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Home World News Washington Post World News Iran marks 1979 takeover of US embassy amid nationwide protests

Iran marks 1979 takeover of US embassy amid nationwide protests

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Iran Friday marked its 1979 takeover of the US embassy in Tehran as the theocracy faces nationwide protests following the death in September of a 22-year-old woman arrested by the country’s vice squad. Meanwhile, activists in southeastern Iran claimed that security forces killed at least 16 people during protests there.

Iranian state television broadcast live feeds of various commemorations across the country, and some in Tehran waved signs of the triangular Iranian drones that Russia now uses to attack targets in its war against Ukraine. But while the crowds in Tehran looked large with chador-wearing women waving the flag of the Islamic Republic, other commemorations in the country seemed smaller, with only a few dozen people taking part.

Iran’s hard-core President Ebrahim Raisi spoke to people gathered in front of the former US embassy building and criticized those protesting the theocracy.

“Anyone who takes the smallest step toward breaking security and rioting should know that they are stepping toward enemies of the Islamic Revolution,” he said. “Americans think they can carry out the plan that they have implemented here in some countries, such as Syria and Libya. What a false dream!”

Those in attendance at the memorial also waved effigies of French President Emmanuel Macron and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Signs and chants from the crowd shouted, “Death to America! Death to Israel!”

The demonstrations that have rocked Iran for seven weeks after the death of Mahsa Amini pose one of the biggest challenges facing the country’s ecclesiastical rulers since they took power in the 1979 Islamic Revolution. According to human rights activists in Iran, a group monitoring the crackdown on protesters, at least 314 protesters have been killed and 14,170 arrested since the start of the unrest.

The Iranian government has not released an overall death toll, with one state newspaper even making the counterfactual claim that no one had been killed by security forces in the 49 days of protests.

Protests began later on Friday in Iran’s southeastern province of Sistan and Baluchestan, where there has been weeks of unrest. Online videos are said to show people marching through the streets throwing some rocks, with the crackle of gunfire in the background and clouds of tear gas rising. Some protesters appeared to be bloodied, while later dead bodies were reportedly seen in morgues.

Advocacy group HalVash claimed security forces killed at least 16 people on Friday and identified nine of them by name.

The state-run IRNA news agency later reported that protesters had set fire to a police post in Khash, a town in Sistan and Baluchestan, and attacked the local governor’s office.

On Thursday, a Shia cleric was reportedly shot dead in Sistan and Baluchestan, a long, troubled province that is predominantly Sunni.

Hardliners in Iran have long sent government workers and others to such November 4 demonstrations, which have a carnival-like feel to the students and others taking part on Taleqani Street in central Tehran.

This year, however, it remained clear that Iran’s theocracy hopes to strengthen its hard base. Some signs read “We are obedient to the leader,” referring to 83-year-old Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say on all state affairs in the country. During the weeks of demonstrations, calls were made for the death of Khamenei and the overthrow of the government, among other things.

The annual commemoration marks the moment on November 4, 1979, student protesters climbed the embassy fence, angered by then-President Jimmy Carter, forcing the mortally ill Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi to be treated for cancer in the United States.

The students soon took over the entire leafy grounds. A few staffers fled and hid in the home of the Canadian ambassador to Iran before fleeing the country with the help of the CIA, a story dramatized in the 2012 film “Argo.”

The 444-day crisis grounded America as nighttime images of blindfolded hostages played on television sets across the country. Iran finally released all prisoners the day Carter left office on Ronald Reagan’s inauguration day in 1981.

Celebrating the anniversary, State Department spokesman Ned Price said officials are “grateful for the selfless sacrifice of our diplomats who served in Tehran” and called for the release of Americans detained by Iran.

“The Iranian regime has a long history of unfairly imprisoning foreigners for use as political leverage,” Price said.

That enmity between Iran and the US has diminished and increased in recent decades. The US and world powers reached a nuclear deal with Iran in 2015 that drastically curtailed its program in exchange for the lifting of international sanctions. However, then-President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the deal in 2018, sparking years of tensions ever since.

At the end of Thursday in California, at a rally for the US midterm elections, President Joe Biden also stopped his speech to address a crowd holding up cell phones with the message “FREE IRAN”.

“Don’t worry, we’re going to liberate Iran,” Biden said aside at a campaign rally for Democratic Rep. Mike Levin. He added, “They’re going to free themselves pretty soon.”

In his Friday speech, Raisi referred to Biden’s comments.

“Maybe he said this because of a lack of concentration. … He said we are striving to liberate Iran,” Raisi said. “Mr. President! Iran was liberated 43 years ago, and it is determined not to become your prisoner again. We will never become a cash cow.”

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby described Biden’s comments Friday as an expression of “solidarity with the protesters, as he has done from the start”.

“It is up to the people of Iran to determine their future. And that hasn’t changed,” Kirby said.

Biden had said he was willing to let the US rejoin the nuclear deal, but talks have failed. Since the protests began in mid-September, the US position appears to have hardened with officials saying restoring the deal is not a priority during the demonstrations.

On Friday, some protesters waved giant placards of atoms as a reminder that Iran is now enriching uranium closer than ever to weapons level. Non-proliferation experts warn Iran now has enough enriched uranium to make at least one nuclear weapon if it wishes, although Tehran insists the program is peaceful.

Follow Jon Gambrell on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jongambrellAP.





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