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Iran celebrates 1979 U.S. embassy takeover as anti-gov’t protests continue

Amid nationwide protests demanding the downfall of the regime, clergy-ruled Iran held state-sponsored rallies on Friday marking the 1979 seizure of the U.S. embassy in Tehran.

The years-long feud marring U.S.-Iran relations was sealed on November 4, 1979, when radical Islamist students stormed the embassy in Tehran soon after the fall of Washington-Backed Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. As many as 52 Americans were held hostage there for 444 days.

On Friday, the memory of those events, preserved by the Ayatollah regime for which the assault on the embassy is an expression of triumph over the corrupted West, continues to live in many Iranians. State television broadcast images of anti-American demonstrations attended by tens of thousands of people across the country on the “National Day of Fighting Global Arrogance”. The air resounded with songs calling for “Death to America” – a country seen as Iran’s arch-foe and the embodiment of Satan.

Schoolchildren were seen carrying banners in support of the storming of the embassy and waving Iranian flags. It remains unknown whether they participated in the pro-government demonstration voluntarily or were compelled to obey.

The pro-establishment demonstrations offered a stark contrast to the wave of protests that has swept the Islamic Republic since a 22-year-old Kurdish woman, Mahsa Amini, died in morality police custody on September 16 after being arrested for being inappropriately dressed, Reuters reported.

Although not the first outpour of dissatisfaction in Iran’s post-Shah history, the ongoing protests are much more disseminated across the country than, for instance, the June 2009 presidential elections protests. As such they pose a different type of challenge to the authority of the leadership enshrined by the 1979 Islamic Revolution, with many young Iranians overcoming the fear that has stifled dissent ever since.

To give vent to their frustration, many women have been burning their veils, and university students openly expressing their anger going as far as calling for the death of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The protests has also cut broadly through various social strata.

However, the regime has been bearing down heavily on protesters. According to the activist HRANA news agency’s Friday report, as many as 300 protesters had been killed in the unrest as of Thursday including 47 minors, as well as 37 members of the security forces.

More than 14,000 people have been arrested, including 385 students, in protests in 134 cities and towns, and 132 universities, it said.

Some analysts, however, have their hopes low for the efficiency of the protests, pointing to the weak organisation and logistics skills on the part of the protesters. An expert on Iran told TVP World, under the rule of anonymity, that drug dealers were denouncing protesters to the regime’s security forces. “It’s better to rat on your client and stay at large rather than rot in a cell,” he said.

Iran has pointed the finger of blame at the U.S., other foreign enemies and internal troublemakers, saying their goal was to throw the country into disarray.

On Thursday, U.S. President Joe Biden vowed to “free” Iran, and said that demonstrators working against the country’s government would soon succeed in freeing themselves.

“Don’t worry, we’re gonna free Iran. They’re gonna free themselves pretty soon,” President Biden said during a campaign speech in California, as dozens of demonstrators gathered outside holding banners supporting the Iranian protesters.

The official, however, did not provide any details on how he and his administration intended to deliver their promises.

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