- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 1, 2009

TEHRAN | Iran began 10 days of festivities on Saturday marking the 30th anniversary of its Islamic revolution that toppled the U.S.-backed shah and brought hard-line clerics to power.

But pro-democracy reformists, who have been kicked out of power by hard-liners in recent years, complained that those running the country have failed to bring freedom and justice to Iran.

The anniversary festivities - known as the “Ten Days of Dawn” - highlight the 1979 homecoming of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, whose return to Iran sparked mass protests that led to the ouster of the shah.

School bells rang out mixing with the wail of train and boat sirens at 9:33 a.m. - the time Ayatollah Khomeini touched down 30 years ago at Tehran’s Mehrabad Airport aboard a chartered Air France plane after 14 years in exile. Ten days later, the shah’s monarchial rule effectively collapsed after nationwide protests.

Government buildings in Tehran were draped in green, white and red bunting of the Iranian flag and main streets were lined with flashing multicolored lights.

Two helicopters dropped a shower of flowers along a 21-mile route from the airport to Behesht-e-Zahra cemetery in southern Tehran, where Ayatollah Khomeini made his first speech. Motorists turned on their headlights and honked in celebration.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad paid homage to Ayatollah Khomeini’s tomb Saturday “to renew allegiance to the late imam’s aspirations,” where he called the 1979 revolution a “new chapter in the life of world communities.” The festivities come about four months before presidential elections in June, with Mr. Ahmadinejad seeking re-election for another four years.

“Today, the revolution is moving forward stronger than before,” he said on state television Saturday. Iran’s top leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, also paid tribute to Ayatollah Khomeini’s shrine in southern Tehran.

But reformers said they were still having to fight for some of the goals of the revolution.

“We have achieved political independence. But two basic goals of the revolution - that is to say, freedom and justice - have not yet been achieved, nor have we achieved the economic development we had been promised,” said Rajabali Mazrouei.

Mr. Mazrouei was one of thousands of reformist candidates who were barred from running in parliamentary elections in 2004 and 2008 by the hard-line Guardian Council, a constitutional watchdog that vets election candidates.

Reformist Ayatollah Hossein Mousavi Tabrizi said that although there are some signs of democracy in Iran, the ruling establishment does not tolerate all voices.

“We have not recognized democracy by all means yet. A foundation of democracy is to respect the choice of the people,” he said.

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