Former Iranian hostage meets with area students

Nov. 8, 2004, midnight | By Karima Tawfik | 16 years, 7 months ago

Discusses experiences and repercussuions

Area high-school students met with Bruce Laingen, former U.S. ambassador to
Iran and hostage during the Iranian hostage crisis of 1979.

Laingen, currently President of the American Academy of Diplomacy, talked with a
dozen students, three of them Blazers, at the Dirksen Senate office building on
Thursday, November 4, the 25th anniversary of the crisis. He discussed his
experiences as a hostage and the current U.S. relations with Iran.

In response to interview questions, Laingen stated that the act of taking political prisons is "abominable." "Hostage taking is a fundamental violation of human rights," he said. "The government endorsed the action of Iranian students who had taken us hostage to use us as pawns for their political gains." Despite the actions of the Iranian government, Laingen said that the U.S. should be communicating with Iran. "For 25 years we have not talked officially with that consequential region," he said.

Laingen was serving as chargé d'affaires of the American Embassay in Iran when
he became one of 53 Americans captured and held in solitary confinement between November 1979 and January 1981.

He describes his experience as a "debilitating experience." "You can do nothing
but look at a bulb hanging from your ceiling," he said. Laingen and his colleagues were blindfolded when outside of their cells and were threatened by "mock executions," where Iranian militants pressed guns to their heads.

The U.S. embassy was seized by Iranian students during the overthrow of the
American-backed shah regime that had been installed in Iran in the 1950s.
Laingen said Iran's anger toward American support for the shah prompted the
hostage crisis.

While Laingen said that Iranian actions against him and his colleagues were
horrific, he criticized the Bush administration's rhetoric to describe countries such as Iran and Iraq. "There's no real axis of evil," he said. After the overthrow, Ayatollah Khomeini gained power forming a theocratic government.

Laigen stressed the rich history and culture of the people of Iran, stating that the Khomeini regime was "an aberration" of Iran's own national and Muslim traditions. He spoke about U.S. misunderstandings of Iranian culture. "The American public broadly doesn't understand the role that the Islamic religion plays in the world out there," he said.

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