Hundreds of thousands of Iranians across the country attended events marking the 40th anniversary of the Iranian Revolution, where the rallying cry ranged from "Death to America" to "Death to Israel".

Iranian people gather during a ceremony to mark the 40th anniversary of the Iranian Revolution in Tehran, Iran. February 11, 2019.
Iranian people gather during a ceremony to mark the 40th anniversary of the Iranian Revolution in Tehran, Iran. February 11, 2019. (Reuters)

Waving Iranian flags, chanting "Death to America" and burning US and Israeli emblems, hundreds of thousands of people poured out onto the streets across Iran on Monday, marking the date that's considered victory day in the country's 1979 Iranian Revolution.

On February 11 that year, Iran's military stood down after days of street battles, allowing the revolutionaries to sweep across the country while the government of US-backed Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi resigned and the Iranian Republic was born.

In Tehran, crowds streamed in the rain from a dozen of the capital's far-flung neighbourhoods to mass in the Azadi or Freedom Square on Monday, waving Iranian flags and chanting "Death to America" — a chant that has been standard fare at anti-US rallies across Iran.

TRT World spoke with Tara Kangarlou, a journalist and author on Mideast affairs, who said the gap between the ideals of the revolution, and the Iranian people appears to be growing.

Chants of "Death to Israel" and "Death to Britain" followed, and demonstrators burned US and Israeli flags. 

Iranian state TV, which said millions participated in the celebrations, ran archive footage of the days of the uprising and played revolutionary songs. It later broadcast footage showing crowds across this country of 80 million.

The nearly 10-kilometre-long downtown Enghelab, or Revolution Street, in Tehran was decorated with huge balloons as loudspeakers blared out revolutionary and nationalist songs to encourage people to join the rallies.

Iranians burn US flags during a ceremony to mark the 40th anniversary of the Iranian Revolution in Tehran, Iran February 11, 2019.
Iranians burn US flags during a ceremony to mark the 40th anniversary of the Iranian Revolution in Tehran, Iran February 11, 2019. (Reuters)

Under pressure

Every year, the anniversary festivities start on February 1 — the day Khomeini returned home from France after 14 years in exile to become the supreme leader as Shia clerics took power — and continue for 10 days, climaxing on February 11.

This year's anniversary comes as tensions rise with the United States. Iran has been grappling with the aftermath of US President Donald Trump's pullout last May from the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, and tough US economic sanctions which were re-imposed in November.

Speaking from a podium in central Tehran, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani addressed the crowds for nearly 45 minutes, lashing out at Iran's enemies — America and Israel — and claiming their efforts to "bring down" Iranians through sanctions will not succeed.

"The presence of people in this celebration means that plots by the enemies ... have been defused," Rouhani said. "They will not achieve their ill-omened aims."

A senior Revolutionary Guards commander said on Monday that Iran would demolish cities in Israel to the ground if the United States attacked the Iranian Republic.

State news agency IRNA quoted Yadollah Javani, the Guards’ deputy head for political affairs, as he was speaking at a rally celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Iranian Revolution. 

In the backdrop to Monday's marches, the military displayed Iranian-made missiles, which authorities showcase every year during anniversary celebrations and which now have a range of up to 2,000 kilometres (1,250 miles) and are able to Israel and US military bases in the region.

Over the past decade, Iran has frequently test-fired and displayed missiles, sent several short-lived satellites into orbit and in 2013 launched a monkey into space.

Washington alleges Iran's launches defy a UN Security Council resolution calling on Iran to undertake no activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons. Tehran denies the charge, insisting its satellite launches and rocket tests do not have a military component.

"We do not and we will not ask permission for producing any type of missiles from anybody," Rouhani said in his speech on Monday, though he stressed that Iran would "continue constructive engagement" with the international community.

Rouhani also promised the crowds that Iran would overcome the economic hardship amid the country's spiralling economy and the newly imposed US sanctions.

TRT World's Paolo Montecillo has more.

From one generation to the next

In Tehran, 27-year-old medical student Hossein Hosseinpour, walked with his wife and their 18-month son Amir Ali. He said he wanted to teach his son to support the revolution. 

"I see a bright future for him and our nation," Hosseinpour said.

Mahmoud Hemmati, 35, was pushing his 68-year-old mother, Parivash Fakheri, in a wheelchair. "My mother, despite her illness, asked me to bring her out," he said.

Fakheri, who was one of the revolutionaries on the streets of Tehran in 1979, said she would defend the revolution all over again.

"I know there are many economic problems today, but that is something different from our revolution," she said. 

"It has been moving forward over the past 40 years and making Iran stronger," Fakheri said.

Last week, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei defended the "Death to America" chants, saying they are aimed at America's leaders such as Trump and not its people.

The Iranian people "will not stop saying 'Death to America' as long as the US acts malicious" toward Iran, Khamenei said, referring to Trump's State of the Union address in which the American president, among other things, said: "We will not avert our eyes from a regime that chants death to America."

Source: TRTWorld and agencies