Some casually strolled with children clutching balloons and others chanted hardline slogans and trampled on US and Israeli flags.
“Death to America” and “We will resist until the end”, read their banners.
Iranians are ONE
Black-clad women held portraits of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Qasem Soleimani, a hugely popular general killed in a US drone strike last month.
Young men posed for selfies in front of a row of coffins draped in US flags and bearing logos of companies seen as symbols of American imperialism.
Girls marched with backpacks bearing Soleimani’s face as patriotic songs and Koranic verses were played on loudspeakers and volunteers dished out hot soup.
Tehran and Washington have been enemies since 1979, when the government of the US-backed shah was toppled and the Islamic republic established.https://t.co/7lWXLLXzzj
— Yahoo Singapore (@YahooSG) February 12, 2020
“I’m here to support the authority of the Islamic republic,” one participant, Yasser Mohammadi, 37, told AFP. “Maybe we have some problems internally, like the economy and mismanagement, but this won’t stop us supporting our Islamic republic.” Another vowed to “defend the national cause”.
“By eliminating Qasem Soleimani, Donald Trump wanted to humiliate the Islamic republic, but without success,” said PhD student Jaber Seyvanizad, 30. “On the contrary, his martyrdom unified Iranians from different social classes.”
State television showed crowds Rasht and Tabriz in northern Iran, dressed in woolly hats and scarves amid heavy snowfall.
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted that the “huge” turnout sent a message to Trump: “Time to abandon your delusions. With all challenges & differences… all 82 million Iranians are ONE.”
Iranians turned out in huge numbers to rally on the 41st anniversary of their revolution–and to honor their fallen heroes.
Message to Trump (+vassals): Time to abandon your delusions
With all challenges & differences, in defending country & honor, all 82 million Iranians are ONE. pic.twitter.com/2voXw2Wy9d
— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) February 11, 2020
The state had appealed for a large turnout as a show of solidarity after a year in which Iran has been shaken by protests and military tensions with the United States.
“Securing our country and our region depends on our unity, and participation in this rally is a symbol of this unity,” said Hadi Khamenei, brother of the supreme leader.
Iran’s economy has been battered since 2018, when Trump abandoned the multilateral nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions.
When Iran raised petrol prices in November, nationwide demonstrations erupted and turned violent before security forces crushed them amid a near-total internet blackout. Tensions with Washington escalated in early January when the US killed Soleimani, head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ foreign operations arm, the Quds Force.
Iran retaliated by targeting US troops in Iraq but then accidentally shot down a Ukrainian airliner, killing all 176 people on board, in a tragedy that sparked anger at home and abroad.
This year’s anniversary comes ahead of crucial parliamentary elections. The alliance of moderates and reformers that propelled Rouhani to power in 2013 is scrambling to avoid losing its majority in the February 21 election.
Rouhani’s government has come under intense pressure from conservatives for agreeing the 2015 nuclear deal that has unravelled since Trump’s withdrawal.
“In the past two years, America has put so much pressure on our beloved people, on all of our trade, all of our exports, all of our imports, and all of the country’s needs, to exhaust the patience of our people,” Rouhani told Tuesday’s rally.
But “the Americans did not understand the greatness of the Iranian people,” he said.
“The United States believes it is facing 41 years of civilisation. No, the Americans are facing thousands of years of Iranian civilisation.”