Iran marks 30th anniversary of revolution

Pro-democracy reformists complain those running country have failed to bring freedom and justice to Iran.

Iran began 10 days of festivities on Saturday marking the 30th anniversary of its Islamic revolution that toppled the US-backed shah and brought hard-line clerics to power. But pro-democracy reformists, who have been kicked out of power by hard-liners in recent years, complained that those running the country have failed to bring freedom and justice to Iran. The anniversary festivities - known as the "Ten Days of Dawn" - highlight the homecoming of the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, whose return to Iran sparked mass protests that led to the ouster of the shah in 1979. Church and school bells rang out mixing with the wail of train and boat sirens at 9:33 a.m. - the time Khomeini touched down 30 years ago at Teheran's Mehrabad Airport aboard a chartered Air France plane after 14 years in exile. Ten days later, the shah's monarchial rule effectively collapsed following nationwide protests. Government buildings in Tehran were draped in green, white and red bunting of the Iranian flag and main streets were lined with flashing multicolored lights. Two helicopters dropped a shower of flowers along a 21-mile (33-kilometer) route from the airport to Behesht-e-Zahra cemetery in south Tehran where Khomeini made his first speech. Motorists turned on their head lights and honked in celebration. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad paid homage to Khomeini's tomb Saturday "to renew allegiance to the late Imam's aspirations" where he called the 1979 revolution a "new chapter in the life of world communities." The festivities come about four months before presidential elections in June, with Ahmadinejad seeking re-election for another four years. "Today, the revolution is moving forward stronger than before," he said on state television Saturday. Iran's top leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, also paid tribute to Khomeini's shrine in south Teheran. But reformers said they were still having to fight for some of the goals of the revolution. "We have achieved political independence. But two basic goals of the revolution - that is to say freedom and justice - have not yet been achieved nor have we achieved the economic development we had been promised," said Rajabali Mazrouei. Mazrouei was one of thousands of reformist candidates who was barred from running in parliamentary elections in 2004 and 2008 by the hard-line Guardian Council, a constitutional watchdog that vets election candidates. The cleric-run Guardian Council disqualified election candidates accusing them of insufficient loyalty to Islam and the revolution. The 1997 election ushered in an eight-years of a reformist-run government under former President Mohammad Khatami. But his program to implement democratic reforms failed mainly due to powerful hard-liners who prevented him from carrying out his agenda. Hard-liners have vowed they will never again allow reformists to take control of the government and have used the Guardian Council and other institutions they control to block reformists from gaining power. The reformist daily Aftab-e-Yazd on Saturday published a front-page editorial that suggested Iran's rulers had backtracked on promises of freedom. Alongside the editorial were comments made by Khomeini three decades ago said people have the wisdom to choose the best leaders and that they didn't need rulers to decide for them. "What percent of politicians claiming to be loyal (to Khomeini) can prove their commitment to the foundations (of the revolution)?" the editorial said. Reformist Ayatollah Hossein Mousavi Tabrizi said while there are some signs of democracy in Iran, the ruling establishment does not tolerate all voices or allow opponents to compete in free elections. "We have not recognized democracy by all means yet. A foundation of democracy is to respect the choice of the people ... In 70s, opponents were united to topple the shah but split afterward," he said. Other festivities marking the anniversary planned during the coming days include the inauguration of large-scale development projects including roads, dams and oil and energy projects to highlight measures the government has taken to modernize Iran's infrastructure. Following the revolution and the 1979 storming of the US Embassy in Teheran by hard-line students, the United States broke off diplomatic relations with Iran.