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Iranians Demonstrate Against US - 2001-11-05

Thousands of Iranians demonstrated in front of the former U.S. Embassy in Tehran, marking the day 22-years ago, when students stormed the embassy compound and took more than 50 Americans hostage.

There were the well-known slogans "Death to America," "Death to Israel" - along with "Allahu Akbar" God is great. The crowd was made up mostly of schoolchildren and students between 12 and 18-years old. They carried posters and banners denouncing the United States and heard fiery speeches extolling the virtues of Iran's Islamic Revolution of 1979.

Influential conservative cleric Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati had harsh words for the way the U.S. is conducting its campaign against terrorism. He said the U.S. insists on defining who is a terrorist, and he accused Israel of exploiting the current situation by stepping up its attacks against the Palestinians.

Such rallies have taken place every year to mark the anniversary of the takeover of the U.S. Embassy in 1979. The hostage crisis, which lasted 444-days, led to a break in diplomatic ties between the United States and Iran.

Unlike past years, this year's rally attracted a smaller crowd and at times seemed more like a festive school outing than a political demonstration. During many of the speeches, some of the young demonstrators seemed more intent to pose in front of T-V cameras and chat with friends than to listen to what was being said.

One 15-year-old seemed to need a bit of coaching from older demonstrators when asked why he came here. He said he wanted to complain about U.S. and Israeli interference in Iranian affairs before the revolution and even today.

Also taking part in the rally was 28-year-old Mohammed, an English teacher who brought a group of children. He said students, in particular, are expected to show up at this rally. Mohammed is a refugee from Afghanistan, who fled the town of Mazar-i-Sharif when the Taleban came to power and who has been in Iran for the past three-years. He said he hopes the war in his own country will be over soon. "It is our request not to strike or attack innocent people ... I hope the war ends as soon as possible and peace be established and a broad-based government to be established in Afghanistan and all the tribes of Afghanistan to share in it," he says. "And, I wish our next government to have good relations with all countries and we start rebuilding the ruins of our country."

Mohammed did not give his last name. He clearly hopes the American air strikes will drive the Taleban out and make it possible for him and his family to go back home.