As an historian, I can see similarities between the hostage crisis in 1979 in Iran and the Capitol Hill insurrection in Washington DC, USA in 2021. Before the former incident, Iranian revolutionary leader Ayatollah Khomeini gave his followers his blessing to conduct this unlawful act against the American diplomats in Tehran, and before the latter US President Trump incited domestic terrorism against his fellow Americans in Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.
Iranian hostage crisis, 4 November 1979: On 4 November 1979 Iranian students climbed the gates of the United States embassy in Tehran, and seized 66 hostages, mostly diplomats and embassy employees.
Capitol Hill insurrection, 6 January 2021: On 6 January 2021 US President Donald Trump’s supporters climbed the wall of the US Capitol building in Washington, DC.
(AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana).
On 4 November 1979 Iranian students seized the US embassy in Tehran and held it for 444 days. The American hostages were released on 20 January 1981. This horrendous incident was globally condemned. On 5 December 1979, The Australian published a letter from the President of the International Law Association, Australian Branch, stating that the Executive Council of the International Law Association had condemned the Iranian students’ entry into the American embassy.
It stated that it was illegal for the members of the receiving country, Iran, to enter the embassy of the sending country, the United States, without its consent. Thus, entry into diplomatic premises without the consent of the sending country violates principles of international law and fundamental standards of human rights.
Iran’s relations with the West began to deteriorate when the Iranian spiritual leader Ayatollah Khomeini replaced the “Western-oriented dynastic monarchy” of the Shah of Iran with a cleric-led Islamic republic in February 1979. Khomeini considered the United States − which he called “The Great Satan” − to be the number one enemy of Iran, because the nation had given protection to the Shah of Iran. Khomeini declared the US embassy in Iran to be a “nest of spies” and demanded the return to Iran of the Shah and his assets. Instead of condemning the students responsible for the hostage crisis, Khomeini gave them his blessing (Kabir).
In the 2020 US election, Democrat Joe Biden defeated Republican President Donald Trump to become the 46th president of the United States. But President Trump has been misleadingly telling his supporters that it was a fraudulent election. On 6 January 2021, when the Congress sat to confirm that President-elect Joe Biden won the election, President Trump urged his supporters to head to Capitol Hill with the message, “If you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore” (TIME). Pro-Trump supporters vandalized the Capitol building and this rampage led to the death of five people.
In a tweet, President Trump called the pro-Trump mob “great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long” (Forbes). In a taped video, President Trump reiterated to his supporters, “This was a fraudulent election … You’re very special. You’ve seen what happens. You see the way others are treated that are so bad and so evil. I know how you feel. But go home and go home in peace” (The Hill).
President Trump’s incitement to white supremacists, nationalists and conspiracy theorists is considered by many to be an act of sedition. There is now intensified pressure on President Trump to resign. There are calls from some American politicians that President Trump should be stripped of his power by the 25th amendment of the US Constitution or he should be impeached (New York Times).
These two rebellious acts applied similar strategies, climbing up the gates or the wall to create havoc, chaos and terror over innocent people. Yet the irony of these two situations is that in 1979 the Iranian students were “outsiders” attacking “American insiders”, while in 2021 the American “insiders” attacked their fellow “insider Americans”. Both acts were unlawful. Yet, the 2021 action is so “un-American”!