Tens of thousands of Iranians rallied Saturday in Tehran and other major cities to mark the 44th anni-versary of the Islamic Revolution, as their president said months-long protests had been defeated.
For the past two years, the 1979 overthrow of the Western-backed shah was commemorated mainly by Iranians who drove around cities in their cars or on motorcycles due to Covid restrictions.
But this year, waving flags, they took to the streets of Tehran on foot and converged on Azadi (Freedom) Square, one of the capital’s most promi-nent landmarks, despite chilly temperatures.
They chanted “Down with the US”, “Down with Israel”, “Down with the UK” an AFP journalist said.
People held up pictures of Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as well as the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, founder of the Islamic republic, and revered general Qasem Soleimani, killed in a US air strike on Baghdad airport in January 2020.
They also held placards reading “We stand to the end”, “A united, strong and stable Iran” and “We obey the leader”.
Sejjil ballistic missiles and Shahed 136 drones were on display around the square where President Ebrahim Raisi said people had gathered to renew their “allegiance” to the revolution.
“This pledge of allegiance is much greater than a vote” of confidence in the Islamic republic, said the ultra-conservative president.
Raisi also declared victory over the nationwide protest movement triggered by the death in custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini following her arrest for an alleged breach of Iran’s dress code for women.
As part of the amnesty marking the revolution’s anniversary, Iranian authorities on Friday released jailed dissident Farhad Meysami, who had been on a hunger strike, and Iranian-French academic Fariba Adelkhah.
Adelkhah, who had been in prison since 2019, was one of seven French nationals detained in Iran, a factor that has worsened relations between Paris and Tehran in recent months.
She was sentenced in 2020 to five years in prison on national security charges. They moved her to house arrest later but in January she returned to jail. Adelkhah has denied the charges.
In his speech on Saturday, Raisi repeated the accusation that the protests were provoked and fu-elled by the West.
“See what the enemies did in this one year and what conspiracies they organised? But the history-making nation of Iran recognised the evil hand of the enemy and shone brightly on the stage and defeated the enemy,” he said.
“The issue of the enemy is neither women, nor life, freedom, human rights and nuclear (programme) but rather they want to take away the independence, freedom and peaceful life of the Iranian nation,” Raisi said.—AFP