Iran celebrates 30 years since Shah's overthrow

On the 30th anniversary of the Iranian revolution, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and other officials honoured the anniversary of the return from exile of the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (left), who led the overthrow of the US-backed Shah.


AFP - President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and top Iranian leaders on Saturday paid tribute to the man who led the ouster of the US-backed Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi 30 years ago, saying the Islamic revolution was not limited to Iran.

"The revolution is lively and alive after 30 years," Ahmadinejad said at a ceremony marking the anniversary of the return from exile of the father of the revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

"We are still at the beginning of the path and greater changes are ahead. This thunderous revolution will continue until justice is implemented," the firebrand president said.

"Although the Islamic revolution happened in Iran it is not limited to Iranian borders."

Crowds chanted "Death to America! Death to Israel!" at the ceremony at Khomeini's mausoleum in southern Tehran also attended by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, government ministers and military commanders.

Each year, to mark Khomeini's triumphant return after 15 years in exile, all schools, trains and boats ring their bells at precisely 9:33 am, the moment his plane touched down on February 1, 1979.

This year his return is being marked on January 31 because it is a leap year in the Iranian calendar.

The country is holding 10 days of celebrations marking the anniversary of the overthrow of the shah, who ruled Iran for almost four decades but fled just two weeks before Khomeini's return.

Khomeini's shrine was decorated with large posters of the elderly bearded cleric, then 76, as he disembarked from an Air France jumbo jet helped by a steward -- an image etched in world history.

The revolution led to the installation of a hardline clerical government that has become increasingly isolated on the world stage, particularly over its controversial nuclear drive.

The ceremony was marked by strong anti-US and anti-Israel slogans condemning Israel's blistering war on Gaza, which is run by the Iran-backed Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas.

"Because of Islam we saw victory in Gaza and Lebanon," said the revolutionary leader's grandson Hassan Khomeini. "Iranians are proud because Khomeini was the flag bearer of this Islamic awakening worldwide."

Former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani said the "Gazans and Hezbollah were able to defeat the army of the Zionist regime because of the effective influence of Iran."

Hundreds of military personnel, policemen and civilians gathered at the shrine to pay their homage as poets recited Khomeini's poems and a military police band played traditional songs.

A group from the hardline Basij militia on Friday washed Khomeini's tomb with rose water -- an Iranian custom to honour the dead -- and the grave was later strewn with flowers.

This year's celebrations come barely four months before a presidential election in Iran, with Ahmadinejad seeking re-election for another four-year term.

Khomeini backed Islamist students who stormed the US embassy in Tehran in November 1979 and took its personnel hostage for 444 days, prompting Washington to severe ties with the Islamic republic.

Tension with Washington has further soared over Iran's contested nuclear drive, which many in the West fear is a cover for a secret atomic weapons programme.

Khomeini branded the United States as the "Great Satan", and Iran was lumped into an "axis of evil" by former US president George W. Bush.

New US President Barack Obama has said he is willing to extend a diplomatic hand to Tehran if it is ready to "unclench its fist".

But Ahmadinejad launched a fresh tirade against the United States, demanding an apology for its "crimes" against Iran and saying he expected "deep and fundamental" change from Obama.


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