Wednesday, 15 January, 2020

Iranians say thanks to American people for supporting Muslims

Iran marked its national holiday on Friday with nationwide rallies with far less of the usual vitriol for the United States, in what seemed a move calculated to avoid further inciting President Trump.

Many observers had expected Iranian leaders to take aim at Mr. Trump during rallies celebrating the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

The stacks of posters handed out by state organizations largely avoided mentions of Mr. Trump. Anti-American slogans, usually printed in English in the past for the international news media to see, were mostly in Persian. Most notably, there were no missiles on display, as had been customary in previous years, to show off Iran’s military capabilities.

Tensions between the United States and Iran have surged in recent weeks, after Mr. Trump blocked citizens of Iran and six other predominantly Muslim nations from visiting the United States, and he called Iran “#1 in terror.” His national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, put the country “on notice” after it conducted a missile test late last month.

There were examples of anti-American sentiment on view, however: A large plastic copy of the American flag was rolled out at the main rally, as was an Israeli flag, forcing those marching to walk over them. One man handed out posters showing Mr. Trump being beaten in the face by an arm with an Iranian flag around it. “Down with U.S.A.,” the accompanying text read.

On social media, an image of an Iranian carrying an effigy of Mr. Trump hanging from a rope made the rounds. Another showed American and Israeli flags being burned.

But given the size of the rally in Tehran, the usual anti-Americanism appeared less noticeable than in previous years.

“Today’s rally shows that the government does not want any confrontation with the U.S.,” said Farshad Ghorbanpour, an analyst who is close to the government of President Hassan Rouhani. “Don’t be surprised, we have no interest with tensions.”

Throughout the week, Iranians on social media had asked people not to burn flags, but instead to thank American protesters for standing up to Mr. Trump’s targeted travel ban and for defending refugees, students, tourists and others affected by the executive order. Others said they had underestimated the new president at first, but now worried about new sanctions on Iran, or even military strikes.

Most of the hundreds of thousands at the rallies carried signs handed to them at the starting points of the rally. Several people carried black and white signs with text in English calling on Americans to visit Iran.

“American people are welcome and invited to visit Iran,” one read. “Thanks to American people for supporting Muslims,” said another. “Down with American regime, long live U.S. people,” another exclaimed.

“Let’s face it, we didn’t like Obama much, but he was much better than Mr. Trump,” said Manoucher Ashtiari, a retiree who carried a sign lauding the Islamic Revolution. “I come every year. This year, there are no missiles on display. I don’t care, what matters is that we support our revolution.”

Speaking to crowds gathered in Azadi Square here, Mr. Rouhani said that leaders of other nations “must talk to the Iranian nation with respect and dignity,” adding that Iran would meet any threat.

“We are not after tensions in the region and the world,” he said. “We are united in the face of bullying and any threat.”

The anniversary of the Islamic Revolution is mainly celebrated as a political event. When Iranians ousted the shah in 1979, one of their demands was independence from the dominant powers of the time, the United States and the Soviet Union. While many Iranians have criticized how their country is managed today, even more point to a long list of historical grievances they have with the United States.

“The good thing about Trump is that he exposes to the world what is wrong with the U.S.,” said Mousa Aghababaei, a retired mathematics teacher who attended the rally with his family. They watched others walking by, pushing strollers and chatting. “I like to be here; it’s important for me.”

Along the route, which ended at the Azadi, or “Freedom,” monument in Tehran, dozens of Iranian organizations, including the Telecommunications Ministry, joined the rally. So did the television personality Amoo Rouhani, or Uncle Cleric, who spoke loudly into a microphone, asking children to recite poetry. Next to him stood Afghan fighters of the Fatemiyoun brigade, an Iranian-led militia active in Syria, who showed off their taekwondo skills.

“This is a glorious day,” said Ali Mir Talebani, a Shiite Muslim cleric wearing a black turban, who was at the rally with two friends.

He didn’t care about Mr. Trump, he said. “To me, all U.S. presidents are bad.”

Via: NYtimes

Photo: Throughout the week, Iranians on social media had asked people not to burn flags, but instead to thank American protesters for standing up to Mr. Trump’s targeted travel ban. Credit Abedin Taherkenareh/European Pressphoto Agency

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