Photo: Fars News
An anti-British protest in Tehran escalated, as protesters entered the British embassy and burned the British flag, BBC reports.Iranian TV is showing images of protesters throwing stones and breaking windows at the embassy.
After entering the building, protesters replaced the Union Jack with the Iranian flag and then burned it. There are also reports that the students are burning documents from inside the embassy, but that has yet to be confirmed.
The demonstration started in protest of two things. For one, says Alarabiya English, the protest is commemorating the death anniversary of Iranian nuclear scientist Majid Shahriari who, according to Iranian authorities, was murdered by Israel’s Mossad in cooperation with UK’s MI6. The demonstrations are also a reactions to new sanctions against Iran’s Treasury put in place by the British government because of Iran’s nuclear program.
On Sunday, in response to those sanctions, the Iranian government downgraded their relationship with the British government, and called for the expulsion of the British ambassador. Iranian radio stations reported that some of the Ministers of Parliament were shouting “Death to Britain” during the vote, which was approved by 87% of members.
According to the Associated Press (via NYT) the students are chanting “the Embassy of Britain should be taken over” and “death to England.”
You can watch a live feed of what’s going on from Iranian semi-state media channel, Press TV. They are reporting that the protest is largely symbolic, and that it will not escalate further, though the students do want to “remind the British what happened to the Americans 30 years earlier.”
UPDATE 7:53 AM: The police have entered the protest and are firing shots to try to calm the crowd. Press TV is reporting that the students, however, are unwilling to leave and expect someone to come out of the British embassy and explain why sanctions were placed on Iran by it and other “domineering countries” like the United States.
Here’s a video from earlier this morning when the leader of the protester announced the end of the protest but students weren’t having it. As of right now 8:13 AM, they still aren’t. However, the police have surrounded the protesters and continue to try to calm the crowd.
UPDATE 8:20 AM: Few students are leaving the protest and fireman are trying to enter the British compound, according to Washington Post Tehran Bureau editor @ThomasErdbrink. He tweeted that there is smoke coming from somewhere in the building.
UPDATE 8:45 AM: The British government has released a quick statement (via The BBC)
“We are outraged by this. It is utterly unacceptable and we condemn it,” the statement said.
“Under international law, including the Vienna Convention, the Iranian Government have a clear duty to protect diplomats and embassies in their country and we expect them to act urgently to bring the situation under control and ensure the safety of our staff and security of our property”
UPDATE 8:57 AM: REUTERS IS REPORTING THAT 6 UK EMBASSY WORKERS HAVE BEEN TAKEN HOSTAGE in a 2nd compound in northern Tehran via Iran’s Mehr News (The Mehr News Agency is owned by the Islamic Ideology Dissemination organisation).
UPDATE 9:03 AM: And now the report from Mehr has been taken off of their website without explanation.
UPDATE 9:09 AM: We’re seeing conflicting reports about the hostage situation— it could be anywhere from zero to six to eight people detained. Not only that, but rumour has it that the protesters aren’t students, they’re government thugs.
Here’s a tweet from Arab commentator to Sultan Sood Al Qassemi:
UPDATE 9:58 AM: This was a government approved protest. According to Al Jazeera, the whole demonstration was organised by the student wing of the Basij armed group.
“Any such action of this could scale can never be independent in the Islamic Republic. These gatherings are always approved by higher officials,” said Dorsa Jabbari, Al Jazeera’s reporter.
Jabbari is also reporting that there are still unconfirmed rumours on the ground of hostages. You can hear the Washington Post’s Thomas Erdbrink report from the scene here.
UPDATE 10:22 AM: The Telegraph reports that the second embassy compound — the one where it is suspected that there could be hostages inside — has been closed off by police. We do not know how many people, protesters or hostages, are inside.
“Security forces have been able to close the gate now and they are not allowing people to go inside,” IRNA (an Iranian news media organisation) said. The student news agency ISNA said there were 200 people outside the compound in the Qolhak garden of north Tehran
UPDATE 10:28 AM: The Telegraph is also reporting that 50 protesters have re-entered the main embassy compound in Tehran and are burning documents they found inside.
UPDATE 10:42 AM: Reuters reports that police are still trying to disperse protesters using tear gas and water cannons. Meanwhile, semi-state media news agency Fars News is reporting that police are securing the release of 6 hostages.
UPDATE 11:00 AM: Fars News has a statement from protesters posted on its website. They’re calling their demonstration, Occupy Embassy. They want other people around the city to start rallies in support.
“As the students have occupied the British embassy in a self-driven move, they will also continue their path only on the basis of their revolutionary thoughts and thinking,” the statement continued.
The statement regretted that the “British embassy should have been occupied right after the revolution 33 years ago”.
“The embassy of the old fox should have been occupied much earlier,” it reiterated, and added, “Every free-minded Iranian whose heart is beating for this land and has observed the crimes of the old colonialism against Iran and the Iranians should know that occupation of the embassy of the old fox serves the interests of Iran and our country’s national interests,” it added.
Also according the Fars, the hostages are now in police custody.
UPDATE 11:08 AM: The protests are still going on, and here are some of the signs the demonstrators are carrying (via The Guardian):
“BBC don’t lie” [presumably an exhortation rather than a statement]
“English government are real terrorists”
“We will answer threats with threats”
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