DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Iran’s theocracy on Friday after the death in September of a 22-year-old woman arrested by the country’s morality police to mark the 1979 seizure of the US embassy in Tehran faces nationwide protests.
Crowds in Tehran appeared large with chador-wearing women waving Islamic Republic flags, while other commemorations in the country had only a few dozen people in attendance.
Iran’s hardline President Ebrahim Raisi addressed those gathered in front of the former US Embassy building, criticizing those protesting the theocracy.
“Anyone who breaches security and takes the smallest step towards inciting riots must know that he or she is facing an enemy of the Islamic Revolution.” I think I can execute the plan I executed here. What a false dream!”
Those in attendance at the ceremony also waved portraits of French President Emmanuel Macron and Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
At least 300 protesters have been killed and 14,000 arrested since the riots began seven weeks ago, according to Iranian human rights activists, a group that monitors the crackdown on protesters.
The Iranian government has not released a total death toll, with one state-run newspaper countering that no security forces were killed in the 49-day protests.
Later on Friday, protests began in Iran’s southeastern provinces of Sistan and Balchestan, ensuing weeks of unrest. Some protesters appeared bloodied in online videos, but activists said several were killed.
Hardliners inside Iran, who bussed government officials and others into the November 4 demonstrations, have created a carnival-like atmosphere for those attending downtown Tehran.
But this year, it was clear that Iran’s theocracy hopes to revitalize its hardline base. Weeks of demonstrations included cries for the death of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the overthrow of the government.
On November 4, 1979, student demonstrators enraged by then-President Jimmy Carter climbed over the embassy fence to allow the fatally ill Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi to receive cancer treatment in the United States. At that time, the annual memorial ceremony was held.
The students quickly occupied the green grounds.
The 444-day crisis has riveted America as nightly footage of blindfolded hostages aired on national television. Iran released the prisoners of war the day Carter resigned in 1981.
Hostility between Iran and the United States has ebbed and surged in the decades since.
The United States and world powers reached a nuclear deal with Iran in 2015, slashing its program in exchange for the lifting of international sanctions. But then-President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the deal in 2018, sparking years of tension since.
Late Thursday, President Joe Biden also stopped his speech and addressed a crowd holding up cellphones displaying the message “FREE IRAN.”
“Don’t worry, they’ll be released soon,” Biden said at a campaign rally for California Democrat Mike Levin.
In Friday’s speech, Raishi referred to Biden’s comments.
“Perhaps he said this because of a lack of concentration….He said we aim to liberate Iran,” Raishi said. I have been set free, but I will never be your prisoner again.”
Biden had said he wanted the United States to rejoin the nuclear deal, but negotiations fell apart. has stated that restoring the
Gallery: Iran Marks Anniversary of Embassy Occupation