Photos of street children forced to polish the shoes of those stepping on US and Israeli flags have caused a wide social media backlash from Iranian internet users.
The photos reportedly show street children brought to a pro-government rally and forced to polish shoes of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and other government supporters. They were published by many citizen journalists and at least one Tehran magazine.
Iran’s use of children for violent extremism, propaganda or spread of hatred drawn criticism from human rights activists and children rights groups. There have been many government led campaigns aimed at children, from the production of suicide terror animations to a recently opened terror themed park.
Described by international media as “Jihadi land,” children with no age limitation can play there at attacking Israel, using wide range of weaponry from Ak47s to heavy machine guns.
This Friday’s rally, attended by Iranian president Hassan Rouhani and foreign minister Mohammed Javed Zarif was an annual commemoration of Iran’s February 1979 revolution. The revolution saw Islamic Shia extremists led by Ayatollah Khomeini collaborate with Marxist-Leninist guerrilla groups to successfully oust the pro-western Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.
Since the early days of the revolution burning or stepping on American and Israeli flags became a usual part of most state orchestrated rallies such as “Al-Quds (Jerusalem) day” or “Down with the USA Day.”
Al-Quds day is dedicated to wiping Israel off the map and was initiated by Islamic republic’s founder Ayatollah Khomeini. Down with the USA Day is the anniversary of 444 days of hostage takings of American diplomats in Tehran.
Despite many articles and analysis published in American, European and Israeli media outlets trying to portrait president Rouhani, foreign minister Zarif and other cabinet members as conciliatory and less hostile toward the west, they continue to demonstrate the same Anti-American behavior even in front of TV cameras.
Photos published by Iranian journalists show 1980 US embassy hostagetaker Masoumeh Ebtekar and Abbas Akhoundi Iranian transport minister and many high ranking Rouhani officials stepping on American flag. Akhoundi, who has been caught walking on American flag, is the Iranian official signature to a heavily criticized multi-billion dollar contract with US aviation giant Boeing.
Despite the continuation of the government’s anti-western propaganda through its monopoly on state media and school system, the time when a significant part of Iranian society were supportive to anti-western sentiments is long gone.
Today 38 years after 1979 revolution the demography and socio-economics of the country have been fundamentally changed. The baby boomer generation, which at least for a short period of time supported Ayatollah’s movement, are now only a minority of Iranian population. The majority consists of millions of Millennials and Y generation-ers born after the revolution and who suffer from unemployment, Taliban-style social restrictions and hopelessness.
Given the widespread social and political dissatisfaction among Iranian citizens along with the increasing international pressure, Iran’s leaders see the revolution’s anniversary rallies as a needed show of unity and support for supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei.