Iran’s government held rallies in cities across the country marking the 43rd anniversary of the takeover of the U.S. embassy in Iran and the Islamic revolution, which brought the current clerical government to power, while anti-government protests continue around the nation.
In 1979, radical students cemented Iran’s Islamic Revolution by storming the U.S. Embassy soon after the fall of the U.S.-backed Shah, and they took hostage 52 Americans who were held there for 444 days.
Iran’s state-run television carried live coverage Friday of state-supported rallies across the country marking the event, with banners saying, “National Day of Fighting Global Arrogance,” while songs called for “Death to America” and schoolchildren carried banners in support of the seizure of the U.S. embassy.
The Associated Press reports that while the rallies in and around the capital, Tehran, were large, the observations in other parts of the country were considerably smaller, with perhaps a few dozen people.
Speaking at a gathering in Tehran, Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi on Friday ridiculed a vow by U.S. President Joe Biden, who said during a campaign speech the U.S. was going to “free” Iran.
Speaking Friday during a campaign stop in California, ahead of Tuesday’s midterm elections, Biden said, “Don’t worry, we’re going to liberate Iran,” promptly adding, “They [the Iranian people] will soon free themselves.”
In his rejoinder, Raisi said that “the U.S. says it wants to free Iran, but I must tell you that Iran liberated itself 43 years ago and will no longer submit to you.”
When asked whether the president was signaling his support for a regime change in Tehran, a Biden aide appear to walk back the statement.
“What he was signaling was our solidarity with the protesters in Iran. And he’s been doing that from the outset,” John Kirby, National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications said in an interview with VOA Friday morning.
“The Iranian leadership is dealing with problems of its own making,” Kirby added. “But ultimately, the future of Iran should belong to the Iranian people.”
When asked whether Biden misspoke, Kirby said the president “was speaking very plainly” about the U.S. standing in solidarity with the Iranian protesters.
Raisi also ridiculed the anti-government protesters, linking them to the U.S. and other western powers they have publicly accused of sponsoring the protests.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said last month at meeting with Iranian activists at the State Department in Washington, “I know that the Iranian regime will try to paint this and other expressions of solidarity with those standing up for their freedoms as evidence that these protests are somehow made outside of Iran and the work of others. And if that’s the case, if they genuinely believe that, they fundamentally do not understand their own people, because this is about Iran’s struggle, the struggle of the people of Iran for the fundamental freedoms that have long been denied them.”
Meanwhile, the anti-government protests that have been ongoing almost daily for the past six weeks continued Friday in Iran’s southeastern Sistan and Baluchestan province, as well as in central Isfahan province, among others.
Video posted to social media shows protesters clashing with security forces, and demonstrators throwing rocks at police who answer with gun fire.
In a statement Friday, U.S. State Department Spokesman Ned Price said Secretary of State Blinken discussed Iran’s violent crackdown and suppression of the Iranian people, with his counterparts from Britain, France, and Germany. The foreign ministers met on the sidelines of the G-7 meeting in Muenster, Germany.
Protests in Iran began in September after the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in custody of the country’s morality police. Analysts say the daily demonstrations have become some of the most serious challenges to the Islamic Republic in its history.
Amini, from Iran’s Kurdistan province, was detained in Tehran for allegedly wearing her hijab, or head scarf, “improperly.” She died while in police custody three days later, with the police reporting Amini had a heart attack.
Amini’s family says she had no history of heart trouble. Rights groups say more than 200 people have died during the protests, and hundreds, if not thousands, have been arrested.
VOA’s Persian Service contributed to this report. Some information came from The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.