Iran marks 30th anniversary of Islamic revolution
Homage paid to Khomeini's tomb, toppling of shah
TEHRAN - Iran began 10 days of festivities yesterday marking the 30th anniversary of its Islamic revolution that toppled the US-backed shah and brought hard-line clerics to power.
But prodemocracy activists, who have been kicked out of power in recent years, complained that those running the country have failed to bring freedom and justice to Iran.
The anniversary festivities - known as the "Ten Days of Dawn" - highlight the homecoming of the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, whose return to Iran sparked mass protests that led to the ouster of the shah in 1979.
Church and school bells rang out mixing with the wail of train and boat sirens at 9:33 a.m. - the time Khomeini touched down 30 years ago at Tehran's airport aboard a chartered Air France plane after 14 years in exile. Ten days later, the shah's monarchial rule effectively collapsed after nationwide protests.
Government buildings in Tehran were draped in green, white, and red bunting of the Iranian flag and main streets were lined with flashing multicolored lights.
Two helicopters dropped a shower of flowers along a 21-mile route from the airport to Behesht-e-Zahra cemetery in south Tehran where Khomeini made his first speech. Motorists turned on their head lights and honked in celebration.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad paid homage to Khomeini's tomb yesterday "to renew allegiance to the late Imam's aspirations" where he called the 1979 revolution a "new chapter in the life of world communities." The festivities come about four months before presidential elections in June, with Ahmadinejad seeking election for another four years.
"The revolution is moving forward stronger than before," he said on state television yesterday. Iran's top leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, also paid tribute to Khomeini's shrine in south Tehran.
But reformers said they were still having to fight for some of the goals of the revolution. "We have achieved political independence. But two basic goals of the revolution - that is to say freedom and justice - have not yet been achieved, nor have we achieved the economic development we had been promised," said Rajabali Mazrouei.
The 1997 election ushered in eight years of a reformist-run government under Mohammad Khatami, the former president. But his program to implement democratic reforms failed mainly because of powerful hard-liners who prevented him from carrying out his agenda.
President Obama has expressed a willingness to talk to Iran, and his overture appears to have put Iranian leaders in an uncomfortable spot.
The Iranian foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, last week cautiously welcomed the new language coming out of Washington - before immediately insisting that it was not enough.
"We want to see practical steps before we decide whether we want to talk," Mottaki said in Davos, Switzerland, where he was attending the World Economic Forum.
"I don't want to use the term condition," he added. "We do not want to impose specific ideas. We want President Obama to say what exactly he is going to do."
Obama told an Arabic-language TV network earlier in the week that the United States would extend a hand to Iran. Ahmadinejad replied to the comments a day later, saying the United States should apologize for its actions toward his country over the past 60 years.
Ali Akbar Rafsanjani, a former president, said the US administration was trying to pressure Iran over its controversial nuclear program.
The reaction of Mottaki added to a sense among diplomats and foreign policy observers in Davos that it was politically even more difficult for Iran to reengage than for the United States.
Mottaki stopped short of making concrete demands on Washington, but he spoke of Iran's desire to cooperate with the United States on regional issues like Iraq and Afghanistan.
As the Iranian economy is suffering a triple blow from economic sanctions, falling energy prices, and the global credit crunch, he also hinted that Tehran wants the United States to lift some of the sanctions.
"We have a long history of some measures against Iran by the United States," he said. "We want to see what kind of changes President Obama is going to make in those areas."
Material from the International Herald Tribune was included in this report.