Iranian demonstrators denounced Israel and burned President Trump in effigy Friday in annual rallies to mark “Jerusalem Day” that authorities said were held in hundreds of cities.
Voicing solidarity with a two-month Palestinian protest movement in the Gaza Strip, demonstrators in Tehran held placards saying “Jerusalem belongs to us” and chanted, “Palestine, Palestine, war until victory.”
The heavily stage-managed rallies are an annual venting of anger at Iran’s foes — including Israel, the United States and Saudi Arabia — that has occurred every year since the 1979 Islamic Revolution on the last Friday of the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan.
Similar protests were held in Baghdad and in the Syrian capital, Damascus.
This year’s rallies in Iran also featured expressions of hostility at the Trump administration for withdrawing from the 2015 nuclear agreement and reinstating sanctions against the Islamic Republic. The sanctions are expected to compound Iran’s economic woes and have driven the currency, the rial, to record lows against the dollar.
In recent days, Iran has indicated that it would withdraw from the deal — under which it agreed to open its nuclear program to international inspectors — and resume nuclear activities if the European Union didn’t obtain exemptions from U.S. sanctions.
The EU has asked the Trump administration for waivers, without which it has said it might not be able to continue trading with Iran.
“We don’t trust Americans or Europeans in any negotiation,” said Ali Hasanzadeh, a 50-year-old demonstrator in Tehran sporting a salt-and-pepper beard.
Organizers dubbed the rally “Entefadeh,” which means uprising, condemning the Trump administration’s decision to move the American Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, an act seen as hostile to Palestinians, who claim East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state.
Speaking at a podium in Tehran’s Palestine Square, parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani said the Gaza protesters — demanding the right to return to lands seized by Israel — “would not compromise” and railed against the “wicked triad” of Israel, Saudi Arabia and the U.S.
Ahmad Khatami, a firebrand cleric who delivered a sermon following the rally in Tehran, said demonstrators had carried out “a verbal jihad,” or holy war, against the United States and Israel.
“Jihad is not solely done militarily, but anything done in the path of God is called jihad,” Khatami said.
Protesters are typically bused in to attend the rallies and given preprinted placards, with balloons for kids and T-shirts bearing the likeness of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei adding to a festival-like atmosphere.
For some, the heat and fasting obligations were too much to bear. A man who gave his name only as Ali, riding the subway home from the rally with his four sons, said the boys were too tired to attend Friday prayers.
“From the Islamic angle, we are obligated to take part in the rally. We are followers of our supreme leader,” Ali said.
Special correspondent Mostaghim reported from Tehran and Times staff writer Bengali from Port Louis, Mauritius.
Shashank Bengali covers Iran for The Times. Follow him on Twitter at @SBengali