Iranian students storm British embassy in Tehran

2011-11-29 16:10

Tehran -  Hard-line Iranian students stormed the British diplomatic compounds in Tehran on Tuesday, bringing down the Union Jack flag and throwing documents from windows in scenes reminiscent of the anger against Western powers after the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

The mob surged past riot police into British embassy compound two days after Iran's parliament approved a bill that reduces diplomatic relations with Britain following London's support of recently upgraded Western sanctions on Tehran over its disputed nuclear program.

Less than two hours later, police appeared to regain control of the site. But the official IRNA news agency said about 300 protesters entered the British ambassador's residence in another part of the city and replaced British flags with Iranian ones.

The British foreign office harshly denounced the melee and said Iran has a "clear duty" under international law to protect diplomats and offices.

"We are outraged by this," said the statement. "It is utterly unacceptable and we condemn it."

It said a "significant number" of protesters entered the compound and caused vandalism, but gave no other details on damage or whether diplomatic staff was inside the embassy, although the storming occurred after business hours.

The semi-official Mehr news agency said embassy staff had left the compound before the mobs entered.

The protesters broke through after clashing with anti-riot police and chanting for its takeover. "Death to England", some cried in the first significant assault of a foreign diplomatic area in Iran in years.

More protesters poured into the compound as police tried to clear the site.

Smoke rose from some areas of the embassy grounds and the British flag was replaced with a banner in the name of 7th century Shi'ite saint, Imam Hussein.

Occupiers also tore down a picture of Queen Elizabeth II.

The occupiers called for the closure of the embassy calling it a "spy den" - the same phrase used after militants stormed the US embassy in Tehran in 1979 and held 52 hostages for 444 days.

In the early moments of the seige, protesters tossed out papers from the compound and hauled down the US flag. Washington and Tehran have no diplomatic relations since then.

The rally outside the British Embassy - on a main street in downtown Tehran - included protesters carrying photographs of nuclear scientist Majid Shahriari, who was killed last year in an attack that Iran blamed on Israeli and British spy services.

Outside the embassy, students from some universities and seminaries burned British flags on fire as clashing with police.

State TV reported that another group of hard-line students gathered at the gate of British ambassador's residence in northern Tehran, at the same time.

Britain's foreign office said it was in contact with embassy officials. Officials were still checking on the well-being of workers and diplomats, a spokeswoman said on condition of anonymity in line with standing policy.

Tensions with Britain date back to the 19th century when the Persian monarchy gave huge industrial concessions to London, which later included significant control over Iran's oil industry.

But they have become increasingly strained as the West accuses Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons - a charge Tehran denies.

In recent years, Iran was angered by Britain's decision in 2007 honor author Salman Rushdie with a knighthood.

Rushdie went into hiding after Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini issued a 1989 fatwa, or religious edict, ordering Muslims to kill the author because his novel "The Satanic Verses" allegedly insulted Islam.

The decision shortly after Iran detained 15 British sailors and marines in March 2007 for allegedly entering the country's territorial waters in the Gulf - a claim Britain denies.

The 15 were released after nearly two weeks in captivity.

In 2006, angry mobs burned the Danish flag and attacked Danish and other Western embassies in Tehran in protest to the reprinting of a cartoon deemed insulting of the Prophet Muhammad in the Nordic country's newspapers.

  • Anthony - 2011-11-29 16:21

    nuke them

      Dirk - 2011-11-29 16:43

      This is a barbaric terrorist state with a criminal hostage taker in Ahmedinejad, as "president" He was personally involved in 1979, as a student, when US hostages were taken in 1979.I trust that the civilized portion of the international community, and that excludes many countries, take appropriate action. I do not think you can negotiate with these criminals- they understand only one language. If they are not stopped, and stopped soon, they will acquire a nuclear capability and that can never be allowed. Israel knows what to do.

  • richard.hipkin - 2011-11-29 16:32

    Chuck their countrymen out of the UK... The UK have become so PC about their refugees they becoming over run by foreigners.

  • Juan - 2011-11-29 16:32

    I can see another NATO invasion comming

  • Michael - 2011-11-29 16:50

    It used to be that having an embassy in another country, and established diplomatic relations with it, signaled that the countries respected one another and wished to get along. These days a country can sanction another economically and yet still expect to maintain its Embassy and continue on as before. Then it gets upset when its embassy is attacked and vandalized. Britain if you dont accept it then get out and make sure you leave all your money making business interests behind you as well. Damned hypocrites!!

  • Maai - 2011-11-29 16:54

    England used to be a nation of fearless warriors that conquered the world. I wish they could find those qualities within themselves again.

      Dewald - 2011-11-29 18:10

      Fearless inventors of the concentration camp.....

  • Christoffsmuts - 2011-11-29 17:14

    These Comments are so ignorant, are you guys aware of all the pressures the warmongering Israel and America is putting on Iran. Both Nuclear Armed States the US wants a War in IRAN

      BA - 2011-11-29 18:03

      If you followed the wikipedia leaks, you would note that most arab countries, excluding syria, which is iran's puppet regime, fear iran and are not its allies. iran has been at war with iraq for many years, and has imperialisic ambitions to control the Middle East. It is true that Israel fears iran, and that is because iran has continually threatened Israel's existence, both in words and deeds. ahmadinejad has repeatedly threatened to wipe Israel from the map. hizballah is an iranian backed force. Hizballah has frequently attacked Israel. So there are good reasons for many nations, including most arab states and Israel, to deeply fear Iran's nuclear ambitions. I do not think any country wants a war. It is costly and blood will be spilled. However, countries also need to protect their citizens, and one way of discouraging Iran's nuclear ambitions is sanctions. People like to say that those who do not wish iran to have nuclear weapons are being unfair and hypocritical. To them I say: grow up. This is a deadly serious business and it's not about being fair. It's about trying to stop a bullying, threatening, genocidal, radical islamist country that is at war with or threatening arab neighbours, the Western world and Israel from acquiring the most powerful weapons in the world. We should take iran at it's word: it wishes to destroy Israel. If it acquires nuclear weapons, it will do so. While there are many people in this world and on this site who would like a second Holocaust

      BA - 2011-11-29 18:05

      there are still some people and countries who believe that killing all Jews in Israel is not a good thing. I celebrate that fact and fully support efforts to stifle iran's nuclear ambitions.

      Dirk - 2011-11-30 04:46

      Christoff- You have taken ignorance to new heights

  • Skhulu - 2011-11-29 19:28

    sometimes u wonder these blood suckers will always teach the world about humans rights, democracy, dictators. but they have Killed more people than all countries combined, caused more harm than any other country, tortured people than any other country, have more weapons including NUCLEAR than any other country, but they don't want Iran to have their own, if Nuclear is so bad why they not destroy their asernal??? NXXAAHH

      Dirk - 2011-11-30 04:47

      Your babble is not worthy of a response

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