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Crowds chant 'Death to America, death to Israel'

Crowds chant ‘Death to America, death to Israel’ as hundreds of thousands of Iranians mark the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution

  • Rallies were held across Iran to observe anniversary of the fall of the Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi in 1979
  • Crowds used the trademark revolution chants ‘Death to America, Death to Israel’ as they gathered in Tehran
  • Iran’s army declared neutrality on 11 February, 1979 and paved the way to the US-backed monarch’s collapse
  • At a rally, commander Yadollah Javani threatened to ‘raze Tel Aviv and Haifa to the ground’ if the US attacked

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Crowds chanted ‘Death to America, death to Israel’ as hundreds of thousands of Iranians gathered at rallies to mark the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution. 

Ceremonies were held across Iran today to observe the anniversary of the fall of the Shah and the triumph of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the Shiite cleric who led the coup.

Iran’s army declared its neutrality on February 11, 1979 which paved the way for the collapse of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi – and ousted the United States’ most important ally in the Middle East.

Crowds gathered in the rain in Tehran Azadi, or Freedom Square, on Monday, waving Iranian flags and chanting ‘Death to America’ – a mantra that has been standard fare at anti-US rallies across Iran.

Chants of ‘Death to Israel’ and ‘Death to Britain’ followed, and demonstrators were caught on camera burning US and Israeli flags.  

Rallies were held across the state to observe the anniversary of the fall of the Shah and the triumph of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the Shiite cleric who led the revolution (Pictured, Iranians burn US flags in Tehran)

Rallies were held across the state to observe the anniversary of the fall of the Shah and the triumph of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the Shiite cleric who led the revolution (Pictured, Iranians burn US flags in Tehran)

Men gather to burn American flags during a ceremony to mark the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution - which ousted the United States' most important ally in the Middle East

Men gather to burn American flags during a ceremony to mark the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution – which ousted the United States’ most important ally in the Middle East

Large crowds were seen carrying Iranian flags and chanting 'Death to Israel, Death to America' - trademark chants of the revolution

Large crowds were seen carrying Iranian flags and chanting ‘Death to Israel, Death to America’ – trademark chants of the revolution

An Iranian woman holds up a portrait of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, as she makes the victory sign during a rally marking the 40th anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Tehran

An Iranian woman holds up a portrait of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, as she makes the victory sign during a rally marking the 40th anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Tehran

Soldiers, students, clerics and women holding small children flocked to the streets of Tehran, many carrying portraits of Khomeini and Iran's current Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

Soldiers, students, clerics and women holding small children flocked to the streets of Tehran, many carrying portraits of Khomeini and Iran’s current Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

Yadollah Javani, a senior commander in Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, threatened to burn two of Israel’s cities ‘to the ground’ if the US attacked Iran when speaking at a rally on Monday.

He said: ‘The United States does not have the courage to shoot a single bullet at us despite all its defensive and military assets. But if they attack us, we will raze Tel Aviv and Haifa to the ground.’ 

The 6-mile-long downtown Enghelab, or Revolution Street, in Tehran was decorated with huge balloons as loudspeakers blared out revolutionary and nationalist songs to encourage people to join the rallies.  

Soldiers, students and clerics flocked to the streets of cities and towns across Iran – many carrying portraits of Khomeini and Iran’s current Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

One banner read: ‘Much to the dismay of America, the revolution has reached its 40th year.’ 

Another said: ‘Down with USA, Down with Israel, Victory to Islam’. 

One group were even caught on camera burning a statue of US President Donald Trump. 

Every year, the anniversary festivities start on February 1 – the day Khomeini returned home from France after 14 years in exile to become the supreme leader as Shiite clerics took power – and continue for 10 days, climaxing on February 11.

This year’s anniversary comes as tensions rise with the United States and Iran grapples with the aftermath of President Donald Trump’s pullout last May from the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers. 

Tough US economic sanctions were also re-imposed on Iran in November. 

Numerous US and Israeli flags burn in a heap as attendees of a rally to commemorate 40 years since the Islamic Revolution gather

Numerous US and Israeli flags burn in a heap as attendees of a rally to commemorate 40 years since the Islamic Revolution gather

Crowds hold signs reading 'Down with USA', 'Down with Israel' and even 'Down with England' as they attend the busy rally

Crowds hold signs reading ‘Down with USA’, ‘Down with Israel’ and even ‘Down with England’ as they attend the busy rally

 Speaking from a podium in central Tehran, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani addressed the crowds for nearly 45 minutes, lashing out at Iran’s enemies – America and Israel – and claiming their efforts to ‘bring down’ Iranians through sanctions will not succeed.

‘The presence of people in this celebration means that plots by the enemies … have been defused,’ Rouhani said. ‘They will not achieve their ill-omened aims.’

