, TEHRAN, Feb 11 – Hundreds of thousands of Iranians, waving flags and banners, marched towards a key Tehran square on Friday to mark the 32nd anniversary of the Islamic revolution which toppled the US-backed shah.
Television footage showed men, women and children, braving the cold and cloudy weather and marching from several parts of Tehran towards Azadi Square (Freedom Square) where hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is due to address them.
Similar marches have started in provincial cities to mark the annual event, which has become a key rallying point for the Islamic regime.
The 1979 revolution toppled the monarchy of shah Mohammad Reza, a key US ally in the region. Diplomatic relations between Tehran and Washington were broken off soon after and remain so to this day.
Late on Thursday, Ahmadinejad set the tone for his speech on Friday by hitting out at Western powers and Iran\’s arch-foe Israel.
"The bullying and arrogant powers are on the verge of doom," state news agency IRNA quoted the hardliner as telling diplomats at a reception he hosted to mark the anniversary.
Referring to the US military presence on Iran\’s borders in both Afghanistan and Iraq as well as in the Gulf, Ahmadinejad said: "The bases of bullying powers around the world will be eradicated, and occupations around the world and the region will soon come to an end."
He said the increasing "participation of people in managing the world will lead to Zionists giving up their territories to Palestinians."
The European Union is boycotting events marking the anniversary in protest at the hanging of Zahra Bahrami, an Iranian-Dutch woman executed by Tehran for drug smuggling.
"All EU members will boycott various events related to the Iranian national holiday Thursday and Friday in Tehran, Brussels and Geneva," a diplomatic source told AFP.
The boycott, agreed by the political and security committee of the European Union on February 4 was "in protest of the execution of Ms. Zahra Bahrami" who was hanged on January 29, the source said.
The Netherlands has condemned the hanging of Bahrami, who was initially arrested during mass protests over Ahmadinejad\’s disputed 2009 re-election, which sparked a deadly crackdown, but executed on drug smuggling charges.
Her execution prompted the Dutch government to freeze all diplomatic contact with what it labelled a "barbarous regime" in Iran.