Tehran: Iranians began a nationwide celebration on Friday to commemorate the 38th anniversary of the 1979 revolution with rallies around the country.
Demonstrators in Tehran chanted traditional slogans against the US and Israel. The rallies come at a time when new US President Donald Trump has already engaged in a war of words with Iran’s leadership and put Tehran “on notice” over a recent ballistic missile test.
Among other places, hundreds of thousands demonstrators marched toward Azadi Square, where President Hassan Rouhani addressed the crowd. He called the new US administration “a problem” and said Iran will strongly answer any threat from its enemies.
“All of them should know that they must talk to the Iranian nation with respect and dignity,” Rouhani urged the world. “Our nation will strongly answer to any threat. (Iranians) will resist before enemies until the end.”
Rouhani called Iran the home of “lions” but said the country does not seek hostility. “We are not after tensions in the region and the world,” he said. “We are united before bullying and any threat.”
In downtown Tehran on Enghelabstreet thousands of people marched, some carrying the Iranian flag, some with banners and posters with revolutionary slogans. Printed US flags and pictures of current and former US presidents were flattened on the road and trampled by some of the participants.
Iran and the US have not had diplomatic relations since 1979, when Iranian students stormed the American Embassy and took 52 Americans hostage for 444 days.
The rallies commemorate Feb. 11, 1979, when followers of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini ousted the US-backed Shah Reza Pahlavi. The United States helped orchestrate the 1953 coup that overthrew Iran’s popular prime minister, Mohammad Mossadegh, which brought Pahlavi to power and set the stage for decades of mistrust between the countries.
Some posters distributed in English read: “Thanks to American people for supporting Muslims.” Another one next to a picture of Trump said: “Thanks Mr. Trump … for revealing the face of the US,” a reference to remarks Tuesday by Iran’s supreme leader in which he said the “newcomer” Trump had shown the “real face” of the United States.
Some people threw balls and darts targeting pictures of Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Some demonstrators burned an American flag.
Many ranking officials attended the ceremony in Tehran, including QassemSoleimani, a general who heads the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s elite Quds Force that focuses on foreign operations like the war in Syria.
President Rouhani told reporters prior to addressing the crowd that Iranians will make Washington regret the language of threat, according to the semi-official ISNA news agency.
“Anyone who speaks the language of threat to this nation, the Iranian nation will make him regret” it, he said, without elaborating. “This presence (of demonstrators) is a response to wrong comments by new leaders in the White House, and they announce with their presence to the world that they should talk with respect and not use threatening language to the Iranian nation.”
State television aired footage of commemorations in Tehran and other cities and towns across the country, many of them in sub-zero temperatures.