By Jamie Leon
Tehran, Feb 11 (EFE).- Thousands of Iranians took to the streets Saturday to mark the 44th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution after months of protests.
The 1979 revolution which in 1979 overthrew the Western-backed shah to establish a theocratic regime was celebrated amid the usual cries of “Death to the United States” and “Death to Israel.”
But this year chants urging “Down with the rioters” and “Veil, veil, veil” were also heard echoing across several cities following the death in police custody of Mahsa Amini after she was arrested in September for not wearing her veil properly.
Amini’s death sparked the biggest protests in decades, but after months of demonstrations, a series of violent crackdowns that left almost 500 dead and four executed have seen a reduction in activism in recent weeks.
Authorities have taken advantage of the anniversary of the revolution to also celebrate the “failed” protests.
“We have not come together on Bahman 22nd to merely commemorate the great day but to tell that the popular support once more brought failure of the enemies and the victory of the Revolution front,” president Ebrahim Raisi said in a speech at Freedom Square in Tehran.
A cleric, who was accompanied by his son, expressed his agreement with the Iranian president.
“We are here today to tell the whole world that we are still here, that we support the revolution and the leader,” cleric Abdullah said standing in front of two huge portraits of Khomeini and Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei.
“The opposition to the Islamic Republic is very small and the protests have ended, they have failed,” he added.
“Each country has its rules and you have to follow them,” he said about women’s obligation to cover up in public, despite many women ditching their veils in the wake of the protests.
Another Iranian who was participating in the celebrations with his wife and two of his sons lavished praise on Khamenei.
“He is the best leader in the world,” he said, pointing to a huge portrait of Khamenei. “Iran is the best country, we are the best,” he repeated several times.
Azadi Square, which was built by the last Shah in 1971 but became one of the main protest points during the revolution that brought Islamists to power in 1979, was brimming with government supporters.
Entire families were photographed in front of the Azadi Tower, located in the square, waving Iranian flags and carrying portraits of Khomeini and Khamenei amid a vibrant festive atmosphere.
Authorities took the opportunity to showcase the nation’s military prowess and exhibited two missiles and several drones.
Khamenei announced last Sunday the amnesty and the reduction of prison sentences of “a significant number” of demonstrators who were convicted in the protests.
French-Iranian academic Fariba Adelkhah was released Friday, after being imprisoned in 2019 and sentenced in 2020 to five years in prison for crimes related to national security.
Dissident Farhad Meysami was also released, after photos of the activist looking extremely thin sparked much criticism, and at least seven women activists.
The protests have almost disappeared following the Iranian state’s stiff repression. Demonstrations have fizzled out and the once-common shouts calling for an end to the regime have been silenced. Until Friday night.