The Islamic Republic’s Supreme Leader has criticized “most of the students” who took 52 US diplomats hostage in November 1979, but years later apologized for their action.
In his comments made on Tuesday, January 16 but published on Friday, January 26, ayatollah Ali Khamenei maintained, “Years after taking [US diplomats] hostages, most of the students involved in the event stepped forward, talked to the Americans and presented their apologies”.
State-run Iran Labor News Agency, ILNA cited Khamenei as saying, “They apologized since their motivation was shallow”.
Khamenei said that he does recognize the important actions of those who overthrew “an ancient regime” and stormed the U.S. embassy. Nevertheless, some of them “later met the Americans [hostages] and presented their apology for what they had done.”
The hostages spent 444 days in agonizing captivity and the U.S. severed relations with Iran, froze Iranian assets and began imposing sanctions. Their release came on the day when President Ronald Reagan took oath of office in 1980.
However, there have never been any confirmed reports that the 1979 hostage takers have ever apologized for their actions.
Only one of the students who participated in storming the American Embassy, Abbas Abdi met one of the former hostages, Barry Rosen, in 1998 in Paris.
After meeting Abdi, Rosen who was the former US Press Attache in Tehran, said that Abdi had apologized for taking him and others hostage.
Abdi immediately denied the claim and noted in an article that, regardless of interpreting such events as right or wrong, he was not in a position to personally apologize for it.
“Being sixty-years old now, I am not that stupid to defend what I did when I was twenty. I do not defend our action by today’s measures and standards. That event happened in its own context and situation,” Abdi wrote.
Pro-reformist daily Etemad also reported last year that while some of the former hostage takers, including one of their leaders, Ebrahim Asgharzadeh admit that storming US embassy in Tehran was a “wrong” move, there are some of them, including Mohsen Mirdamadi and Abbas Abdi who still defend their actions.
President Hassan Rouhani’s former deputy for Environmental affairs and spokesperson of the hostage takers at the time, Massoumeh Ebtekar also said, “The students who took Americans hostage, never repented for what they did”.
Ebtekar insisted that the hostage takers believed that storming into US embassy in Tehran was the best decision to protect the Islamic Revolution “from any harm”.
Some of the hostage takers were later appointed to high positions. Habibollah Bitaraf occupied the post of Energy Minister in Mohammad Khatami’s cabinet. Rahman Dadman served as Khatami’s minister for Roads and Transportation. He later died in a plane crash. Massomeh Ebtekar, known as Sister Mary among the hostages, still serves in Rouhani’s administration.
But some also were targeted by security forces and persecuted. Ebrahim Asgharzadeh was put in solitary confinement in 1992 for one month, which he later said made him change some of his radical views.
Abbas Abdi also experienced imprisonment when he was accused of “espionage” for working in an opinion research company, which collaborated with foreign companies, such as Gullup.
The founder of the Islamic republic, ayatollah Ruhollah Khemeini described the hostage taking in Tehran as the “second revolution”, bigger than the first one.
The Islamic Republic has never apologized for the incident that triggered a widespread negative reaction in the U.S. and across the world.