Detecting the truth from the heart of memories and observations

Two Views on the Oral History of Conquering the Embassy of the United States of America

Maryam Asadi Jafari
Translated by: Fazel Shirzad


Experts believe that the recording of oral history of effective strata in Conquering the Embassy of the United States of America will be a complement for the oral history of students who are followers of Imam Khomeini. We must also commit ourselves to interpret this event from different perspectives accurately and correctly.

According to Iranian Oral History Website, some historical events such as war and revolution will never become obsolete, and the effect of them will shine on country for a decade or even centuries. Occasionally, some happens take place on sidelines of revolution that is not less than a revolution. The conquest of the Embassy of the United States of America in Tehran by Muslim students who were followers of Imam Khomeini in November 4, 1979 (Aban 13, 1358), on the eve of the anniversary of Imam Khomeini's exile to Turkey, was a world-famous reflection that lasted 444 days. During this time, more than 50 employees of the Embassy were held hostage, a large amount of documents were found and disclosed at the Embassy (such as Tabas [1]event and an unsuccessful operation for the release of American hostages). The political-historical potential of conquering The Embassy of the United States of America in Tehran is so much that is not far from the eyes of historians and oral historians, and there are projects done, in order to record related events, in Iran and the United States. Iranian oral history website looks at the views of experts on the state of oral history on the event of November 4, 1979 in Iran.



Mohammad Hassan Rozitalab who is active in the field of oral history of revolution and has compiled works such as "Oral History of the Muslim Student Movement" and "Beyond the Wall: Oral History of Students who were followers of Imam ", in assessing the current state of oral history record of conquering The Embassy of the United States of America (Spy Nest), says: "If November 4, 1979 was considered as second revolution, oral history is not good. Apart from Hossein Judoi's books "Students and Hostages", "The Day of God: Memories of Seyyed Hashem Pourizadpanparast" and the book "Conquest" by Masoumeh Ebtekar, we have no other typical work. Even the last two books deal more with the generalities of the Novamber 4, which is practically impossible to give them the name of oral history, and they are like a historiography. "

Criticizing the lack of publication in recorded oral history of November 4, 1979, he added: "The Art and Islamic Revolutionary Documentation Center recorded only the oral history of conquering The Embassy of the United States of America. The interview project of Art Center with 100 students attended in a conquering The Embassy of the United States of America dates back to 15 years ago. Ravayat-e Fath publication has been interviewed and kept it in archive. I do not know why they do not publish these memories. I think we should work and publish these interviews with the consent of the parties. With this movement, a good atmosphere will be provided for comment and research on details about November 4."

Conquering the Embassy of the United States of America   in Tehran, According to the Rozitalab, is a fascinating subject for historians and public opinion too, "One day, November 4 was introduced as the strength of country. But now, because of the less efforts, especially in the field of oral history, it is introduced as a time of concern for the people of Iran! "

Emphasized the importance of recording the memories of other influential strata in the continuance of conquering of the Embassy of the United States of America he stated: "It is also important to review and record the extent of popular support. A few months after the conquering the Embassy of the United States of America, the front door of the embassy  was a place for rally and demonstration. Workers came from different factories and announced their support for this movement. Even, someone burned himself in front of the embassy in protest of American policies. I think that the record of oral history of these supports and attendances is also important and will be the complement of oral history of the students who were the follower of Imam Khomeini. "



Oral History and examination of why the Embassy of the United States of America was conquered

According to Mohammad Hassan Rozitalab, I went to Hassan Beheshtipour, the author and one of the oral history project executives of 100 students who were the follower of Imam Khomeini to ask for the lack of publication of this collection: "The project have been begun since 15 years ago and have been completed since one year ago. But, because of a number of personal problems, it was not possible to complete it. The dimension of the conquest of the embassy by the students is so vast that dozens of books can be published in this field and requires multilateral measures in all areas of the media."

