50th Edition, Global Education

South students respond to the Iranian Hostage Crisis

By Denebola
Published: February 2011

By Robert Schlossman,
Volume 19
November 28, 1979

On Friday of last week, one of the several Iranian students attending Newton South was verbally and physically assaulted in Cutler house.
While the incident was relatively minor, this act shows an insensitivity and level of immaturity uncharacteristic of Newton South’s  student body. Furthermore, it was unprovoked and a nonconstructive reaction to the current situation in Iran.
Unfortunately the attack was representative of a wave of anger that is sweeping the U.S. in response to the capture of the U.S. embassy in Tehran and the subsequent kidnapping of 62 Americans by Iranian students on Nov. 4.
The students are demanding the return of the Shah to stand trial for crimes committed while in power. The students have since eased their demands first by releasing three hostages, and than by releasing an additional ten hostages.
A major source of confusion to U.S. policy makers was the nature of the support the students were receiving from the Iranian government. It was later learned that the attack was both supported and encouraged by Ayatollah Khomeini, the recognized leader of Iran. Consequently, President Carter made the decision to hold the Iranian government wholly responsible for the safety of the hostages.
This confusion was echoed by the U.S. public with the beating of Iranian students who protested the Shah’s presence in the U.S. and demanded his death. Across the country American citizens responded with flag burnings and other anti-Iranian activities.
Last Monday, President  Carter ordered the cessation of importation of Iranian oil. This oil accounted for 4% of U.S. consumption. In addition, Carter called for more stringent enforcement of visa violations by Iranian students. Furthermore, Carter ordered all Iranian assets held in American banks to be frozen. This move was in anticipation of a planned withdrawal of these assets by Khomeni.
While the reactions were in a large part due to the initial sense of helplessness and outrage, this period is over. Even during adversity we should not overlook the freedoms elaborated in the Constitution. The Iranian students have a right to free speech as do all Americans. It is unquestionable that the demonstrations against the Shah are compounding a tense situation, yet the students have a right to voice their grievances.
It must also be kept in perspective that the U.S. supported the Shah’s administration; consequently, the U.S. must face the complications caused by this aid.
While the raid was the irrational and ill-advised product of a frustrated people, it has forced the most powerful country in the world to choose between an obligation to a former ally, and to the hostages. Blackmail should not be tolerated, but if a rational settlement of the situation is to be attained, then some sort of compromise will have to be worked out.

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