Iran marked Sunday the 45th anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution amid tensions gripping the wider Middle East over Israel's continued war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Thousands of Iranians marched through major streets and squares decorated with flags, balloons and banners with revolutionary and religious slogans.
In Tehran, crowds waved Iranian flags, chanted slogans, and carried placards with the traditional "Death to America" and "Death to Israel" written on them. Some burned U.S. and Israeli flags, a common practice in pro-government rallies.
Processions started out from several points, converging at Azadi Square in the capital. State TV showed crowds in many cities and towns, claiming that "millions participated in the rallies" across the country.
The military displayed a range of its missiles, including the Qassem Soleimani and Sejjil ballistic missiles, the Simorgh satellite carrier and drones at the square where people took selfies with them. During the celebrations, a paratrooper jumped from a plane while displaying a Palestinian flag.
Many high-ranking Iranian officials attended the celebrations in Tehran, including hard-line President Ebrahim Raisi. He addressed the crowds in Azadi Square and called on the United Nations, in a speech broadcast by state TV, to expel "the Zionist regime," as the crowds chanted: "Death to Israel." Raisi also said, "the bombing of Gaza has to be stopped as soon as possible."
The commander of the powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps General Mohammad Salami and Gen. Esmail Ghaani, the head of the expeditionary force of Iran's paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, also took part in the celebrations, while the head of the Judiciary body, Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejehi, was at the rally in the central city of Isfahan.
The Islamic Revolution began with widespread unrest in Iran over the rule of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. The shah, terminally and secretly ill with cancer, fled the country in January 1979. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini then returned from exile and the government fell on Feb. 11, 1979, after days of mass demonstrations and confrontations between protesters and security forces.