TEHRAN — Mixing exhortations of death to America with admonishments to children about healthy teeth and gums, Iran celebrated the 35th anniversary of the Islamic revolution Tuesday, and the state media said millions exuberantly participated.
At the largest rallies, in the capital, Tehran, the talks on Iran’s disputed nuclear program with world powers, including the United States, dominated the event, traditionally organized by Iran’s hard-line factions that have shown strong skepticism about the negotiations.
Posters and placards were distributed bearing slogans that referred to Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent remarks that, despite the discussions over the nuclear program, the military option remained on the table for resolving the dispute over the nuclear program. Iran contends that it is pursuing atomic power for peaceful purposes, but many other countries, notably the United States and Israel, suspect that its nuclear program is intended to camouflage the production of nuclear weapons.
“We are eager for all options on the table,” many of the placards read, cheerfully hoisted by Iranian parents pushing baby strollers while shouting, “Death to America!” Other posters read, “We are ready for the great battle.”
Wendy R. Sherman, the lead US negotiator in the nuclear talks, whom few Americans could identify, was singled out for particular denunciation, with many rally participants shouting, “Death to Sherman!” the semiofficial Iranian Students’ News Agency reported.
Testifying before the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee a week ago, Sherman said that the Iranian government had started distributing free food, after the United States released $500 million to Iran as part of a temporary agreement over the country’s nuclear program that took effect Jan. 20.
Iranian hard-liners accused the Americans of distortion. The money — which came from Iranian accounts frozen under sanctions — had paid for the food long ago, they said, before the United States seized the cash.
Some protesters also shouted, “Death to Obama!” and “Death to Kerry!”
The rallies celebrated Feb. 11, 1979, when Iranian revolutionaries declared victory over the US-backed government of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi and brought to power a government overseen by Shiite Muslim clerics.
President Hassan Rouhani, a cleric who was elected in June, criticized what he called US threats against Iran but said that if world powers negotiating with Iran over its nuclear program respected Tehran’s “rights,” they would receive “a positive and appropriate answer” from Iran.
The next round of negotiations is scheduled to take place in Vienna on Feb. 18.
“Iran is determined to hold fair and constructive talks based on international law,” Rouhani said in a speech broadcast on state radio. “We hope that we will see the same kind of will from the opposite side during the talks that will begin within days.”
But like his predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Rouhani warned that threats would cost Iran’s counterparts in the nuclear talks.
The rally was a blend of nationalist zeal and family fun. Clowns explained to children the importance of brushing their teeth. Actors re-enacted scenes from the devastating war between Iran and Iraq. Parachutists dropped candy into the crowds.
At one stage, hundreds of people watched Pangool, a famous Iranian children’s television puppet, explain that the children’s presence was neutralizing US threats. Some children looked puzzled, but the sight of Pangool was an attraction by itself, one parent said.
In the distance, the Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps band played songs from the 1979 revolution, as one cleric, Mohammad Moshabarati, 28, marched by, holding a long pole bearing an Islamic flag.
“Everything you see here is the achievement of our Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei,” he said. “Our slogan is, ‘Death to U.S.,’ and it will be so forever, no matter what President Rouhani agrees with the Americans.”