0605 GMT February 24, 2020
Millions of Iranians took to the streets of the cities across the country on Tuesday to commemorate the 41st anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, in a show of unity at a time of heightened tensions with the United States.
Waving flags of Iran and holding portraits of the founder of the Islamic Revolution, Imam Khomeini, large groups of people took 12 major routes across the capital leading to the iconic Azadi Square, which played host to many of the protests in the run-up to the Revolution which toppled the US-backed Pahlavi regime 41 years ago.
Also in other cities and towns, people attended similar rallies, many of them in cold weather, to renew their allegiance to the ideals of Imam Khomeini.
Every year, the demonstrators chant slogans against the US to condemn the highly hostile agenda that Washington has been pursuing against the Iranian nation over the past four decades.
This year’s mass rallies coincided with the 40th-day memorial for Iran’s top General Qassem Soleimani, who was assassinated together with his comrades in a US drone strike in Baghdad in early January.
The US assassination of General Soleimani – the Middle East’s most prominent anti-terror commander – prompted Iran to retaliate with a missile barrage against a US base in Iraq days later.
The assassination has exacerbated tensions between Tehran and Washington, which arose after the US withdrawal from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal in 2018 and reimposition of sanctions against Iran in a bid to pressure Tehran to re-negotiate the agreement.
Tehran and Washington have been sworn enemies since 1979 Islamic Revolution, when the government of the US-backed shah was ousted.
US wrong perception
Addressing the demonstrators in Tehran, President Hassan Rouhani said the US is wrong in thinking that it is confronting the Iranian political system and politicians, it is in fact confronting the entire 83 million population of Iran.
The US finds it "unbearable" that the Islamic Revolution remains in place 41 years after bringing down its ally the shah, he said.
“It is natural that the US cannot tolerate the Islamic Revolution, the victory of a great nation and the expulsion of American superpower from this land, and it is also natural that the US has been dreaming about returning to this land every single night since 41 years ago,” Rouhani said.
The Americans, he added, “know very well how important Iran is. They are well aware of the role Iran plays in the region and of the fact that Iran is one of the biggest powers – or actually the biggest one – in the sensitive Middle East region. That is why the US and Zionism have been acting as arch-enemies of Iran and its Revolution from day one.”
Rouhani further hit out at the US for pushing ahead with a “maximum pressure” campaign of sanctions against the Islamic Republic, which has failed to bring “the nation to its knees.”
"In the past two years, America has put so much pressure on our beloved people, on all of our trade, all of our exports, all of our imports, and all of the country's needs, to exhaust the patience of our people," said Rouhani.
But "the Americans did not understand the greatness of the Iranian people," he said.
"The United States believes it is facing 41 years of civilization. No, the Americans are facing thousands of years of Iranian civilization."
Rouhani further praised the domestic achievements made in the defense sector in recent years.
“Before the Islamic Revolution, 95% of the country's required arms were imported, while today all of what we needed is produced domestically,” he said.
This year's anniversary also comes ahead of parliamentary elections in Iran.
“We should not withdraw from the ballot boxes,” Rouhani called out to the thousands in the crowd who rallied in the Tehran in freezing winter weather. “The ballot boxes are our savior.”
Rouhani called on voters to still turnout despite “possible complaints and criticism.” “I beg you not to be passive,” he said.
Referring to the reasons for the Islamic Revolution, he said if the previous regime had allowed the people to be free to choose their own government, their own constitution, their independence, and if the previous regime had submitted to healthy, free general election there would have been no revolution.
The revolution happened because the door of the elections was closed. The deadlock of the election gate in fact led the people to break the chains through revolution and pave the way for elections.
Press TV, AFP, Reuters and AP contributed to this story.