The Independent Riot
The Iranian Hostage Crisis would last 444 days and its final day would also be the last day of the administration of Jimmy Carter. It was the singular event that seemed to spell out the frustrations of a nation that had suffered one humiliation and trauma after another for nearly two decades, from assassination of a President, to the Vietnam War that divided America to the Watergate Scandal that had removed a President from office, and now here we were at the mercy of an Islamic regime determined to take its country back to the 8th century. It seemed that we were helplessly careening out of control to the status of a failed , third rate power.
In Iran, the Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, had come from a dynasty that had ruled the Persian nation for nearly 1000 years. He had reformed the nation economically during his 37 year reign and it had created an economy that was flourishing, increasing the national income 423 times what it had been, a better growth rate than anywhere else on the planet, including the United States. He built the the fifth largest Army in the world and had urbanized and modernized the country like no other in the entire Middle East. He was also a friend to the United States and had embraced much of the western world's economic practices.
But he had also had to crackdown on political dissent and as he did so many of the religious leaders of the Shiite Muslim faith had rebelled and considered him an enemy to their cause. Much of that was because the Shah had given women the right to vote. One cleric in particular, the Ayatollah Khomeini, was offended that he would dare put the future of Iran in the hands of women. He was further incensed when the Shah allowed Iranian Jews, Christians, Zoroastrians, and Baha'i to take the oath of office for municipal councils using their holy books instead of the Koran. Khomeini vowed then to overthrow the Shah and institute an Islamic Republic in the place of the ruling monarchy.
In 1979, the political unrest turned into a full blown revolution and the Shah left the country on what was called a vacation from which he never returned. Khomeini took control and the events unfolded from their that led to our hostages being captured at the overrun American Embassy. This is that story, and the brave story of the Canadian diplomats who worked to save six Americans who had somehow missed being taken into captivity on the day the embassy was overrun. That story is worthy of being a plot of a James Bond movie, in fact, movie making would be a big part of the exit plan.