TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Thousands of cars and motorbikes paraded in celebration of the 43rd anniversary of Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution on Friday, although fewer pedestrians were out for a second straight year due to concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.
In the capital Tehran, processions started out from several points, converging on the usual meetup point at Azadi Square. Later in the day, President Ebrahim Raisi will give at speech during Friday prayers at a mosque.
The anniversary comes as negotiations to revive Tehran’s tattered nuclear deal with world powers continue in Vienna. Former President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the deal in 2018 and re-imposed sanctions, and in response Iran gradually reneged on its commitments.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Wednesday that a deal is “in sight,” but warned that “if it’s not reached in the coming weeks Iran’s nuclear advances will make it impossible” for the US to return to the deal.
Crowds waved Iranian flags, chanting slogans and carrying placards that read “Death to America” and “Death to Israel” in celebration on Friday, a commemoration for the uprising that ousted a Western-backed monarchy and brought the Islamists to power.
It was the second year where celebrations were largely limited to vehicles due to the pandemic. Authorities say the aggressive omicron variant is now dominant in the country, and hospitals have been urged to prepare for a new wave of infections.
With more than 130,000 total deaths according to official numbers, Iran has the highest national death toll in the Middle East. It says it has vaccinated some 80% of its population above age 18 with two shots, although only 27% of that group has had a third shot.