In contrast with official efforts to negotiate a rapprochement with the U.S., thousands of Iranians took to the streets Monday shouting “death to America” and “death to Israel” and burned American and Israeli flags in rallies marking the anniversary of the 1979 takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.
In Iran, the anniversary is known as the "National Day to Fight Global Arrogance."
While rallies were held in various cities, the main demonstration took place in front of the former U.S. Embassy compound in the capital of Tehran, which some Iranians refer to as the "Den of Spies" or the “Den of Espionage.” The site today houses a museum displaying so-called American "crimes" against Iran.
French news agency Agence France-Presse reported that demonstrators – a large number of whom were students - raised effigies of President Barack Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Other protesters held replicas of centrifuges used in nuclear enrichment as a sign of "resistance against sanctions" to Western powers aiming to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions, AFP reported.
The Iranian government-funded Islamic Republic News Agency described the scene this way: “Shouting for global justice, the Iranians stage huge demonstrations nationwide to voice their hatred towards the global arrogance and declare their will to fight world arrogant powers.”
It appears the rallies were encouraged by Iran’s leadership, as state television issued an appeal for high turnout to mark the anniversary. This came despite the historic telephone call between Obama and Iran’s new President Hassan Rouhani during the United Nations General Assembly gathering in September, the first such contact between U.S. and Iranian leaders in more than three decades.
Besides the anti-American chants being voiced in the streets, Iranian parliament members joined in a chorus of “death to America” during a parliamentary session on Sunday.
Quoting Iran’s Tasnim news agency, the Times of Israel reported that Vice Parliamentary Speaker Mohammad Hossein Aboutorabifard called the 1979 embassy takeover a symbol of “resistance of righteousness against falsehood.” After his speech, members of parliament joined together in a “Death to America” chant.
According to Iran's semi-official Fars News Agency, Iran’s defense ministry issued a statement Sunday that in part emphasized that the Iranian people will always chant the “death to U.S.” phrase as “a symbol of their resistance against the world arrogance.”
Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Sunday tied the 1979 U.S. Embassy takeover with the National Security Agency surveillance controversy, saying the hostage-takers were three decades ahead of their time when they called the American embassy a “den of espionage.”
“On that day, our youth named the U.S. Embassy the 'den of espionage’ and today, after over three decades, U.S. embassies in the European countries, which are American allies, are called nest of espionage,” he sai,d according to Iran’s English-language Press TV.
Rouhani marks his 100th day in office next week, as questions about his moderate image in the West are being raised by the Washington-based think tank Foundation for Defense of Democracies, which reviewed his tenure thus far and found that the persecution of Christians and Baha’i continues, as does the harassing of homosexuals.
AFP called the anti-American rhetoric voiced at the rallies “a setback to hopes for a thaw in relations.”
After the hardline students supporting the Islamic Revolution stormed the embassy on Nov. 4, 1979, 52 Americans were held hostage for 444 days.