Today marks the 35th anniversary of the U.S. Embassy in Iran’s seizure by fervent student revolutionaries. As happens every year, demonstrators marched outside the former embassy in Tehran chanting “Death to America.” “Death to Israel” and “Death to Britain” were also heard, because to hate one of those countries usually means to hate all three.
This year the crowd was particularly large – several thousand strong – because the anniversary coincided with the Muslim holiday of Ashura, one of the holiest days for Shiite Muslims.
On Nov. 4, 1979, student supporters of the Muslim cleric Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who had returned from exile in Paris just months before, seized the U.S. Embassy. The Ayatollah had declared Iran an Islamic Republic in April of that year.
Anger at the U.S. for hosting the hated but seriously ill Shah, albeit begrudgingly, was added to the mix and a fear that the revolution might be betrayed by insiders colluding with Americans set the fire burning. The students demanded that the Shah be extradited.
The Shah never returned to Iran. He left the U.S. and took up refuge in Egypt, where he remained until his death on July 27, 1980, at age 60.
The takeover lasted 444 days, ending on Jan. 20, 1981, the same day Ronald Reagan was sworn in as U.S. president.