Iowan 'Guest of the Revolution' Reflects on the Iran Hostage Crisis

Nov 26, 2014

35 years ago this month, we were in the first few weeks of the Iran hostage crisis. The crisis would last 444 days, and one Iowan was there for all of them.

Kathryn Koob, an Iowa native, had gone to Tehran in July of 1979 to be the director of the Iran-American Society. She was attracted to the region precisely because of the political changes happening at the time.

"The revolution happened, the shah left and the ayatollah returned. There was all this discussion about the New Islamic Republic of Iran. When else do you get to be in on the ground floor of the development of a whole new country, of a whole new style of governance?"

Just four months later, however, that revolution resulted in Iranian students taking 52 hostages in the US Embassy. Koob wasn't captured on November 4th when the students took the embassy; she stayed at her post three miles away to relay information back to the state department in the US. Consequently, however, she was taken hostage the next day.

"I had gotten away once and I had gone over to the Gerta Institute, which was just around the corner from our American cultural institute. And actually,  the Germans had invited me to go to their homes and to not go back . But you know, my colleagues were in trouble and if I could help... Hindsight says that I should not have gone back, but I did."

Koob wrote about her experience in a 1982 book, "Guest of the Revolution." On this episode of River to River, host Ben Kieffer discusses Koob's experience in Iran and what lessons can be gleaned from the crisis 35 years later. Wayne Moyer, political science professor at Grinnell College, also joins the program.