In the backdrop to Monday’s marches, the military displayed Iranian-made missiles, which authorities showcase every year during anniversary celebrations and which now have a range of up to 2,000 kilometers and are able to Israel and US military bases in the region.

Over the past decade, Iran has frequently test-fired and displayed missiles, sent several short-lived satellites into orbit and in 2013 launched a monkey into space.

Washington alleges Iran’s launches defy a UN Security Council resolution calling on Iran to undertake no activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons. Tehran denies the charge, insisting its satellite launches and rocket tests do not have a military component.

‘We do not and we will not ask permission for producing any type of missiles from anybody,’ Rouhani said in his speech Monday, though he stressed that Iran would ‘continue constructive engagement’ with the international community.

Rouhani also promised the crowds that Iran would overcome the economic hardship amid the country’s spiraling economy and the newly imposed US sanctions.

What was the Iranian Revolution?

The Iranian, or Islamic, Revolution was a popular uprising which took place in Iran between 1978 and 1979.

This coup, which resulted in the collapse of the country’s monarchy on April 1, 1979, led to the establishment of an Islamic republic in Iran.

It was the result of increasing social discontent in the country throughout the 1970s – with economic difficulties, and sociopolitical repression under the regime of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, adding to restlessness in the masses. 

There was also a strong opposition to the Shah due to US support for his regime. The Shah had introduced a series of unpopular liberalization policies in order to retain the support of America in 1977.

Demonstrations against the US-backed monarchy began the same year and very quickly developed into a campaign of civil resistance which intensified throughout the year.

Between August and December 1978, the country came to a near-standstill due to mounting strikes and demonstrations across Iran.

A few months later, on January 17, 1979, Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi was forced to leave Iran as the political unrest had transformed into a revolution. 

He was granted asylum in Egypt where he died in 1980 – knowing he would likely have faced execution had he ever tried to return to Iran.

After the Shah’s exile, the monarch’s duties were left to a regency council and Shapour Bakhtiar – who served as the last Prime Minister of Iran under Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlav.

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, an Iranian politician who spent 14 years in exile for opposition to the Shah, was then invited back to the country by the government.

Iran’s monarchy eventually collapsed on February 11, 1979 when rebels overwhelmed troops loyal to the monarch in the street.

The country then voted by national referendum to become an Islamic republic on April 1 – and Khomeini became Supreme Leader of the state in December.

Iranians burn flags of Israel during commemorations of the 40th anniversary of Islamic Revolution in the capital Tehran

Iranians burn flags of Israel during commemorations of the 40th anniversary of Islamic Revolution in the capital Tehran

Many held umbrellas as they sheltered from the rain during a rally to mark the 40th anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution

Many held umbrellas as they sheltered from the rain during a rally to mark the 40th anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution

An Iranian woman holds a cardboard cutout of Donald Trump, holding a sign that reads 'I was wrong', at the rally in Tehran

An Iranian woman holds a cardboard cutout of Donald Trump, holding a sign that reads ‘I was wrong’, at the rally in Tehran

In a speech at Tehran's Azadi Square, President Hassan Rouhani said Iran was determined to expand its military power

In a speech at Tehran’s Azadi Square, President Hassan Rouhani said Iran was determined to expand its military power

An Iranian holds up a poster showing a portrait of the country's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei with a small portrait in the corner showing Islamic Revolution founder Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini

An Iranian holds up a poster showing a portrait of the country’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei with a small portrait in the corner showing Islamic Revolution founder Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini

'We have not asked and will not ask for permission to develop different types of missiles and will continue our path and our military power,' President Hassan Rouhani said

‘We have not asked and will not ask for permission to develop different types of missiles and will continue our path and our military power,’ President Hassan Rouhani said

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks to crowds of thousands on a flower-covered stage during a ceremony on Monday

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks to crowds of thousands on a flower-covered stage during a ceremony on Monday

Elsewhere, the head of the elite Quds Force of Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard, General Qassem Soleimani, attended the rally in the southern city of Kerman.

In Tehran, 27-year-old medical student Hossein Hosseinpour, walked with his wife and their 18-month son Amir Ali. 

He said he wanted to teach his son to support the revolution. ‘I see a bright future for him and our nation,’ Hosseinpour said.

Mahmoud Hemmati, 35, was pushing his 68-year-old mother, Parivash Fakheri, in a wheelchair. 

He said: ‘My mother, despite her illness, asked me to bring her out’.