He added: "Mr. Mohammadi, Mr. Fakhrzadeh, Hojjatoleslam Saeed Fakhrzadeh and I carried out Interviews of the Islamic Revolutionary Office with Moslem students who were the followers of Imam Khomeini. Finally, I received an interview with some 100 effective students in the conquest of the embassy." Now, some were in the embassy for a few days or some months, and some were there until the end of the event. I think this hostage has several dimensions that unfortunately still have been studied in Iran."Beheshtipour, who focused why the event of November 4, 1979 on this project more, said: "One of the most important affective issues in the conquest of the embassy is the difference between Iran and the United States over the discourse of Islamic Revolution and its contradiction with Western discourse. That is, the victory of the revolution took place on the basis of Islamic thought, and this is the first and only revolution in the world, which was formed on the basis of Islamic thought, and Americans did not believe in such a thing either, and they also didn’t accept it because of their conflicts of interest. Therefore, this movement of students who follower of Imam is an example and a symbol of discourse of Islamic Revolution in the face of Western one. Because Islamic revolution challenged the colonialism and interests of the West and domestic tyranny in Iran. For the past forty years, we have been dealing with this phenomenon with different aspects. "

The scholar of history, pointing out that as the focus of the interviews was on 14 entries, said: "Some questions were: First, what were the backgrounds of this move? Is it really important to take the embassy when King went to America? Did students firstly entered into the embassy of America in Tehran to obtain documents? Did they already know that there are documents on American espionage activities at the embassy? The student said they were going to stay at the American Embassy for 72 hours, But why did it take 444 days? This is a big question. What was the role of the US and Iran in prolonging this incident? What was the role of Imam Khomeini in guiding and leading this event? Because they were not aware of the event from begging. But after they became aware, they actually took the responsibility of the event - as far as my research findings are concerned. At each stage, sensitive subjects were checked with Imam Khomeini and the final decision maker was Imam. Lastly, Imam Khomeini handed the matter to the parliament and made four conditions for the parliament to decide on it. "

He added: "The issue of documents and why they were revealed were also important to us. These documents are divided into several categories: some about America's relationship with other countries. Some are related to the US interventions in Iran and a series of communications with different people. The impact of this event on the inside and outside of the country and how it was ended are also brought in our question. Even a specific section of the Tabas affair was also considered. There is, of course, a detailed book on the event in Art Center; I hope it to be published shortly. If someone studies the American Embassy's issues, several doctoral and master of Art's article will be produced in the field of history, political science, and international relations." To get a precise and first-hand documentary and narration, we defined four groups of people: "First, students, the second was American hostages, the third was Iranian officials who were directly involved in the case, and the fourth group, American officials. I worked on memories, narrations and observations of these four groups. We did not study on analysts or historians. Because we were not supposed to analyze the subject. We tried to bring up the issues from the first person's point of view, not by quoting from non-related persons. As an example, we went to three students who planned to conquer the embassy to find the origin of this idea, we took notes of Imam Khomeini's speeches in order to become aware of his decisive role, or we studied on Bani-Sadr's speeches and paper work to understand the positions of Iranian president. As such, Shahid Rajaee's role as a prime minister and others has also been studied. "

Hassan Beheshtipour, reviewing the hostage situation of American embassy, said: "They were 66 people that 13 of them, including ten black and three women, were released in January 1980. One was released due to illness in July 1980, and eventually, 52 people remained" I tried to collect the narrations of these people through their memories; I took notes of the memories of American officials, including the US President Jimmy Carter, Foreign Minister Cyrus Vance, Brzezinski, National Security Advisor of Carter and Hamilton Jordan, White House Chief of Staff and other responsible Americans. "

In response to the question of how he verified the narration of Americans, he says: "On the one hand, I gathered their claims and, on the other hand, I gathered the students' claims. They rejected questions like the torture of hostages on the basis of evidence. But in the book, I've brought both the words of the students and Americans. "

Hassan Beheshtipour hoped to complete the oral history of students who were the followers of Imam Khomeini. He recalls in the end: "We have persecuted oral history, if we consider it a memory. Those who work in the field of oral history as a memory and publish books do not have an accurate understanding of oral history. It is true that oral history is obtained verbally, but a researcher is responsible to see relevant sources and adapt to other memories. I do not want to name it Verification, but sometimes you enter more precise information into the text and add additional information to the footnote. It should be noted that this information does not undermine the text. Rationalization is also very important in oral history. But in general, especially in the conquest of the American embassy, we must commit ourselves to accurately interpret this event from different perspectives. Because in the future, others will enter into analysis and review. First we must record how the second revolution was exactly formed."


[1] Operation Eagle Claw, known as Operation Tabas in Iran, was a United States Armed Forces operation ordered by U.S. President Jimmy Carter to attempt to end the Iran hostage crisis by rescuing 52 embassy staff held captive at the Embassy of the United States, Tehran on 24 April 1980

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