Iran marks 40 years since Islamic revolution

Now live
02:31 mins.
11.02.2019

Iranian Revolution: 40 years later

People flooded Tehran's Freedom Square as they celebrated the 40th anniversary of the 1979 ousting of the monarchy. Anti-US sentiment was on show with some demonstrators chanting "death to America" and burning US flags.

Hundreds of thousands of Iranians took to the streets of the capital Tehran on Monday to mark the 40th anniversary of the Islamic revolution, when Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini ousted the Shah's last government.

The march is the culmination of official celebrations called the "10 Day Dawn" that marks the period in February 1979 when the revolution's leader Khomeini returned from exile and toppled the monarchy.

Read more: What is Iran's Revolutionary Guard?

Downtown Enghelab, or Revolution Street, was decorated with giant balloons and loudspeakers blasted revolutionary and nationalist songs to encourage people to join the rallies. Fireworks displays were also held across Tehran on Sunday night.

Demonstrators chanted "death to America" as they marched

Anti-US sentiment

Crowds streamed to Freedom Square waving Iranian flags and chanting "death to America" — a slogan that can often be heard at anti-US rallies across Iran.

Last week, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei defended the "Death to America" chants but said they are aimed at America's leaders and not its people.

The Iranian people "will not stop saying 'Death to America' as long as the US acts maliciously" toward Iran, Khamenei said, referring to US President Donald Trump's State of the Union address in which he, among other things, said: "We will not avert our eyes from a regime that chants death to America."

Students wave their national flags as Revolutionary Guard members arrive in Freedom Square

Iran 'will not ask for permission' to develop missiles

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that Iran was determined to expand its military power and ballistic missile program despite mounting pressure from hostile countries to curb Iran's defensive work, state TV reported.

Read more: Missile test: Did Iran backstab the EU?

"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," Rouhani said in a speech at Freedom Square.

Related Subjects

Iran's current supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is due to publish "a detailed statement explaining the 'second step' of the progress of the Islamic revolution," his official website said.

Two men take a selfie in front of a car with a missile sculpture on top during the march

Not all Iranians celebrating

Despite the hundreds of thousands of people who took to the streets for the 40th anniversary, DW's Persian service chief Jamshid Barzegar said the large turnout at the state supported event was not enough to say that Iranians are celebrating.

"[Iranians] are facing different problems — a wide range of problems — from environmental problems to rising prices, inflation and food shortages," Barzegar said. "For instance, right now while we are talking, Iranian people are having problems to get meat, it's a crisis currently, so it's difficult to say, but based on what we can see on social media many are really disappointed and are not celebrating the anniversary as the government does."

Now live
02:32 mins.
Business | 11.02.2019

Iranian companies counting on the EU

DW's Iran correspondent Theresa Tropper visited a 24/7 pharmacy in the southwest of the capital where people were hoping to find desperately needed imported medication.

There are shortages for many western medicines such as heart conditions, Parkinson's disease and mental illnesses, largely due to US sanctions.

One woman was looking for medication for her mother who has a life threatening heart condition and told Tropper that every time she visited the 24/7 pharmacy they told her they didn't have it and were short of medicine.

"So where should we get it from? What should we do? When you can't even get the most vital heart medication how does this country expect to keep going. If this 24/7 pharmacy doesn’t have it, normal pharmacies definitely won't have it," she said.

Trading humanitarian goods like medicine is permitted under US sanctions but harsh banking restrictions and the fear of secondary sanctions prevent many foreign companies from doing business with Iran — something the EU is trying to change with its trading system INSTEX.

Iran's Islamic Revolution 40 years on

'I feel nothing'

On February 1, 1979, Khomeini returned to Tehran from exile in France. When a reporter asked him how he felt upon his return to Iran, Khomeini replied: "Nothing — I feel nothing." Some analysts interpreted his remarks as the Shiite leader's idea about embarking on a "divine mission" where emotions hardly mattered.

Iran's Islamic Revolution 40 years on

The Shah ran out of time

Two months before Khomeini's return to Iran, an estimated six to nine million people took to the streets in the country's major cities. The demonstrations were largely peaceful, compared to the violent September 8, 1978, protests. The Shah regime, headed by Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, had realized that its time in power was over and that they could not stop Khomeini's return.

Iran's Islamic Revolution 40 years on

Even women rooted for Khomeini

The revolutionary mood was so intense in Tehran that even many women celebrated Khomeini's return, ignoring the fact that Khomeini had slammed Shah's measures for women's emancipation in exile. In 1963, the Shah of Iran granted women the right to vote.

Iran's Islamic Revolution 40 years on

A spectacle of exuberance

In 1971, the Shah and his wife Farah Diba (seen in the picture) staged a lavish spectacle on the ancient site of Persepolis to mark the "2,500th anniversary of the Iranian monarchy." Many heads of state attended the event. Khomeini, in his message from exile, condemned the monarchy as "cruel, evil and un-Islamic."

Iran's Islamic Revolution 40 years on

Exile and death

Under pressure from the Islamic Revolution, the Shah (left) had left Iran on January 16, 1979. After spending time in several countries, he succumbed to cancer on July 27, 1980 in Cairo, Egypt.

Iran's Islamic Revolution 40 years on

Consolidating power

In the beginning, women's rights were not a major issue for the Islamic revolutionaries. They only imposed hardline Islam after consolidating their victory.

Iran's Islamic Revolution 40 years on

Soldiers join the revolution

Upon Khomeini's return to Iran in 1979, the military did not confront the protesters. On February 11, the army declared itself neutral. Despite that, the revolutionaries executed several generals in February and April.

Iran's Islamic Revolution 40 years on

New government

Soon after his return, Khomeini declared the monarchy, the previous government and parliament illegal, and said he would appoint a government "because of the fact that this nation believes in me." According to Iran experts, it was not self-deception but reality.

Iran's Islamic Revolution 40 years on

The liberal face of the revolution

Mehdi Bazargan, a scholar and pro-democracy activist, had campaigned against the Pahlavi dynasty, for which he had been incarcerated for several years. Khomeini appointed him as his first prime minister, although Bazargan was critical of him as well. Bazargan had called Khomeini a "turbaned Shah" after a meeting with the Ayatollah in Paris. He remained in office for only nine months.

Iran's Islamic Revolution 40 years on

Occupation of the US Embassy

In November 1979, radical Iranian students seized the US Embassy in Tehran and took the embassy staff hostage. The students were fearful of Shah's return to power with US help. Khomeini took advantage of the situation. He dismissed his opponents as "US allies."

Iran's Islamic Revolution 40 years on

Ali Khamenei – guardian of the revolution

In 1989, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was elected by the expert council to succeed Khomeini. Khamenei, to this date, has the ultimate power over all state institutions. Although the 79-year-old does not have the same charisma as his predecessor, he represents the policies of Iranian hardliners who refuse to reform the system and continue to persecute dissidents.

law/rt (AF, AP, Reuters)

Every evening at 1830 UTC, DW's editors send out a selection of the day's hard news and quality feature journalism. You can sign up to receive it directly here.