Crowds chant ‘death to US’ as Iran marks anniversary of Islamic Revolution

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Iran has celebrated the 44th anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution amid nationwide anti-government protests and heightened tensions with the West.

Thousands of Iranians marched through major streets and squares decorated with flags, balloons and placards with revolutionary and religious slogans.

The military put on display its Emad and Sejjil ballistic missiles and cruise missiles as well as its Shahed-136 and Mohajer drones.

A man wears jacket in the colors of Iranian flag as he attends the annual rally commemorating Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution, in Tehran (Vahid Salemi/AP)

Protesters began pouring into the streets in September after the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, an Iranian-Kurdish woman detained by the country’s morality police.

Those demonstrations, initially focused on Iran’s mandatory headscarf, or hijab, soon moved into calls for a new revolution.

Mr Raisi called the anniversary celebration “epic” and a show of “national integrity” while praising post-revolution achievements in the country.

The remarks prompted the crowd to chant, “Death to the US”.

Meanwhile, Telewebion, a web TV service affiliated with Iranian state television, was briefly hacked during Mr Raisi’s speech, Iranian media reported. The news website said the interruption lasted 19 seconds.

Edalate Ali, or The Justice Of Ali, hackers’ group in a 44-second video published on Twitter, invited people to take part in nationwide protests next week and urged Iranians to withdraw their money from the banks.

Chants including “Death to Khamenei” and “Death to the Islamic Republic” could be heard on the video as a masked person with a woman’s voice read the message.

The anniversary comes after two years in which celebrations were largely limited to people in vehicles due to the pandemic that killed more than 140,000 people in Iran, the highest national death toll in the Middle East.

Demonstrators carry a huge Iranian flag and posters of the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei during the annual rally (Vahid Salemi/AP)

Anger has also spread over the collapse of the Iranian rial currency against the US dollar and Tehran’s arming of Russia with bomb-carrying drones in its war on Ukraine. Iran says it gave the drones to Russia before the war.

The Iranian government has not offered an overall death toll or the number of individuals it has arrested during the anti-government protests.

However, activists outside of the country say at least 528 people have been killed and 19,600 people detained in crackdowns.

Last week, Iran’s state media said the supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ordered an amnesty or reduction in prison sentences for “tens of thousands” of people detained during the protests.

The decree is part of a yearly round of pardoning the supreme leader carries out before the anniversary.

Referring to the amnesty, Mr Raisi urged those who were “deceived by the enemy” to “return to the nation” and promised his administration would show mercy on them.

The Islamic Revolution began with widespread unrest in Iran over the rule of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. The shah, secretly ill with cancer, fled Iran in January 1979.

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini then returned from exile and the government fell after days of mass demonstrations and confrontations between protesters and security forces.

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