Iran Holds Coronavirus Superspreader Celebration of 1979 Islamic Revolution

Iranians burn an Israeli flag as they take part in a ceremony marking the 42nd anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, at the Azadi (Freedom) square in Tehran, on February 10, 2021. (Photo by STR / AFP) (Photo by STR/AFP via Getty Images)
STR/AFP via Getty Images

Iran celebrated the 42nd anniversary of the Islamic Revolution on Wednesday with marches and demonstrations partially confined to vehicles due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“To observe health protocols in a country that has suffered more than 58,000 deaths and is wary of a resurgence of coronavirus cases in the run-up to year-end holidays in late March, people were ordered not to go out for celebrations on foot. Instead, revellers were instructed to decorate their cars so they would look good in aerial shots, and express their excitement by flashing their lights and turning on their windshield wipers,” Al Jazeera News reported.

Iranian state media claimed “health protocols” were observed because celebrants across the country stayed in their cars and motorcycles, but photos posted by those very same media outlets showed thousands of people thronging the streets on foot, burning Israeli flags, waving posters of their leaders, and ogling the latest missiles and launchers put on display by the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

The Times of Israel (TOI) gave a cheeky tip of its hat to the larger-than-usual number of demonstrators who stayed in their cars by calling the 2021 anniversary celebration “Death to Israel On Wheels”:

In the capital, Tehran, processions of cars and other vehicles started out from 12 different points on Wednesday morning, driving through the streets to circle Tehran’s iconic Azadi Square, the traditional place of gatherings for anniversaries.

Demonstrators carried placards reading, “Death to America,” “Death to Israel” and “Death to Britain,” according to the semi-official Fars news agency.

The previous night, on the eve of the 42nd anniversary, fireworks were set off next to the Milad telecommunications tower in Tehran.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani capped off the festivities by delivering one of his last televised speeches before leaving office, since he is limited to serving two consecutive terms. Rouhani’s successor will be elected in June.

Al Jazeera reported that beginning a week ago, Iranians were “encouraged to register on a designated website and choose posters, texts and songs to share on social media.” State television has been airing a non-stop barrage of “revolution-related material,” much of it stressing how the Iranian revolution has survived despite the efforts of the United States and other Western powers to overthrow it.

Rouhani hit the same themes in his anniversary speech, denouncing U.S. sanctions against Iran as “economic and medical terrorism” and an “imposed economic war.” He claimed “all the world’s people owe a debt to the Iranian people” because they somehow prevented the United States and Israel from conquering the entire planet by resisting sanctions. He also repeated his insistence that Iran will not resume compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal until all sanctions against it are lifted.

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