Iranian hostage documentarian’s extraordinary account of 1979

Vitality package, May 1979. Rafiq Shahini (center), a translator working with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), was blindfolded, blindfolded, beaten, stripped, and subjected to three hours of verbal and physical abuse…

Iranian hostage documentarian’s extraordinary account of 1979

Vitality package, May 1979.

Rafiq Shahini (center), a translator working with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), was blindfolded, blindfolded, beaten, stripped, and subjected to three hours of verbal and physical abuse in the presence of the US Ambassador to the United Nations, Dr. Nicholas Ellsworth.

Shahini eventually escaped through a window and, two months later, traveled to Islamabad for emergency treatment.

That treatment by the Americans was shocking even to those involved in the situation. Shahini described in his diary the horror he experienced when he saw Ellsworth in the hospital and the terror the hostage-takers brought to the Mission during his three months of captivity.

According to researcher Heather Rich, “He was handed over to one of the Iranian hostages who, though she lived in the compound, insisted that she remain in the bathroom to avoid being seen by the hostages.”

Desertion charges were brought against all the prisoners.

Rafiq Shahini was the first to be released, but three months later, he disappeared. So did eight more hostages and dozens of other workers, including women and children.

The multinational team — from more than a dozen countries, as well as the United States — arrived at the Mission on December 2.

President Jimmy Carter denounced the kidnappings, calling them “an act of pure terrorism.”

President-elect Ronald Reagan blamed the United States for “the taking of innocent civilians in an act of terror perpetrated in our name.”

“If I could be persuaded to do so,” President Reagan said on January 19, 1981, “I would free all prisoners of all countries that commit this madness.”

The United States and Britain found the detaining countries were immune from prosecution, a decision that helped trigger the spike in tensions between the countries.

Twenty hostages including former journalists and members of Parliament were freed in March.

The remaining 17 were released on May 29, 1981. Some countries refused to recognize the dropping of charges against the detained.

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