TEHRAN — Hundreds of thousands of Iranians packed Freedom Square on Thursday, the 14th anniversary of the Islamic revolution.
Despite high inflation, unemployment and tense relations with neighbors and trade partners, President Hashemi Rafsanjani told the crowd that Iran has emerged all the stronger for its staunch independence and can expect a better life in the future.
"Despite all the international pressures, you have weathered the storms, and this is the true meaning of independence," Rafsanjani told the crowd, which Iranian television estimated in the millions.
The broad avenues leading to the square's sweptback white arch were packed with officials, clergymen and fervent revolutionaries. Others said they were pressured to come or curious to see if economic hardship had extinguished popular support for the Islamic republic, born when the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini overthrew Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi.
In Los Angeles, hundreds of expatriate Iranians demonstrated in commemoration of the revolution, calling for an end to human rights abuses in their homeland. The march through downtown was part of a national effort to draw U.S. attention to the plight of Iranian women and political prisoners who are being oppressed by the fundamentalist regime, said Jimmy Sedghi, spokesman for Iranians for Human Rights in Iran.