Iran’s supreme leader praised the mass turnout at the government-backed rally marking the 1979 Islamic Revolution and warned the West to stop putting obstacles in his country’s path.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei thanked the “tens of millions” across the country who celebrated Thursday’s anniversary, saying the turnout at rallies reflected the nation’s strength. During Thursday’s anniversary celebration, security forces clamped down hard on scattered anti-government demonstrations in the Iranian capital.
Police clashed with opposition activists, firing tear gas to disperse them and paintballs to mark them for arrest. Groups of hard-liners also attacked senior opposition figures — including the wife of the head of the reform movement.
The massive government rally in central Tehran dwarfed the opposition gatherings, which were far smaller than other outpourings of dissent in recent months. Still, Thursday’s events showed authorities must rely on full-scale pressures to keep a lid on demonstrations.
Khamenei said Thursday’s rally should be a wake-up call for the “domestic enemies and deceived groups who claim to represent the people.” He blasted the West, saying it was time for “foreign enemies to abandon futile efforts to subjugate” Iran. “The past 31 years are not enough to awaken a few arrogant and bullying states to their futile efforts to dominate this Islamic nation,” said Khamenei, who has final say on all state matters. The authorities had worried ahead of the anniversary that any significant protests or clashes would be seen as a major embarrassment on a day intended to showcase national achievements and unity.
An array of riot police, undercover security agents and hard-line militiamen — some on motorcycles — had fanned out across Tehran on Thursday in what appeared to be the largest deployment since the post-election mayhem.
Hard-liners and security forces prevented opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi and his wife, Zahra Rahnavard, from attending an opposition gathering.