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Iran to mark national holiday with missile launches

On Monday, February 1, Iran will start traditional 10-day celebrations of the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, with missile and satellite launches expected.

On Monday, February 1, Iran will start traditional 10-day celebrations of the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, with missile and satellite launches expected.

The festivities, known as the "Decade of Fajr" (Dawn) will culminate on February 11, the date when revolutionary forces, led by the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, defeated pro-government troops in armed street clashes.

The celebrations traditionally coincide with demonstrations of the country's recent advancements, mainly in the military sphere. This year, Iranian authorities plan to launch three satellites and to hold large-scale military drills, thought to involve missile tests.

In addition, Iran's hard-line leader Mahmound Ahmadinejad is expected to make a statement on the country's recent achievements in uranium enrichment.

During the festivities, opposition forces might again gather for an attempt to revive demonstrations against alleged fraud in June presidential elections. The latest major unrest in the Iranian capital took place late last year during Ashura, a 10-day period of religious ceremonies.

Below is a brief historical background on the holiday:

- The Decade of Fajr celebrations will officially begin at 9:33 local time (06:03 GMT) on Monday, the exact time Khomeini returned to the country from exile. This date, along with February 11 and April 1 (the Islamic Republic Day), are the three major Islamic Revolution holidays.

- The first protests against U.S.-backed Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi started in 1977. The demonstrations, which initially gathered a few hundred people, later grew into mass rallies.

- The Iranian revolution officially began on January 8, 1978, when the first major opposition rally was clamped down on by the government in the city of Qom. Protests against the rule of the Shah, organized by the Islamic clergy, continued in all major Iranian cities until early 1979.

- As tensions between the authorities and the opposition almost paralyzed the country in late 1978, the Shah made an attempt to appease protestors by giving the post of prime minister to an opposition leader, Shapour Bakhtiar.

- Under the growing pressure, the Shah and the empress had to leave Iran on January 16, 1979. The royal family was granted asylum in Egypt following a denial by the United States.

- Prime Minister Bakhtiar dissolved the Shah's secret police, released political prisoners, pledged free elections and invited Khomeini supporters to join the national unity government. He later allowed Khomeini, who had been in exile since 1964, to return to Iran.

- Greeted by a welcoming crowd of several million Iranians, Khomeini landed at Tehran airport in a chartered Air France Boeing 747 on February 1. Shortly after his arrival, he made an historical speech at the Behesht-e Zahra cemetery, in which he lashed out at Bakhtiar's government. Four days later he appointed Mehdi Bazargan as his own competing prime minister.

- Armed clashes between forces loyal to Bakhtiar and pro-Khomeini military groups broke out on February 9 and spread to the whole capital in the next few days.

- On February 11, Iran's Supreme Military Council declared its neutrality in the conflict, resulting in Bakhtiar's overthrow.

- On April 1, Iran declared itself an Islamic Republic, following the March 31 nationwide referendum


MOSCOW, January 29 (RIA Novosti)


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