July 05, 2015

Art and Revolution. The US Embassy in Tehran

The storming of the USA Embassy on the 4th November 1979 remains a pivotal memory for Americans and, along with the ongoing hostage crisis, led to a distrust of Iran which continues to the present day. For the Iranians, the 'Conquest of the American Spy Den', was equally an important part of their revolutionary history. The CIA had meddled in Iran's affairs before, and there were fears that they would do so again to try an overthrow the newly installed revolutionary government.

The walls of the Embassy were painted with bright anti-American murals, which still look in good shape today. Although locals may not even glance at them, they are quite a tourist attraction. The Lonely Planet helpfully warns that photography is not allowed, and you may be apprehended by Police if you get your camera out. This concerned me slightly, particularly when I started taking these photos and I was approached by a man in dark glasses and suit. Plain clothes Policeman I immediately thought. No, he was an local asking me what time the bank across the road opened at.

The guards at the main entrance were equally friendly, chatting about the Embassy, now used by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards as a base, and inviting me in to have a quick look around. No photos were allowed inside, but I was encouraged to take pictures of the art work outside. There is a small museum with examples of the intelligence material seized when the Embassy was taken over, but it is open infrequently. I was told "come back tomorrow and it will be open" twice on successive days, but of course it remained closed. 

The Great Seal of the USA still is visible by the main gate, although it has been somewhat defaced. Inside the offices and accommodation are still surrounded by well kept gardens. You get the feeling it would not take too much effort for the building to resume its earlier usage, and with the continued rapprochement between Iran and the USA it will be interesting to see what happens. Undoubtedly the murals would be painted over, and a little bit of recent history would be lost, so get there before this happens!

Far Flung Tips

1.Go early in morning, around 8AM, and the sun will be perfectly placed for good photography.

2 Get there by walking to Taleqani Avenue in central Tehran, or by catching the Metro to Taleqani station.

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