Iran Hostage Crisis

By: Daniel Garza & Mauricio Roca

The Beginning

By the 1970s, many Iranians were getting tired with the Shah’s government. In protest, they turned to the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who was a radical cleric whose revolutionary Islamist movement seemed to promise a break from the past and a turn toward greater autonomy for the Iranian people. In July 1979, the revolutionaries forced the Shah to disband his government and flee to Egypt. The Ayatollah installed a militant Islamist government in its place.

Summary

On November 4, 1979, a group of Iranian students surrounded the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, taking more than 60 American hostages. The cause of this action was President Jimmy Carter’s decision to allow Iran’s deposed Shah, a pro-Western autocrat who had been expelled from his country months before, to come to the United States for cancer treatment. However, the hostage-taking was about more than the Shah’s medical care: it was a dramatic way for the student revolutionaries to declare a break with Iran’s past and an end to American interference in its affairs. It was also a way to raise the intra- and international profile of the revolution’s leader, the anti-American cleric Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. The students set their hostages free on January 21, 1981, 444 days after the crisis began and just hours after President Ronald Reagan delivered his inaugural address. Many historians believe that hostage crisis cost Jimmy Carter a second term as president.
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Hostage

A person held under their free will.

Crisis

a time of intense difficulty, trouble, or danger.

Islamist Government

Governance of the Jurist