Rare night of street parties in Iran after Rouhani win
TEHRAN - Agence France-PresseIt was a rare night of open-air partying in Iran on May 20 as tens of thousands of supporters of President Hassan Rouhani took to the streets to celebrate his re-election.
For many, it was a chance to breathe easily again after a tense campaign between Rouhani and his hardline opponent Ebrahim Raisi.
“I’m happy and a bit relieved after a month of stress,” said 27-year-old Afshin as he joined a large crowd gathered in Vali Asr Square of central Tehran.
Across the country, young men and women danced and sang together in the streets until the early hours of the morning, with many taking advantage of the more relaxed atmosphere that attends presidential elections every four years.
As well as the purple of the Rouhani campaign, many wore the green of the reformist Green Movement, which was harshly suppressed after mass protests in 2009.
“Ya Hossein, Mir Hossein,” shouted the crowd in Vali Asr, combining a popular religious slogan with the name of Mir Hossein Mousavi, a reformist leader who has been under house arrest since 2011.
Cars honked amid patriotic chants as more and more people filled the streets after dark, completely blocking traffic across wealthier north Tehran.
One group screamed with joy as a young boy threw batches of Rouhani photos into the air.
Others held posters of former president Mohammad Khatami, who has been banned from appearing in the media for supporting the Green Movement.
“I’m very happy because I’ve reached what I wanted, which was not Mr. Rouhani himself, but the path of reform, freedom and progress,” said Pegah, 25.
Many were determined to ensure Rouhani now kept his vows to improve civil liberties and reform the economy.
“In the same way we campaigned for him, we will demand he keeps his promises,” said Afshin.
Videos on social media showed huge crowds in all four corners of the country.
“We didn’t leave Mashhad, we took it back,” chanted young people in the holy city of Mashhad, Raisi’s hometown.
It was a direct rebuke to Mashhad’s Friday prayer leader -- and Raisi’s father-in-law -- Ayatollah Ahmad Allamolhoda who last year banned concerts and told young music-lovers to “Go somewhere else.”
A video spreading widely on social media even seemed to show a large impromptu rave breaking out in the northeastern city, with huge numbers dancing to techno music.
In the Azeri-speaking city of Tabriz in northwest Iran, crowds performed folk dances and local songs at a packed stadium as teenagers waved lighters in the air, while in the southwestern city of Ahvaz, it was the drum-heavy Bandari music that got thousands of revelers dancing.
The police were largely powerless to control the exuberance, and despite a few scuffles, no arrests were reported.
In Tehran’s Vali Asr Square, police tried in vain to disperse the crowds, saying they lacked a permit to gather, only to back down when the numbers became too great, and let the party continue.