TEHRAN – Hundreds of thousands of people responded to a call by Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani to celebrate the 39th anniversary of the Iranian Revolution by filling Azadi (Freedom) Square and surrounding avenues in the capital Tehran.
Sunday’s mass show of support for the government of Rouhani served as a counterpoint to the recent nationwide demonstrations of January 2018 and December 2017, which protested against the country’s economic problems and the Islamic Republic itself, resulting in the deaths of 25 people while around 1,000 were detained.
“Today, Iran is the eighteenth economy in the world,” Rouhani said in an address to the nation. “This year, we will witness an economic growth more than the global average.”
“Come together to help each other and disappoint (our) enemies,” he said during his speech in an apparent allusion to the protests.
Those enemies were on display in the signs and effigies carried by Iranians on Sunday: United States President Donald Trump, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Saudi Arabia’s King Salman.
Marchers carried flags and photos of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khameni and late supreme leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
Flags were also set on fire, with particular attention paid to the American Stars and Stripes and Israeli’s Star of David, with the United Kingdom’s Union flag being torched alongside in a possible reference to the Balfour Declaration that paved the way for the creation of the state of Israel by calling for a national home for the Jewish people to be created in Palestine.
The Islamic Revolution of 1979 established the country’s current theocratic Shiite regime after mass protests overthrew the dictatorship of Shah Mohamad Reza Pahlevi who had been placed in power in August 1953 by a US and UK-orchestrated coup that deposed then prime minister Mohammed Mossadegh, who had nationalized Iran’s oil industry.