A blindfolded U.S hostage paraded by his captors in the compound of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, Iran.
My assignment was to write a piece on the Iran hostage crisis. Not the current crisis, but one from long ago, 1979.
Sixty-six men and women, members of the U.S. Diplomatic Corps and civilian employees, were doing their jobs at the U.S. embassy when a group of students cut through the locks on the embassy gate and took them hostage. The students were angry because the now-deposed Shah of Iran traveled to the U.S. for medical treatment, and they wanted him put on trial in his own country for crimes against the Iranian people.
The hostage-takers released 13 of their hostages within a couple of weeks, then another several months later. But for 52 people, the next 444 days of their lives became a nightmare.
Today, detained British sailor Faye Turney is shown here on the Arabic language network Al Alam.
Jimmy Carter was the U.S. president at the time. He tried diplomacy. He froze Iranian assets and banned oil sales. When that failed, he ordered a rescue mission, "Operation Eagle Claw," which was a tragic failure. Two military helicopters were stuck in a sandstorm, another crashed on take-off after the mission was aborted. Eight U.S. servicemen were killed.
In the end, the Algerian government brokered the deal that freed the hostages. The plane that carried them home took off just moments before Ronald Reagan was sworn in as president, starting all sorts of conspiracy theories. Carter went to meet the freed hostages in Germany as Reagan's emissary. The hostages were given a ticker-tape parade through the streets of New York.
It's hard to say how the current crisis will end. What struck me, though, as I researched this story, was the incredible sameness of the images: the confused and terrified look on the faces of the people held captive and the apparently coerced "confessions" broadcast throughout the media.