With one eye on Vienna, Tehran celebrates the 43rd anniversary of the Islamic revolution
A low-key celebration due to restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic. In the "red" cities, only parades aboard cars and motorbikes, while in the country the number of Omicron-related infections grows. The US is cautiously optimistic about an agreement "in sight". But Iranian President Raisi puts a damper on enthusiasm: "No hope".
Tehran (AsiaNews) - Iranians are today celebrating 43 years since the revolution led by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, which led to the fall of Shah Reza Pahlevi and the founding of a republic based on Shiite Islam. This year's celebration is also a minor one because of the Covid-19 outbreaks, which have increased in recent weeks due to the Omicron variant.
In addition, the leadership's attention is focused on the negotiations underway in Vienna on the nuclear issue, which could turn around an economy sinking under international sanctions.
This morning thousands of cars and motorbikes lined the streets of Tehran to celebrate the 1979 Islamic revolution. Compared to previous years, for the second time in a row few people joined the celebrations, marching on foot in fear of being struck by the new coronavirus at a time when the pandemic is still active.
In the capital, processions started at various points, then converged as usual in Azadi Square where in the afternoon, during the Friday prayer rites, President Ebrahim Raisi will give a speech to the nation.
The anniversary comes at the same time as the new round of talks on the Iranian nuclear issue, which resumed on February 8 in Vienna after a few weeks of deadlock and around which there is moderate (and very cautious) optimism.
In recent days, White House spokesperson Jen Psaki has said that the agreement "is in sight" but at the same time has warned that "if it is not reached in the coming weeks, Teheran's nuclear progress" will make it "impossible" to sign in the future. The enthusiasm was dampened by Iranian President Raisi himself who, in a video message released today, said he had "no hope" in the talks and did not believe "in Vienna and New York".
Returning to the celebrations, protesters waved Iranian flags and chanted the usual slogans and chants, as well as placards, including "death to America" and "death to Israel", which are never lacking on these occasions. Marches and carousels affected 1,500 cities, over 3,000 villages, 60,000 mosques and 40,000 bases of the Basij militias (linked to the Pasdaran) scattered throughout the territory. In the "red" cities, due to Covid restrictions, only car and motorbike parades were held. In those in the yellow or blue category, processions were also held on foot, respecting security protocols and - as far as possible - spacing out the participants.
Health authorities say that the Omicron variant is now also prevalent in Iran and hospitals are on the alert for a possible wave of infections and hospitalisations. With more than 130,000 registered victims - but the real toll could be much higher - the Islamic Republic holds the sad record for the highest number of deaths caused by Covid in the Middle East since the start of the global health emergency. Tehran claims to have vaccinated about 80% of the population over the age of 18 with the two doses, although only 27% also received the booster.