TEHRAN -- Million of Iranians drove through Tehran and other cities across the vast country Friday to mark the 43rd anniversary of the country’s Islamic Revolution, mostly staying in vehicles rather than marching on foot amid COVID restrictions.
Due to the pandemic, authorities said this year, as the previous year, there should be “no gathering or marching” by those celebrating the 1979 overthrow of the shah’s regime.
Instead, people travelled by car, motorcycle and bicycle, to converge on the capital’s iconic Azadi Square, despite chilly temperatures.
Some had painted their cars in the red, white and green colors of the Iranian flag, while others chanted slogans of “Death to America” and “We will resist until the end” from windows as they drove by.
A number of U.S. flags were also burnt by people chanting “We will not surrender” at Azadi Square.
National television broadcast footage of similar rallies in other major cities, including Isfahan, Mashhad, Tabriz and Shiraz.
Demonstrators bore portraits of Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei as well as the late founder of the Islamic Republic Imam Khomeini, and revered anti-terror commander General Qasem Soleimani, martyred by a U.S. airstrike at Baghdad airport in January 2020.
In a statement issued at Azadi Square, the demonstrators underlined the need to preserve national unity and avoid any step that could foment division and sedition in the country.
The nation “under the wise guidance of the Leader and according to our revolutionary vision has realized that the crooked and evil-minded enemy is trying to play down the glorious deeds and epic progress in various fields through a combined attack which exploits their media dictatorship,” the statement read.
They also stressed the need to make concerted efforts to fend off threats against Iran and to defend the country’s inalienable right to peaceful nuclear program and advance its defensive capabilities.
They further underscored their full support for Palestine as the first issue of Muslims around the world and condemned Saudi atrocities against the Yemeni people amid the international community’s silence.
This year’s anniversary is the first since President Ebrahim Raisi took office in August last year.
The celebrations mark the day that Imam Khomeini returned from exile and ousted the last government of the U.S.-backed shah.
Shah Muhammad Reza Pahlavi had already fled Iran after months of protests against his rule.
Iran is currently engaged in negotiations with Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia to revive the deal formally called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, by removing sanctions on the Islamic Republic.
President Raisi said Tehran “never” pins hope on the ongoing talks in Vienna.
“We put our hopes on the east, west, north, south of our country and never have any hope in Vienna and New York,” Raisi said in a televised speech.
Raisi said Iran would rely on its domestic economic potential rather than expect support from overseas and from the Vienna talks.
U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration publicly pressured Iran on Wednesday to revive the agreement quickly, saying that it will be impossible to return to the accord if a deal is not struck within weeks.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Thursday there was still a long way to go before the deal could be revived.
Raisi said: “Our foreign policy is balanced. Looking toward the West has made the country’s relations unbalanced, we need to look at all countries and capacities in the world, especially our neighbors.”
His speech was frequently interrupted by chants of “Death to America” - a trademark slogan of the revolution that toppled the U.S.-backed shah in 1979. The audience also chanted “Death to England” and “Death to Israel.”
The president said he sees a bright future for Iran, citing the country’s enormous capacities especially its young human resources.
“We are very hopeful for the future. This hope is not in the slogan and we are becoming more hopeful with each passing day. I also told the Leadership; I see the capacities. The determined young forces and the intellectuals that I see, I become more hopeful for the future,” he said. “The future is very bright and promising.”
The president hailed the Islamic Revolution as a symbol of “divine power” that mesmerized the world.
“We neither accept being dominated and giving up our independence nor are we after oppressing anyone,” he said.
“Everyone was then wondering how a nation, by relying on God, can overthrow a government backed by the great powers and voluntarily establish a government in the name of religion and divine values,” he added.
According to the president, the same slogans that were chanted by people in 1979 protests should be used today as well.
Back then the slogan “Neither East nor West, the Islamic Republic is the best” was chanted. “Today, the same slogan must resonate as well,” he said.
The president also said that the ideals of Iran’s Islamic Revolution are universal.
“Today, not only has the great nation of Iran, but also all the world nations have high hopes in this revolution, and what everyone wants today is that the revolutionary nature of this establishment should be maintained.”
The glorious Islamic Revolution, he said, does not brook corruption and oppression.
“It is like a person who eats poisonous food and his digestive system does not accept poison. In the same way, the Islamic Revolution cannot accept oppression and corruption.”
In contrast, Raisi continued, the oppressive Shah regime did not have a shred of independence and was a dictatorship wallowing in corruption and oppression.
“The Islamic Revolution came around to overthrow this corrupt regime, which was backed by the hegemonic powers, and to establish a system based on religion and what the people have repeatedly shouted: ‘Independence, Freedom, the Islamic Republic,’” he added.