This week, Iran marked the 35th anniversary of its Islamic Revolution. State media, unsurprisingly, reported that millions of Iranians “from all walks of life” rallied to commemorate the momentous event, with hundreds of thousands converging at Azadi Square in Tehran to hear President Hassan Rouhani’s address.
Some news outlets, evaluating the revolution in retrospect, reflected the difficult situation on the ground. Most notably Al-Jazeera’s Camelia Entekhabifard in an editorial titled ‘The Ayatollah’s Unkept Promises’ lamented the fate of Iranians “who fell for Khomeini’s lofty promises of a better future,” only to find themselves 35 years later enduring “a cold, long winter.”
These Iranians, she wrote, were promised “free electricity and a share of the country’s oil revenues,” and so they supported the move to topple the shah and rise up against the United States. The result? Isolation, sanctions, war with Iraq, poverty, inflation and more:
The notions of equality, justice and democracy cannot justify a revolution when 35 years later, under the new order, countless “dissident” politicians and journalists are sitting in prison.
According to Entekhabifard, it was the dire economic situation, rather than a change in policy under Rouhani’s more moderate government, that had led Tehran to seek an interim agreement with the West.
While protesters chanted ‘Death to America’ and ‘We are ready for the great battle’, other media outlets tried to instill optimism.
NPR reported that Rouhani’s address reflected a departure from previous revolution anniversaries, focusing on domestic issues and committing to “respectful, constructive negotiations.” Al-Jazeera published the informative quotes from his speech, such as criticism of Washington’s past “interference” and belief that “the country of Iran belongs to them.”
As usual, the media sways upon personal conviction. Positive images portrayed by some journalists, reflect more their personal optimism than the situation on the ground.