Iran Marks 1979 Revolution Anniversary With Mass Rallies, Defiant Words
Hundreds of thousands of Iranians have rallied to mark the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, with officials and demonstrators lashing out at the U.S. government but sending a softer message to ordinary Americans.
The rallies commemorate February 11, 1979, when followers of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini ousted a U.S.-backed monarch, Shah Reza Pahlavi.
State television broadcast footage on February 10 of large crowds in Tehran and other cities and towns across the country, many of them in freezing temperatures.
Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators gathered in the capital's Azadi Square, chanting slogans against the United States and Israel.
Some carried banners reading "Death to America" and effigies of U.S. President Donald Trump. Images of the U.S. flag, Trump, and former U.S. presidents were trampled underfoot.
Addressing the crowds in Azadi Square, President Hassan Rohani called Trump's administration "a problem" and said Iran will "strongly answer any threat."
"Our nation is vigilant and will make those threatening Iran regret it," Rohani said, adding that Iran is "not after tensions in the region and the world."
The anniversary celebrations came a week after Trump and his administration said they were putting Iran "on notice" over a recent ballistic missile test they said defied a UN resolution.
Trump has also sharply criticized a 2015 deal between world powers and Iran that imposed curbs on Tehran's nuclear program in exchange for relief from economic sanctions.
State television said that millions of people attended rallies across the country, a turnout Rohani said was "a strong response to false remarks by the new leaders of America."
Amid the ire targeting Trump and past U.S. leaders, officials and demonstrators went easier on ordinary Americans.
While U.S. flags were burned, as is traditional on an anniversary steeped in confrontation with the United States, many Iranians on social media used the hashtag #LoveBeyondFlags to urge an end to flag-burning.
The New York Times reported that the rallies featured "far less of the usual burning of United States flags and other anti-American displays" than in the past, and that there were no missiles on display.
Some ralliers thanked those Americans who oppose Trump's executive order to temporarily bar travelers from seven mainly Muslim countries, including Iran, from entering the United States. Trump's travel ban has been blocked for now amid a court challenge.
"Thanks to American people for supporting Muslims," some banners read.
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif sent a similar signal on Twitter.
"On Revolution Day, Iranians turn out in huge numbers to defy threats & insults by US govt; praise American people for rejecting #MuslimBan," Zarif tweeted.
Senior officials who attended the march in Tehran included Zarif and General Qassem Soleimani, who heads the elite Quds Force unit of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).
Tehran and Washington have not had diplomatic relations since supporters of the Islamic Revolution stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and took 52 Americans hostage for 444 days in 1979-80.
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