Iran: 43 Years After U.S. Embassy Takeover

On November 4, Iran held some 900 rallies nationwide to commemorate the takeover of the U.S. Embassy in 1979. Demonstrators chanted “Death to America” outside the former embassy compound in Tehran, burned American flags, and waved posters vowing loyalty to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. They also carried posters of atoms, signaling support for Iran’s controversial nuclear program, and cardboard cutouts of Shahed-136 suicide drones, which Iran has provided Russia for its war in Ukraine. The highly orchestrated commemoration was a stark contrast to the spontaneous anti-regime protests that erupted on September 16 and subsequently spread to 29 of Iran’s 31 provinces.

Raisi in Tehran
President Raisi in front of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran

In Tehran, President Ebrahim Raisi condemned U.S. foreign policy, citing its role in 300 wars and 62 coups over more than seven decades. “America is ready to destroy many nations and people everywhere in the world in order to achieve its interests,” he charged at a podium in front of the U.S. Embassy. 

Raisi also accused Washington of orchestrating the protests that broke out nationwide after the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish woman, on September 16. “Anyone taking the smallest step in the direction of breaching security and riots, must know that they are stepping in the direction of enemies of the Islamic Revolution,” he said. “Americans think they can execute the plan they carried out in some countries like Syria and Libya here. What a false dream!”

President Joe Biden had expressed support for Iranian protestors during a campaign rally on November 3. “Don’t worry, we’re gonna free Iran. They’re gonna free themselves pretty soon,” he said in California. Raisi, in his speech on November 4, responded, “Mr. President! Iran was liberated 43 years ago, and it’s determined not to become your captive again. We will never become a milking cow.”

Major General Hossein Salami, the commander of the Revolutionary Guards, pledged a response to foreign interference. “The enemies are well aware that we will definitely respond to their interventionist and mischievous behavior; but now, we cannot say where and how this will take place,” he told reporters in Tehran on November 4. “The enemies have put their forces on alert and are worried the Islamic Republic may take action against them,” he boasted.

On November 2, two days before the commemoration, Supreme Leader Khamenei charged that the United States had “initiated hybrid warfare” against Iran. “The enemy, namely the United States, the Zionist regime, some insidious and malicious European powers, and some groups, came to the scene with all of their capabilities.”

Khamenei, however, said that U.S. power and influence were on the decline. The United States “does not have an important position in the new [world] order and is isolated,” he added. “It will have no choice but to stop interfering in various parts of the world.”

On November 4, the State Department issued the following statement:

"Today marks 43 years since the takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.  Followers of Ayatollah Khomeini held our diplomats hostage for 444 days, tormenting them and, by extension, their families at home in the United States. We are grateful for the selfless sacrifice of our diplomats who served in Tehran – just as we are for the service of all American diplomats who work to advance U.S. national security interests around the world, often under harrowing circumstances.

"Beyond the Embassy takeover, the Iranian regime has a long history of unjustly imprisoning foreign nationals for use as political leverage, and we remain committed to securing the release of all wrongfully detained U.S. citizens. We again underscore that Iran must allow U.S. citizens Emad Shargi, Morad Tahbaz, and Siamak Namazi to return home to their loved ones." 

The U.S. Embassy was seized in the first year of the revolution, when students stormed the compound to protest the Carter administration’s decision to take in the ailing former Shah for medical treatment. Student leaders later said that their intention was to hold the embassy for a few days, but 52 Americans were held for 444 days.

In January 1981, Tehran and Washington agreed to terms that would free the hostages in exchange for the United States releasing Iran’s frozen financial assets; Iran was also under mounting pressure after Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Iran in September 1980. But Iran deliberately delayed the hostages’ release until Jimmy Carter left office. They were released hours after Ronald Reagan became President.

November 4 is a national holiday known as “National Student Day” to commemorate the role of students in the embassy takeover as well as the killing of students protests against the Shah in 1978. For decades, students were bussed to the annual event to ensure large numbers. November 4 is also known as “National Day of Fighting Global Arrogance,” a reference to the United States. The following are photos from the 43rd anniversary of the embassy takeover. 



Burning the American and Israeli flags
A boy pinches an effigy of Uncle Sam
Young women flash the "V for Victory" sign for victory over the United States
Demonstrators in front of the fence of the former U.S. embassy compound
Demonstrators carry large posters of the Shahed-136 drone and the atomic symbol representing Iran's nuclear program 



Thousands turned out at Naghsh-e Jahan Square in central Isfahan
A young woman wrapped in the Iranian flag flashes her palm, which says "I am at your service, Khamenei"
Despite widespread protests, demonstrators backed the Islamic regime



A young woman in northwest Ardabil supports Supreme Leader Khamenei



Demonstrators carried a long banner of the Iranian flag in southwestern Ahvaz


Young women pose for a selfie in northwestern Tabriz



Burning the American and Israeli flags in northern Qazvin


Photo Credits: Tasnim News Agency (CC BY 4.0), Fars News Agency (CC BY 4.0), Mehr News Agency (CC BY 4.0)