Monday, November 4, 2019

‘They cannot relate’ — 40 years since Iran hostage crisis


Jacqueline Saper's engagement photo
     On Nov. 4, 1979, the United States Embassy in Iran was located on Tehran’s Takht-e-Jamshid Street in a neighborhood of upscale stores. Which is why Jacqueline Saper, now of Wilmette, happened to be a block away at the start of one of the epochal events of the past half century: the Iran hostage crisis.
     Saper was 18 “and a half,” a newlywed, shopping for cologne for her husband.
     ”The embassy was huge, with red brick walls and a dark green iron fence,” she said. “The American consulate always had long lines. I noticed the crowd was different. They were very angry, shouting ‘Death to America! Death to America!’”
     America, if you aren’t old enough to remember, had welcomed the Shah of Iran, Mohammed Rez Pahlavi, deposed that January, to be treated for cancer in New York. President Jimmy Carter allowed him in with reservations.
Saper at 21. 
     
"What are you guys going to advise me to do if they overrun our embassy and take our people hostage?” the president asked, with the half-foresight of those who see the pitfalls they will topple into.
     Young Iranian radicals scaled the walls and cut open the gate. The Marine guards, ordered not to fire, spread tear gas and fell back. The invaders initially planned to hold the embassy three days. Most of the hostages ended up being held 444 days.
     Saper sensed this wasn’t the usual street drama.
     ”Living through the Islamic Revolution earlier that year, I was used to seeing unusual things,” Saper said. “This seemed worse. I was afraid of stampede or tear gas. The embassy was guarded by armed Marines.”
     What did she do?


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3 comments:

  1. Please excuse the not so profound observation: the photograph of Jacqueline Saper that appeared in the paper reminded me of Anne Frank, whereas the photo in the blog of her at 21 wearing a hijab looked exactly like any other Middle-Eastern/American girl one might see today, checking groceries at Jewel, attending high school with bare-headed girls of non Middle-Eastern; descent or just strolling down the street apparently oblivious to any special attention drawn her way by the scarf hiding her hair. When I was her age, you'd see many girls, particularly in blustery weather, wear such scarves, but we called them babushkas back then.

    john

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  2. At least until the state of Israel became a factor in middle east politics Jews and Christians, as "people of the Book" were tolerated by the Mullahs. However, the same couldn't be said for the Bahai, who have been -- and still are -- viciously persecuted as heretics since the founding of the religion in the mid 19th Century. The tragedy for Iran is that many of their most productive citizens found life in a theocracy either unsafe or intolerable.

    Tom

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  3. I've seen several articles in the last few days, commenting on how Iran just can't give up on taking hostages & that has totally wrecked their relations with most of the world, not just the US.

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