1981: Tehran crisis that changed Iran

After more than three months of talks between militants, the US and Britain, the hostages were flown to Tehran 19 November 1979 In western and central Iran, students storm the US embassy in Tehran….

1981: Tehran crisis that changed Iran

After more than three months of talks between militants, the US and Britain, the hostages were flown to Tehran

19 November 1979

In western and central Iran, students storm the US embassy in Tehran. Inside the residence of the ambassador and the residence of the chargé d’affaires, 52 Americans are kidnapped. The US condemns the attack and US negotiator Bill Flynn replies “let’s meet” to his Iranian counterpart in Geneva, Hassan Tabrizi.

The US retreats to the host country, which becomes an important player in ending the crisis. Iran’s president, Abolhassan Bani-Sadr, insists in his autobiography: “America comes to an end when it is pushed.”

9 December

On the evening of 8 December, the US and Britain announce that the hostages will be flown to Athens. The president of Iran’s parliament, Hojatolislam Rafsanjani, mobilises his supporters to stop the mission from taking off. On 9 December, clerics at Tehran’s main mosques announce in sermons that only the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, can remove the American hostages.

8 December

Gunmen kill at least one British diplomat in Tehran while he is opening the British embassy for business.

6 January 1980

A letter to America from Ayatollah Khomeini demands the withdrawal of all American forces from Iran. He condemns the hostage-taking as a “tragedy committed by others”. He urges the US government to assume the moral and political responsibilities in its removal.

19 January 1980

Major-General Hassan Sharif, the commander of the revolutionary guards, makes a speech on behalf of Ayatollah Khomeini. “The greatest demand is the withdrawal of US troops from the country. The end is inevitable”. He says US officials are represented in Iran by officials of the American National Defence University.

13 February 1980

An Iranian airline passenger plane lands in Tehran with 27 Americans and seven Britons on board.

27 February 1980

A Khomeini-appointed panel visits the US embassy and confirms it is the only headquarters of America in the Middle East.

28 February 1980

President Carter addresses the US Congress, with an emotional and passionate call for the release of the hostages. He says the right to dissent and freedom of speech, assembly and free press are a basic American value. “Many of us served as prisoners of war. This shouldn’t happen to us.”

1 April 1980

Western hostages are flown to Paris.

6 April 1980

A 22-person official US task force visits Tehran and, in cooperation with the Iranian government, arrives at the embassy and begins its negotiations.

8 April 1980

The hostages are finally flown home to the US in three flights.

4 April 1980

US and Iran sign a declaration of friendship which opens the way for the release of the remaining hostages.

10 April 1980

President Carter announces the release of the 26 remaining hostages.

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