Iran-US hostage crisis ends exactly 35 years ago

On Nov. 4, 1979, a group of Iranian students stormed the United States’ embassy in Tehran and took more than 60 people hostages, mostly Americans.

This marked the beginning of the "hostage crisis,” a diplomatic crisis between the U.S. and Iran during a phase of the Iranian revolution. The immediate cause of the action was then-President Jimmy Carter’s decision to allow the pro-Western autocrat Shah (expelled from his country some months before) to come to the U.S. for cancer treatment.

But more generally, the hostage-taking was a dramatic way for the student revolutionaries to declare a break with Iran’s past and to turn the spotlight on their revolution leader, the anti-American Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

Confidential negotiations mediated by other moderate Muslim countries (most notably Algeria) were therefore initiated. Then-U.S. President Jimmy Carter’s inability to resolve the problem made him look like an ineffectual leader. At the same time, his focus on bringing the hostages home kept him away from the campaign trail.

Not too long after the capture, eight out of 66 were released and six managed to escape. On Jan. 20, 1981, more than one year after the beginning of the crisis and just a few hours after electing Ronald Reagan president, the remaining 52 hostages were released.

In October 2012, an Oscar-winning movie called "Argo" starring Ben Affleck was made about the crisis.

Affleck also directed the movie that was adapted from the Central Intelligence Agency operative Tony Mendez's diary and from Joshuah Bearman's article "The Great Escape: How the CIA Used a Fake Sci-Fi Flick to Rescue Americans from Tehran."

The plot focuses on the so-called Canadian Caper, a secret joint operation between the U.S. and Canada to rescue six Americans who took refuge in the Canadian embassy of the Iranian capital.

As winner of three Academy Awards, two Golden Globe Awards, three British Academy Film Awards, along with other international recognitions, we suggest you see it on the occasion of the 35th anniversary of the hostage crisis.

Cover credit: Adst.org