Iran marks Islamic revolution

Hassan Rouhani
Hassan Rouhani
Image: Supplied

Iran’s president on Monday insisted enemy plots against the country would fail as vast crowds marked 40 years since the Islamic revolution, at a time of heightened tensions with the United States.

“The presence of people today on the streets all over Islamic Iran means that the enemy will never reach its evil objectives,” President Hassan Rouhani told those thronging Tehran’s Azadi (Freedom) square, decrying a “conspiracy” involving Washington.

Chador-clad women, militia members in camouflage fatigues and ordinary citizens marched through the capital in freezing rain to commemorate the day in February 1979 that Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini ended a millennia of royal rule.

The routes leading up to the square were packed with people, as speakers blared revolutionary anthems and slogans.

Life-size replicas of Iranianmade cruise and ballistic missiles stood in a statement of defiance after the US reimposed sanctions in 2018 following its withdrawal from a deal on Tehran’s nuclear programme.

Rouhani lambasted calls from Washington and Europe for a fresh agreement to curb Iran’s missile programme.

“We have not, and will not, request permission for increasing our defensive power and for building all kinds of missiles,” he told the crowd.

Speaking from a flowerfestooned stage overlooking the square, the president warned that Iran was now far stronger than when it faced Iraq in a devastating conflict from 1980-1988.

“Today the whole world should know that the Islamic Republic of Iran is considerably more powerful than the days of the war,” Rouhani said.

A pre-prepared resolution was read out ahead of his speech that proclaimed “unquestioning obedience to the supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei” and called US President Donald Trump an “idiot”.

The events on Monday were the culmination of official celebrations called the “10 Day Dawn” that mark the period between February 1 1979 and February 11, when Shiite cleric Khomeini returned from exile and ousted the shah’s last government.

The state has played up 2019’s anniversary as the number 40 is symbolic of maturity in Islamic tradition and the age at which Prophet Mohammed received revelations from God.

But despite the official festivities, today’s Islamic republic faces acute economic challenges as it struggles with a mix of domestic hardships and US sanctions.

State television offered blanket coverage of the commemorations, showing marches in cities ranging from Abadan in southwestern Iran to Mashad in the northeast.

Banners held by marchers or hung along the streets bore slogans including “Death to America”, “Death to Israel”, “We will trample on America”, “Forty years of challenge, forty years of US defeats”.

A number of Israeli and American flags were set on fire by the crowds.

An anchor on state television warned of hostile foreign media trying to downplay the participation of Iranians in the march but expressed confidence that “they would be confounded by the unprecedented level of attendance”.

Those who took to the streets were bullish despite the economic problems in the country, made worse by Washington’s punitive measures.

“We are here to support the revolution,” a former public servant, who refused to give his first name, told reporters at the Tehran event.

He compared the US sanctions and economic hardships to “riding a bicycle when someone puts a stick in the wheels”, but pointed to advances in other fields such as nanotechnology as more than making up for them.

The supreme leader is set to publish “a detailed statement explaining the ‘second step’ of the progress of the Islamic revolution”, his official website said.

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