Iran marks 44th anniversary of Islamic revolution

Celebration follows months of protests against the government

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Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Tehran and other cities on Saturday as Iran marked the 44th anniversary of the Islamic revolution after months of anti-government protests.

For the past two years, the 1979 overthrow of the Western-backed Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was commemorated mainly in vehicles and on motorcycles because of coronavirus restrictions.

But this year many people waving flags walked to the capital's Azadi Square, despite low temperatures.

They chanted slogans including “Down with the US”, “Down with Israel” and “Down with the UK”.

Sejjil ballistic missiles and Shahed 136 drones were on display around the square. President Ebrahim Raisi was expected to address the crowds.

State television said the celebrations were held in 1,400 cities and towns, airing footage of large rallies in Isfahan, Mashhad, Shiraz and Tabriz.

People carried portraits of Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as well as the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, founder of the Islamic Republic, and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps general Qassem Suleimani, who was assassinated by the US in Baghdad in January 2020.

They also held placards reading “We stand to the end”, “A united, strong and stable Iran” and “We obey the leader”.

The celebrations mark the day that the shah's government fell 10 days after Mr Khomeini returned from exile in France and led the uprising in February 1979.

The Shah had fled Iran in January, after months of protests against his rule.

This year's commemorations come after months of nationwide protests triggered by the death in custody of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old ethnic Kurd, on September 16.

She was arrested by morality police in Tehran for allegedly not wearing her headscarf in accordance with the Iran's strict dress rules.

Authorities said hundreds of people, including dozens of security personnel, have been killed during the protests which the authorities describe as “riots”.

Campaigners said more than 500 protesters were killed by security forces.

Thousands of Iranians, including public figures, journalists and lawyers, have been arrested but many have been released recently.

Most analysts agree that the protests have lost momentum in recent months in the face of Tehran's repression, which included four protest-related executions.

Updated: February 11, 2023, 11:14 AM