Workers at a small Iranian factory carefully add 50 stars and 13 red-and-white bars to what are supposed to be U.S. flags. They also imprint the blue Star of David on Israeli ones. But their hard work will probably go up in flames. This company produces American and Israeli flags for burning at pro-government rallies in the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Today marks the 41st anniversary of the Iranian revolution, a time that branded the United States as Iran’s greatest foe and the “Great Satan.”
Images of today’s celebrations show many flags being burned. The burnings signal support for Iran’s embattled religious rulers. They’ve also become symbolic of the country’s anger after a U.S. drone strike killed their top general, Qassem Soleimani, early last month.
Diba Parcham Khomein factory produces 1.5 million flags each year. As many as 6,000 of those are American, British, and Israeli. Iranian political hard-liners purchase them for about two dollars apiece—to be stomped on, torn, and ultimately set ablaze. The factory also makes Iranian flags and a small number of Iraqi flags for export.
Iran does not recognize Israel as a country, so workers add “Death to Israel” to Israel’s flags.
“In recent years, the production of the U.S. flags has been tripled,” factory owner Abolfazl Khanjani says. He accepts no responsibility for the flags’ eventual destruction. “What eventually happens to my products is on its end user.”
Khanjani says burning the American flag offers Iranians a direct way to express their anger at U.S. policies, including economic policies choking his country.
“Does the production of U.S. flags for burning pose any danger to anyone? Does it hurt anyone? My answer is no. It is an insult at worst,” he says. “But what about the production of weapons, bombs, and drones for terror that have been used against our people and our country’s general? Has it not harmed my country?”
Despite expressing anger at U.S. policies, Khanjani insists his factory’s decision to supply flags for burning is a simple supply-and-demand business move.
Like many middle-class Iranians, Khanjani holds out hopes for better relations between Tehran and the United States. He says, “I hope there is a day that the flags we produce are presented as a gift.”
(In this Saturday, February 8 photo, workers print U.S. flags at the Diba Parcham Khomein factory in central Iran. AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)