Hundreds of thousands of people marched across Iran to celebrate the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution that toppled the US and UK-backed shah.

Images from Iranian state-controlled media show a sea of people in different parts of the country holding pictures of the country's leaders and in a show of support for the theocratic regime. Among the effigies of the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani featured various unflattering effigies of American President Donald Trump, who recently warned Iranians they were "playing with fire".

President Rouhani praised the demonstrators' show of unity against Trump's "threats". "This turnout is a response to false remarks of the new White House rulers and the people are telling the world through their presence that the Iranian people must be spoken to with respect and dignity," he told the rally in Tehran as reported by Iranian media." The Iranian nation has shown during the past 38 years that it will make anyone who speaks to Iranians with the language of threats regret it," he added.

On 7 February, Khamenei rebuffed Trump's statements, saying that "Iranians are not afraid of threats". Following the words of their Supreme Leader, demonstrators were invited to symbolically step over the American and Israeli flags. Videos posted on social media show burning of American and Israeli flags, and chants of "Death to America".

"America and Trump cannot do a damn thing. We are ready to sacrifice our lives for our leader Khamenei," a young Iranian man told state TV, Reuters reported.

But not all Iranians feel as belligerent, and they were keen to show that the problem is the American president, rather than the people. Throughout 8 February, some Iranians took to Twitter with the haghtag #LoveBeyondFlags, thanking Americans for opposing the Trump's travel ban to seven Muslim-majority countries, including Iran. Posts shared on social media from the march showed banners reading "American people are welcomed and invited to visit Iran", "Down with US regime, Long live US people" and "Thanks to American people supporting Muslims".

While the US-based social networks are blocked in the country, millions of Iranians are able to get around the ban with the use of certain softwares. Iranian leaders all have official social media accounts too. Khamenei's English Twitter account shared the major points of his rebuff to Trump on Tuesday, including the line "We appreciate Trump! Because he largely did the job for us in revealing true face of America", which was used in some of the banners at the rallies.

Tensions between the US and Iran have simmered in recent weeks, since Trump put Iran "on notice" in reaction to Iran's ballistic missile test-firing on 29 January – which Iran claims to need for self-defence purposes.

The US imposed new sanctions on individuals and entities on 3 February despite having listed most of these restrictions last year, after the signing of the nuclear disarmament deal. The deal was supposed to usher in a new period of detente between the two countries. Trump's election and his vocal opposition to the deal, which he has described as "horrible" and "terrible" among other criticisms, risks compromising the limited progress made.