Iranians staged a socially-distanced commemoration of their 1979 Islamic revolution on Wednesday, parading in vehicles to avoid infection rather than on foot and displaying ballistic missiles in defiance of Western efforts to curtail the programme.
State television carried live footage of cars, motorcycles and bicycles moving through the streets of dozens of cities and towns where normally tens of thousands of people march at the annual event.
Despite the switch to wheel-bound forms of parade, the ceremony’s sentiments remained unchanged. Participants waved Iranian flags and signs that read “Death to America” and “Death to Israel” – trademark slogans of the revolution that toppled the U.S.-backed Shah from his throne.
Iran, the Middle East country worst hit by COVID-19, has registered around 59,000 deaths and nearly 1.5 million cases. Authorities launched a vaccination drive on Tuesday, focusing initially on hospital intensive care personnel.
In an online speech, President Hassan Rouhani raised the prospect of diplomacy if there were reciprocal moves to break an impasse over its unravelling 2015 nuclear deal with big powers.
“The moment that they honour their commitments under the deal, we will adhere to our commitments… The only path is certainly the world’s agreement with Iran,” said Rouhani.
U.S. President Joe Biden has said that if Tehran returned to strict compliance with the deal, Washington would follow suit and use that as a springboard to a broader agreement that might restrict Iran’s missile development and regional activities.