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Tehran’s Turn: The New patriots: Long Divided, Iran Unites Against Trump and Saudis in a Nationalist Fervor

Recently, missiles were put on display in city centers so that families and children could pose for photos in front of them. State-run television has been promoting an annual pilgrimage where millions participate in a walk into neighboring Iraq, as a symbol of national and religious strength. Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who rarely comments on music, cited “Iran, if They Break Your Heart,” a homage to Iran, as one of his favorite songs.

Many Iranians now cheer when a missile is tested, said Hamidreza Jalaeipour, a professor of sociology and a leading reformist, “even those who are completely secular.” The tests, he added, “are making them feel strong and safe.”

The pressure from the United States and the growing threats from Saudi Arabia are creating an us-against-them atmosphere, Mr. Jalaeipour said.

The new solidarity in the face of outside threats is not new in Iran, nor is it insulating the government from all criticism. After the earthquake earlier this month in western Iran, for instance, many people blasted state officials on social media for failing to provide timely help.

Yet, in a demonstration of the newfound spirit, Iranians from across the country pitched in to gather water, food and tents and transported the aid with their own cars to the disaster zone.

“There is just a big feeling of unity,” said Pouria Gorji, an office manager who personally delivered four trucks of supplies to the quake area. “We come together when we are hurt.”

The state’s theocratic ideology has long dictated an artificial version of nationalism, where everything is related to Islam. Love for Iran’s long pre-Islamic history has been illegal in some instances, and often deliberately ignored by officials and state television.

But in light of the new national unity, those restraints have been relaxed so long as the presentations encourage patriotism.

In October, for example, the government allowed one of the former palaces of the despised, pro-Western shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, to be used for a multimedia performance where actors reenacted parts of the ‘‘Shahnameh,’’ or book of Kings, which describes Iran’s long pre-Islamic history. The epic poem depicts a time — much like now — when Iran was surrounded by rivals and isolated.

One evening around 4,000 middle-class Iranians, with men wearing suits and women carrying designer handbags, gathered at the palace in North Tehran. Images of Persepolis, the ancient palace of Darius the Great, were projected on the building, as famous actors played legendary figures from Iran’s long history.

As an encore, a traditional singer, Homayoun Shajarian, performed ‘‘My Iran,’’ a love song to the country. People stood out of respect, many with tears streaming down their faces. The venue was sold out for 30 days straight.

“I felt so proud. There was an overwhelming sense of unity,” said Soghol Sheikhan, an accountant, who was at the concert. “I got goose bumps.”

Source: NYT > World

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