Thirty years have passed since Iranian students took over the American embassy in Tehran and took the embassy employees hostage. At the time, I was a college student in San Diego. I and perhaps the rest of the Iranians in the United States did not understand the gravity of the situation and what that action meant for the future of Iran.
We were mostly concerned about our own safety in the US and how to protect ourselves from misdirected anger. Little did we realized that this was the beginning of the radicalization of our county of origin. Iran was being hijacked by radical elements in the Islamic republic and taking the hostages was the beginning of that movement.
At the time, many of us saw the hostage taking as US foreign policy blow back. We tried to explain this to any American who would listen. We tried very hard to educate our fellow students about the US overthrow of a democratically elected government in Iran in 1953. As hard as we attempted to demonstrate that linkage, we could not justify the Iranian students’ illegal hostage taking. The best we could do was to distance ourselves from the hostage takers.
Many years later, I now believe that was the pivotal point in the radicalization of Iran. Khomeini’s support of the students’ action provided cover for the radical elements in the government. Had Iranians realized this at that time and stood up to the radical elements, the government of Iran would be in much better hands today.
There lies the extremely difficult position of an informed citizenry standing up to an illegal action by their own government against a foreign government - an impossible task without being accused and dismissed as stooges of foreign power. That’s where the history of the two nations and the illegal past actions of one provides ammunition and cover for the future misdeeds by radical elements in the other.
30 years later, the Green Movement is another pivotal moment in Iranian history, and it is extremely important for all of us, inside and outside Iran, to recognize and support this movement. The Green Movement is standing up against the illegal actions of radical elements in the Iranian government. We missed our opportunity to stand up against these radical elements 30 years ago. Let us not lose this chance to stand up to injustice and declare that their illegal actions will not stand.
The US government, being the original cause of the Iranian government’s radicalism, bears some responsibility here as well. The Obama Administration would be well advised to take this opportunity to support the Green movement rather forcefully and start a direct dialogue with its leaders. I understand this is contrary to common wisdom among foreign policy wonks in Washington, where the nuclear deal is the only important issue to negotiate. However, I submit that elevating Green Movement support will put the radicals in charge in a much weaker negotiating position. A nuclear deal must be had, but including the Iranian people in the negotiating formula will result in a stronger position for both the American and Iranian people against the radical government of Iran.
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