Millions of people across Iran on Monday are expected to hit the streets to mark the 40th anniversary of the 1979 revolution, renewing their allegiance to the country’s Islamic principles at a time of rising economic and political pressure amid the resumption of punishing US sanctions.
Iran organises the nationwide rally every February 11 to highlight the size of grassroots support of the revolt, which replaced Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi’s government with an Islamic Republic under Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
Domestically, the event is also known as Ten-Day Dawn to commemorate the period of violent protests following the February 1, 1979 return of Khomeini from exile. It also marks the official end of the 2,500 years of the Persian Empire.
In Tehran, marchers are set to gather at Azadi Square, one of the capital’s most iconic monuments built by the United States-backed shah and renamed after the victory of the forces loyal to Khomeini.
Security has been tightened across Iran in the lead-up to Monday’s events. Last year, gunmen dressed in fatigues opened fireat a military march in Ahvaz marking the 30th anniversary of the end of the Iran-Iraq war, killing at least 29 people and wounding scores.
Iran’s foreign relations in spotlight 40 years after revolution (2:52)
Since the revolution, which united the country against the shah, the country appears today to be more divided between the hardliners, who believe in the strict implementation of laws from 40 years ago, and the reformists, who are pushing for more economic transparency and more freedoms among its population.
In 2017, President Hassan Rouhani was reelected in a vote seen a litmus test for his signature move – a landmark nuclear deal signed with world powers in 2015 and the subsequent lifting of tough economic sanctions that had long strangled the country’s economy.
But last year, the United States unilaterally abandoned the United Nations-backed multilateral nuclear pact, reimposed sanctions and adopted a “maximum pressure” policy towards Iran.
US President Donald Trump’s stance aims to force Iran to negotiate the development of its missiles as well as its military presence across the Middle East. Iran rules out any such negotiations.
Trump says he has placed “the toughest sanctions ever imposed” by the US on a country. Embargoes target key sectors such as oil, banking and shipping industries to cut Iran’s oil revenues – its main source of hard currency.
How Iran’s role in Middle East boomed since 1979 revolution (3:01)
Washington also wants to impact the livelihood of ordinary Iranians who have been embattled by skyrocketing consumer prices following a dramatic drop in the value of the Iranian currency, the rial, due largely to US sanctions that keep Iran’s access to hard currency in check.
The persisting severe economic hardship has angered low-income Iranians, igniting sporadic protests and strikes over the past year.
To help save the nuclear deal, Britain, France and Germany recently launched the Instrument In Support Of Trade Exchanges, a mechanism to carry out non-dollar trade with Iran and bypass Washington’s sanctions.
But while Iran and Europe work to save the nuclear pact, both the European Union and the UN have shown signs of discord over Iran’s ballistic missile activity and the accusations of assassination plots allegedly carried out by Iran on European soil. Tehran, which says its ballistic missiles will solely be used for defence purposes, denies the allegations.
On Friday, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei expressed skepticism about Europe’s will to act in Iran’s interest.
“I recommend that one should not trust the Europeans, just as the Americans,” he was quoted as saying. “We don’t say, don’t have contacts with them, but it’s an issue of trust.”
Khamenei said the Iranian nation “will not abandon ‘Death to America'” slogan as long as the US continues its “wickedness”.
The chant, which has been a signature slogan in Iran since the beginning of the revolution and still echoes during the annual commemoration of the 1979 event, means “death to American rulers”, Khamenei said, referring by name to Trump; National Security Adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Iran’s post-revolution generation struggles to find its voice (3:16)
This year’s commemoration also comes just before a summit organised by the US in Poland’s capital, Warsaw, which is seen as an anti-Iran gathering.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as leaders from regional rival Saudi Arabia and its allies, are scheduled to attend the meeting on February 13 and 14 which is reported to be aimed at promoting “a future of peace and security in the Middle East”.
The announcement last month that the summit was “focused on Iran” was met with anger in Tehran and dismay in Brussels where EU officials struggle to keep the nuclear deal alive.
On Sunday, commenting on recent statements that the Warsaw meeting will not focus on Iran, Iranian Foreign Mohammad Javad Zarif said “the summit is doomed to failure from the start” as the US retreated from its initial stance.