Hassan Rouhani speaks to a crowd of thousands at Azadi Sqaure in Tehran as soldiers in bright adornments stand to attention

Hassan Rouhani speaks to a crowd of thousands at Azadi Sqaure in Tehran as soldiers in bright adornments stand to attention

Five women smile as they hold posters bearing the picture of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Iranian flags

Five women smile as they hold posters bearing the picture of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Iranian flags

The large turnout at these state-sponsored rallies comes as Iranians faces rising prices and food shortages which have triggered waves of protests (Pictured, crowds at the Azadi Square in Tehran)

The large turnout at these state-sponsored rallies comes as Iranians faces rising prices and food shortages which have triggered waves of protests (Pictured, crowds at the Azadi Square in Tehran)

Last year, Iran cracked down on protests over poor living standards in over 80 cities and towns that posed the most serious challenge to its clerical leadership since a 2009 revolt over disputed elections (Pictured, Iranians assemble in Tehran's Azadi Square)

Last year, Iran cracked down on protests over poor living standards in over 80 cities and towns that posed the most serious challenge to its clerical leadership since a 2009 revolt over disputed elections (Pictured, Iranians assemble in Tehran’s Azadi Square)

One banner, held by a group of Iranians in Tehran's Azadi Square, read 'USA overshadowed by Islamic Republic of Iran heavily for last 40 years and soon will collapse'

One banner, held by a group of Iranians in Tehran’s Azadi Square, read ‘USA overshadowed by Islamic Republic of Iran heavily for last 40 years and soon will collapse’

Dozens of men in green raincoats watch as Iranian President Hassan Rouhani makes a speech on a stage in Freedom Square

Dozens of men in green raincoats watch as Iranian President Hassan Rouhani makes a speech on a stage in Freedom Square

In January, President Hassan Rouhani said Iran was facing its worst economic crisis since the Shah was toppled. But he remained defiant as Iranians recalled the end of a monarch who catered to the rich and unleashed secret police on dissenters

In January, President Hassan Rouhani said Iran was facing its worst economic crisis since the Shah was toppled. But he remained defiant as Iranians recalled the end of a monarch who catered to the rich and unleashed secret police on dissenters

A woman holds up a sign showing portraits of the country's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and his predecessor  above the rally

A woman holds up a sign showing portraits of the country’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and his predecessor above the rally

The coup, which resulted in the collapse of the country's monarchy on April 1, 1979, led to the establishment of an Islamic republic in Iran (Pictured, Iranians in Tehran)

The coup, which resulted in the collapse of the country’s monarchy on April 1, 1979, led to the establishment of an Islamic republic in Iran (Pictured, Iranians in Tehran)

An elderly man stands under an umbrella with a sign reading 'Down with the USA' as he attends the rally in Iran's capital

An elderly man stands under an umbrella with a sign reading ‘Down with the USA’ as he attends the rally in Iran’s capital

 Ms Fakheri, who was one of the revolutionaries on the streets of Tehran in 1979, said she would defend the revolution all over again.

‘I know there are many economic problems today, but that is something different from our revolution,’ she said. ‘It has been moving forward over the past 40 years and making Iran stronger.’

Last week, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei defended the ‘Death to America’ chants, saying they are aimed at America’s leaders such as Trump and not its people.

The Iranian people ‘will not stop saying “Death to America” as long as the US acts malicious’ toward Iran, Khamenei said.

February 11 is considered a victory day in Iran as it marks the fall of the monarchy and the formation of an Islamic Republic

February 11 is considered a victory day in Iran as it marks the fall of the monarchy and the formation of an Islamic Republic

Two boys hold up posters of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (right) and late revolutionary founder Ayatollah Khomeini (left) during the rally

Two boys hold up posters of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (right) and late revolutionary founder Ayatollah Khomeini (left) during the rally

Students dressed in black, white and gold each wave an Iranian flag as they commemorate the fall of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi

Students dressed in black, white and gold each wave an Iranian flag as they commemorate the fall of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi

Young girls have the colours of the Iranian flag painted on their fingers and writing on their hands as they attend the rally

Young girls have the colours of the Iranian flag painted on their fingers and writing on their hands as they attend the rally

Numerous Iranians hold flags, posters and banners as they attend a rally at Azadi Sqaure in Tehran on Monday, February 11

Numerous Iranians hold flags, posters and banners as they attend a rally at Azadi Sqaure in Tehran on Monday, February 11

 In January, President Hassan Rouhani said Iran was facing its worst economic crisis since the Shah was toppled. But he remained defiant as Iranians recalled the end of a monarch who catered to the rich and unleashed secret police on dissenters.

In a speech at Tehran’s Azadi Square, Rouhani said US efforts to isolate Iran would fail.

‘We will not let America become victorious. Iranian people have and will have some economic difficulties but we will overcome the problems by helping each other,’ he said.

Washington and its Arab allies have viewed Iran with great suspicion since the Islamic Revolution, fearing Khomeini’s radical ideology would inspire militants across the Middle East. 

Today, the United States and its Arab allies are trying to counter Tehran’s growing influence in the Middle East, where it has proxies in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen. 

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