President Hassan Rouhani called for unity across Iran’s political spectrum as the country marked the 39th anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, weeks after antigovernment protests spread across the country.
Hundreds of thousands of people attended government-orchestrated demonstrations in Tehran and other cities on February 11, chanting slogans against the United States and Israel and burning flags of the two countries.
In the capital, demonstrators converged on the central Azadi (Freedom) Square, where Rouhani delivered a speech.
"I request that the 40th year of the revolution, the coming year, be the year of unity,” he told the massive crowd. “I ask conservatives, reformists, moderates, all parties, and all people to come and be together.
"When the revolution took place, we pushed some off the revolutionary train whom we shouldn't have," he also said, adding, "Today, we have to let them board the train again."
The rallies commemorate February 11, 1979, when followers of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini ousted a U.S.-backed monarch, Shah Reza Pahlavi.
This year’s celebrations come after antiestablishment unrest spread to more than 70 Iranian cities and towns in late December and early January -- the biggest protests since millions of people took to the streets after a disputed presidential election in 2009.
At least 25 people were killed and more than 3,000 detained during the latest wave of protests, in which some demonstrators called for Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to step down.
In his speech, Rohani said the country has “progressed in many fields” since the revolution, but he also pointed to “shortcomings.”
"Maybe in decision-making, we have had delays. Maybe we haven't been speaking transparently with our people," he said.
The Iranian president also pledged more job opportunities and better economic conditions, as the country's economy still struggles despite the 2015 nuclear between Tehran and world powers that has curbed Iran's nuclear program in exchange for the easing of crippling international sanctions targeting Tehran.
Iran insists its nuclear program is only for peaceful purposes, while the United States and other countries claim it has been trying to develop nuclear weapons.
Western countries have also raised concerns about Iran's ballistic-missile program, which Tehran says is defensive in nature and not negotiable.
In a show of defiance, Iran put its self-produced Ghadr ballistic missiles, which have a range of up to 2,000 kilometers, on display in a Tehran central street on February 11.