DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (HPD) — Iran on Friday marked the 1979 takeover of the U.S. embassy in Tehran as its theocracy faces widespread protests over the death of a 22-year-old woman who had been detained by morality police. from the country.
Iranian television broadcast live footage of various counter-demonstrations across the country, as some in the capital Tehran held up banners of the domestically-made drones that Russia is using in its attacks in Ukraine. But while the crowds in the capital seemed large, including chador-clad women waving the Islamic Republic flag, attendance elsewhere seemed smaller, with just a few dozen participants.
President Ebrahim Raisi is expected to speak in front of the former US embassy in Tehran to mark the date. Protesters also carried effigies of French President Emmanuel Macron and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Signs and chants from attendees read “Death to America!” “Death to Israel!”
The protests that have rocked the country for more than six weeks, since Mahsa Amini died, are one of the biggest challenges to the ruling theocracy since clerics took power in the 1979 Islamic Revolution. At least 300 protesters have been killed. and another 14,000 have been arrested since the unrest began, according to Activists for Human Rights in Iran, a group that monitors the crackdown on protesters.
For a long time, the conservative leadership has sent government officials, among others, to events such as the demonstrations on November 4, which have a carnivalesque character for students and others who walk Taleqani street, in the center of the capital.
This year, however, it was clear that the Iranian theocracy hoped to motivate its more conservative base. Some banners could read “We obey the leader”, in reference to the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, 83, who has the last word in all matters of state. In the anti-government demonstrations, Khamenei’s death and the fall of the government have been called for.
The annual commemoration of November 4 commemorates the date on which students climbed the fence of the diplomatic mission in Washington, angry that the then president of the United States, Jimmy Carter, allowed the Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who was already very ill, to receive cancer treatment in the country.
The students soon took control of the entire complex. Some workers fled and hid in the home of the Canadian ambassador before escaping the country with the help of the CIA, a story dramatized in the 2012 film “Argo.”
The crisis, which lasted 444 days, paralyzed the United States as nightly images of blindfolded hostages appeared on televisions across the country. Iran released all the captives the day Carter left the White House, coinciding with Ronald Reagan’s inauguration in 1981.
That feud between the two nations has seen its ups and downs in the decades since. In 2015, Washington and the nuclear powers reached an agreement with Iran that drastically limited its program in exchange for relief from international sanctions. But three years later, in 2018, then-President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the United States from the pact, reinvigorating tensions.
On Thursday night, during a campaign rally in California on the eve of the midterm elections, President Joe Biden paused his speech to address a group that held up the message “Free Iran” on their cell phones.
“Don’t worry, we are going to liberate Iran,” Biden said. “They are going to be free very soon.”
Biden had shown his willingness for Washington to return to the historic nuclear deal, but the talks have broken down. Since the start of the protests in mid-September, the US stance appears to have hardened, with officials arguing that bringing the pact back is not a priority in the current situation.
Gambrell is on Twitter at: www.twitter.com/jongambrellHPD.