Yesterday, the Iranian government threw a party to mark the 30th anniversary of the 1979 seizure of the U.S. embassy in Tehran and the taking of 53 American hostages. But those darn troublesome anti-government demonstrators ruined the whole state-sponsored celebration. The Washington Post reports on the whole party-pooper scene:
As pro-government demonstrators ritually chanted “Death to America!” outside the former U.S. Embassy, opposition protesters used the occasion to vent their anger over a disputed presidential election in June and the harsh crackdown on subsequent protests. Converging on a square about half a mile from the former embassy, the opposition marchers denounced President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with shouts of “Death to the dictator!”
The rival demonstrations — and ensuing street clashes between protesters and security forces — illustrated the split that has come to define Iran three decades after Islamic revolutionaries overthrew the U.S.-backed shah and branded America “the Great Satan.” While Iran’s ruling ayatollahs and government leaders maintain their entrenched distrust of and enmity toward the United States, the young people who form the bulk of Iran’s population have no memory of those revolutionary days, and many opposition supporters favor a more open society and greater international engagement.
The government has struggled to quell protests for five months, deploying security forces on the streets of Tehran and officially banning opposition demonstrations. Yet, on Wednesday, anti-government demonstrators openly defied the ban, even as police fired tear gas and warning shots. In video clips captured by cellphone cameras, helmeted police officers could be seen beating protesters, including women, with batons.
Of course, President Obama–better known in Iran as the “Don’t Want to Meddle-In-Chief” prepared a cautious statement sure to inspire nothing. He said of the protests:
This event helped set the United States and Iran on a path of sustained suspicion, mistrust, and confrontation. I have made it clear that the United States of America wants to move beyond this past, and seeks a relationship with the Islamic Republic of Iran based upon mutual interests and mutual respect. We do not interfere in Iran’s internal affairs. We have condemned terrorist attacks against Iran. We have recognized Iran’s international right to peaceful nuclear power. We have demonstrated our willingness to take confidence-building steps along with others in the international community. We have accepted a proposal by the International Atomic Energy Agency to meet Iran’s request for assistance in meeting the medical needs of its people. We have made clear that if Iran lives up to the obligations that every nation has, it will have a path to a more prosperous and productive relationship with the international community. Iran must choose. We have heard for thirty years what the Iranian government is against; the question, now, is what kind of future it is for. The American people have great respect for the people of Iran and their rich history. The world continues to bear witness to their powerful calls for justice, and their courageous pursuit of universal rights. It is time for the Iranian government to decide whether it wants to focus on the past, or whether it will make the choices that will open the door to greater opportunity, prosperity, and justice for its people