Death to America

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"Death to America" mural in Tehran, Iran. The English translation reads "Down with the U.S.A," which is less offensive than the phrase in Persian.

Death to America (Persian: مرگ بر آمریکا Marg bar Âmrikâ) is an anti-American political slogan and chant which has been in use in Iran since the inception of the Iranian Revolution in 1979.[1] Ayatollah Khomeini, the first leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, popularized the term.[2] He opposed the chant for radio and television, but not for protests and other occasions.[3] In most official Iranian translations, the phrase is translated into English as the less offensive "Down with America."[4][5] The chant "Death to America" has come to be employed by various anti-American groups and protesters worldwide.[6] Another similar slogan used in Iran was "Death to the Soviet Union".[3]


Following the fall of the pro-American Pahlavi dynasty in early 1979, Iranian protesters regularly shouted "Death to America" and "Death to the Shah" outside the U.S. embassy in Tehran, including the day the embassy was seized on November 4, 1979, which commenced the Iran hostage crisis.[7] Throughout the crisis, Iranians surrounding the embassy chanted "Death to America" and "Death to Carter."[8] When Iran released the remaining 52 American hostages on January 20, 1981, they were led through a gauntlet of students forming parallel lines that shouted "Death to America" as they boarded the airplane that would fly them out of Tehran.[9]

Throughout the existence of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the slogan has formed a pillar of its revolutionary values.[4] It is regularly chanted at Friday prayers and other public events, which is often accompanied by a burning of the flag of the United States.[5] These events include the November 4 anniversary of the U.S. embassy seizure, which Iranian leaders declared in 1987 as a national holiday called "Death to America Day."[10] State-sponsored murals that feature the slogan "Death to America" are common in Iranian cities, particularly Tehran.[11]

Use outside of Iran[edit]

The slogan on the flag of the Houthis in Yemen reads, "Allah is great. Death to America. Death to Israel. A curse upon the Jews. Victory to Islam."

Supporters of Hezbollah, the Shi'a Islamic militant group based in Lebanon that is closely aligned to Iran, regularly chant "Death to America" in street demonstrations.[12] A week before the March 20, 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah declared, "In the past, when the Marines were in Beirut, we screamed, 'Death to America!' Today, when the region is being filled with hundreds of thousands of American soldiers, 'Death to America!' was, is and will stay our slogan."[13]

The slogan of the Houthis, a Shiite rebel group in Yemen also supported by Iran,[14] is "God is Great, Death to America, Death to Israel, A curse upon the Jews, Victory to Islam."[15]


  1. ^ Vanessa Martin (2003). Creating An Islamic State: Khomeini and the Making of a New Iran. p. 152. 
  2. ^ Philip Herbst (2003). Talking Terrorism: A Dictionary of the Loaded Language of Political Violence. p. 6. 
  3. ^ a b Arash Karami: Khomeini Orders Media to End ‘Death to America’ Chant, Iran Pulse, October 13, 2013
  4. ^ a b "The politics of 'Death to America'". The Washington Post. 8 October 2013. 
  5. ^ a b "Iran’s hardliners planning 'Death to America' rally on anniversary of US Embassy attack". The National. 22 October 2013. 
  6. ^ Herbst, p. 6-7
  7. ^ David Patrick Houghton (2001). US Foreign Policy and the Iran Hostage Crisis. p. 51. 
  8. ^ Mark Bowden (2006). Guests of the Ayatollah: The First Battle in America's War with Militant Islam. p. 221, 245. 
  9. ^ Bowden, p. 584
  10. ^ "Millions Of Iranians Demonstrate Against U.S.". Associated Press. 3 November 1987. 
  11. ^ Lina Khatib (2012). Image Politics in the Middle East: The Role of the Visual in Political Struggle. p. 81-83. 
  12. ^ Wistrich, Robert. A Lethal Obsession: Anti-Semitism from Antiquity to the Global Jihad. p. 974. 
  13. ^ "Hezbollah Vows Anew to Target Americans". Los Angeles Times. 17 April 2003. 
  14. ^ "With Arms for Yemen Rebels, Iran Seeks Wider Mideast Role". The New York Times. 15 March 2012. 
  15. ^ "Yemen's 'Death to America' rebels bring calm to northern Yemen". The Christian Science Monitor. 28 October 2012.