Prospective realtors in Iran checking out locations for the proposed new US diplomatic office might do better than to suggest a return to their old Talequani Street address in downtown Tehran.

Almost 30 years after militant students kept 52 American diplomats and other embassy staff hostage for up to 444 days, the Talequani Street complex is still the target of anti-US vigilance.

“The Muslim fighter students who invaded the Nest for Spying former US Embassy dignified the nation” screams one of the many hand-painted murals covering the high walls of the former embassy, also known locally as the US Den of Inequity and the US Den of Espionage.

Others include:

  • Today the United States government is regarded as the most hated government in the world
  • The only way to defy the wild wolf of Zionism and the transgression of the Great Satan (the USA) is sacrificial
  • Under God’s grace we shall give in against the dictatorship of no government, even the United States, and I confidently say that Islam shall prevail over the superpowers.

All quotes are attributed to Supreme Leader and founder of the world’s first and only Islamic republic, the Ayatollah Khomeini.

Alongside these messages are images of a skeletal Statue of Liberty, broken winged eagles, a stars and stripes patterned gun, “made in USA” bombs being dropped from an aircraft, a ghostly sketch of a captured US marine, barefoot Iranian martyrs marching towards doves of peace, fingers holding a lighted match next to a radar or satellite dish, and of course The Big AK himself.

Today the former US embassy is also headquarters for an Iranian militia group. Steel grates, barbed wire, security cameras and armed guards remain, as does the Great Seal of the United States, roughly chiselled off but with enough detail remaining to readily identify the former tenant.

Uppermost branches of large lush trees can be seen over the fence from the nearby bus shelter and a huge “Down with USA” sign dominates the entrance to the Talequani metro station that’s just outside the dull green metal gates through which militia members come and go.

A corner shop competes with birdsong and noise from relentless traffic as it broadcasts its CDs and DVDs of calls to action and displays colour photographs of the maimed, tortured and dead in its side window.

And this is just one block of Talequani Street. The Museum of Martyrs is just down the road and the faces of the heroes of the eight year Iran-Iraq war stare out from the sides of its high rise buildings.

But it seems what’s fuelled fundamentalist zeal for 30 years is merely mileage for everyday Iranians. A favourite tale of one of cab driver is: “We have a restaurant here in south Tehran that has a special dish on its menu. You can order George Bush on a plate… it’s made from donkey.”

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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