Today in Middle Eastern history: the Iran Hostage Crisis begins (1979)

When a group of Iranian students from an organization called “Muslim Student Followers of the Imam’s Line,” on their own volition though possibly with the approval of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, stormed the American embassy in Tehran on November 4, 1979, and took 66 US citizens hostage, I doubt anybody involved fully realized what was about to ensue. Thirteen of those hostages would be released within three weeks, and another in July 1980 after he’d fallen quite ill, but 52 hostages remained in the custody of those students-militants-hostage takers for 444 days, only being freed in January 1981. You can’t make a lot of sweeping pronouncements about the importance of any particular event after only a few decades, not in a general world historical sense. But this is an event that shaped the course of the Iranian revolution, impacted a US presidential race, helped cause a major Middle Eastern war, and is one of the key factors that have influenced US-Iran relations over those 36 years.

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One thought on “Today in Middle Eastern history: the Iran Hostage Crisis begins (1979)

  1. Good article.

    Here some excerpt of another article that covers the US, Iran relations and includes some interesting and rarely seen links:

    Since the hostage crisis in 1979 mainstream US TV, which is still the main source of information for most of the people in the US, has not really shown multiple sides of Iran. The media coverage has focused on the happenings in 1979 and showing recordings of Iranians shouting anti-American slogans. The hostage crisis took 444 days and Iran was seen as the main adversary of the US. Unfortunately this view has manifested itself since then.

    If you compare the hostage taking with what is happening these days in other parts of the world, it does not seem as insuperable hurdle for peace making. The hostages were not put in orange jumpsuits, were not beaten or tortured, they were basically put under house arrest. Shortly after the embassy takeover, the students released women and African American personnel, citing solidarity with “oppressed minorities.” Another hostage, Richard Queen, was released in 1980 due to health problems.
    70% of the Iranians are under 40 years. So most of the people living in Iran were not even five years old when the embassy takeover happened. I don’t care about the governments but the people deserve peace and shouldn’t be barred from reestablishing friendship.
    Read more here:

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