Iranians mark anniversary of 1979 Islamic revolution holding 'Death to America, Israel' signs

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei awarded medals to navy commanders for capturing US sailors who entered Iranian territorial waters last month.

February 12, 2016 02:09
2 minute read.

Iranian students re-enact a scene from the arrest of American sailors by Iran's Revolutionary Guard, during a ceremony marking the 37th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, in Tehran February 11, 2016. . (photo credit: REUTERS)

As Iranians held reenactments of the captivity of US Navy soldiers by Iran last month, President Hassan Rouhani called for political unity in Tehran on Thursday marking the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

A video of a crowd burning US flags was posted on social media.

Iranian media reported that millions of Iranians rallied to mark the anniversary, though Agence France-Presse put it at hundreds of thousands and NBC News at tens of thousands.

NBC posted video of the main rally in Tehran’s Azadi Square, which included chants of “Death to America and Israel” and anti-Western signs.

One picture posted on Twitter showed some Iranians in what appeared to be look-alike US military garb on their knees with their hands held behind their heads on top of a model boat. What appear to be Iranian soldiers are standing over them just like in the videos that Iranian media had broadcast at the time.

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei awarded medals to navy commanders for capturing US sailors who entered Iranian territorial waters last month, Iran’s state media had reported.

Rouhani, a popular pragmatist now reestablishing ties abroad after last year’s nuclear accord with global powers ended economic sanctions, spoke to crowds in Azadi Square.

“Political factions should put aside any confrontation... we need consensus now,” Rouhani told the Tehran crowd. “Don’t turn your backs on the ballot boxes.”

The anniversary came amid intense infighting after the powerful Guardian Council barred pragmatic camp candidates allied with Rouhani and former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani from running for parliament and the Assembly of Experts, which will choose the country’s next supreme leader.

Rouhani also defended the nuclear deal, which hard liners oppose as a concession to pressure from Washington. He said it protected the Islamic Republic’s rights to nuclear power and strengthened the country’s international and regional position.

“Iranians will never yield to any pressure,” he said. “Our nuclear victory showed to the world that Iranians are capable of winning any battle, including diplomatic battles.”

Top Revolutionary Guards commander, Maj.-Gen. Qassem Soleimani, also appeared at the rally.

Meanwhile, a number of Iran’s homegrown military products went on display at the rally, Iran’s Tasnim News Agency reported.

Iran’s Emad ballistic missile and its Shahed-129 were displayed.

Israel did not respond on Wednesday to Iran’s announcement it will unveil an upgrade this year of its Emad ballistic missile whose 1,700-kilometer range puts Israel in its reach.

However, one government official said that Israel is “always carefully watching” Iran’s ballistic missile developments.

The official said that Iranian ballistic missile development was not part of the Iranian nuclear deal, and that this was one of Israel’s objections to the agreement.

Herb Keinon and Reuters contributed to this report.

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