IRAN: Renovations at “The Den of Spies”

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On Sunday morning I rushed to the former U.S. Embassy in Tehran, now called “The Den of Spies,” for the annual commemoration of the taking of the diplomatic mission by radical Islamic students.

As I walked in, I tried to compare what I saw to what I read about in Mark Bowden’s book “Guests of the Ayatollahs.”


I explored the courtyards between the former ambassador’s residence, which is now a center for Quranic and computer centers. I visited the consular section, a huge space that is now a venue for different cultural or “anti-imperialist” art exhibits.

I was not allowed to take photos of a mock of state of liberty at the staircase, but was told to go ahead and take pictures of a cupboard full of brochures featuring a portrait of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei reading a book.

On the way out I walked past the cement-covered brick wall which divides the courtyard of the embassy into venues for the pro-government Basiji militia and the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps to stage events.

I thought to myself that the compound is beyond recognition from inside. The space is being dramatically renovated by Iran’s leaders. If one day, let’s say three or four decades from now, both Iran and the U.S. reopen embassies in their respective capitals, Washington could surely charge Tehran with a whopping bill for poor maintenance of its embassy during the post-revolutionary period.

— Ramin Mostaghim in Tehran