Iran Celebrates Revolution's 35th Anniversary

The anniversary comes at a time when Iran's new president appears to be trying to reduce tensions over the country's nuclear program, and seeking closer ties with the West. Renee Montagne talks to Thomas Erdbrink, the Tehran bureau chief for The New York Times, about the celebrations in Iran.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

The morning in Tehran brought the sound a boys choir singing Death, Death, Death to America. That's one of the ways the Iranians were marking the 35th anniversary of their Islamic Revolution. This comes at a time when Iran's new president appears to be trying to reduce tensions over its nuclear program and also seeking closer ties with the West. In a moment, we'll hear from a former nuclear negotiator for Iran who is now a visiting scholar at Princeton.

We got that detail about the choir from New York Times bureau chief Thomas Erdbrink. He's been on the streets of the Iranian capital watching the celebrations and tweeting. Good morning.

THOMAS ERDBRINK: Good morning.

MONTAGNE: So tell us more about that scene.

ERDBRINK: Well, the annual ceremonies for the anniversary of the Islamic Revolution are always a bit of a carnival, with a serious ideological undertone, of course. So you can see children, TV stars, the drum band of the Revolutionary Guards, and famous actors and political figures all joining up to kind of rally the people along Iran's revolutionary ideology. So then it might just happen that you come across a group of choir boys singing songs that translate as in Death, Death, Death, Death to America.

Now, of course not everybody is as ideologically as this person. But generally the crowd that comes to such a celebration is very much pro the ideology of the Islamic Republic.

MONTAGNE: Though would you say that that crowd reflects what most Iranians feel these days?

ERDBRINK: I think that it's very hard to measure. What is clear, and President Rouhani sort of addressed this in his speech today, is that a lot of people are not satisfied. They want to see a better economy. They want to see more jobs. They want to see more cooperation with the world. And as President Rouhani was speaking, he touched upon these issues. He said the problem of the Internet, as he called it - there is major filtering here in Iran, it's very hard to visit millions of websites - would be solved in the future.

Well, from these kind of remarks, it's all clear that at least some in the Iranian leadership very much understand that a lot of people are, beyond the ideology, dissatisfied.

MONTAGNE: Nuclear talks between Iran and world powers resume next week. And from what you see this morning, do you think people there are focused on that?

ERDBRINK: I think people are very much focused on the nuclear talks, because they directly influence their lives. President Rouhani touched upon this by saying how the first round of talks had broken the shackles of sanctions, as he called it, and how it's opening the road towards more progress. People feel the effects of inflation brought about by the sanctions and also by the mismanagement of the previous government. And they feel that if this issue is solved, then of course there will be more progress in their lives.

And people are anxious to see what will happen next week and in the coming months.

MONTAGNE: That was Thomas Erdbrink, New York Times Tehran bureau chief, speaking to us from Tehran. Thanks very much.

ERDBRINK: Thank you.

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