TEHRAN, Feb. 23 (UPI) -- Iranian opposition leader Mohammad Khatami said his supporters made up the majority of those present during Feb. 11 demonstrations.
Iran declared a national holiday Feb. 11 to celebrate the 31st anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, which overthrew the monarchy in 1979. State-run media showed huge rallies in the streets of Tehran demonstrating in support of the government.
Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said such widespread support for the principles of the Islamic republic is a sign for the opposition movement challenging the clerical regime in Tehran.
Khatami, a former president and challenger in contested June elections, said his opposition supporters represented the "protesting majority" during Feb. 11 commemorations, reports Radio Zamaneh, a Persian news service in the Netherlands.
He praised his backers for showing "grace and tolerance" during the anniversary celebrations. Demonstrations marking the Shiite holy day of Ashura turned violent, leaving nearly a dozen protesters dead.
Tehran launched a major crackdown against dissent following the unrest that greeted the results from the June presidential election. Anti-government protesters have used national holidays to voice their frustration with the clerical regime.
Iran celebrates the new year, Nowruz, in March.