After the Iran Hostage Crisis, the walls of the former U.S. embassy in Tehran, Iran (from which the hostages were kidnapped) were covered in anti-Western murals.
Photograph by Phillip Maiwald, courtesy Wikimedia. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported, 2.5 Generic, 2.0 Generic and 1.0 Generic license.

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  • On November 4, 1979, Iranian students stormed the U.S. embassy in Iran and took about 90 people (including 66 Americans) hostage. The students were supporters of Iran’s fundamentalist Islamic Revolution, which had overthrown the government. Most American hostages—52—were not released for 444 days. 
    Supporters of the Islamic Revolution resented the perceived influence of the United States and other Western powers in Iranian politics and society. The U.S. had supported the Shah Reza Pahlavi, the autocratic leader of Iran, who was deposed in the revolution. The shah fled to the U.S. and was being treated for cancer at a Texas hospital when the hostages were taken.
    The Iran Hostage Crisis had both immediate and long-lasting consequences. Many historians say the crisis contributed to President Jimmy Carter’s defeat in the 1980 presidential election. (The hostages were released just hours before President Ronald Reagan was sworn into office.) Although the hostage crisis brought international attention to the young Islamic Republic of Iran, the country did not benefit from the tactic, either. The U.S. cut all support it had provided to Iran during the shah’s leadership. Neighboring nation Iraq took advantage of this vulnerability and invaded Iran in 1980. The U.S. provided military and financial support to Iraq during the brutal eight-year war that followed.
  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    advantage Noun

    favor or benefit.

    autocratic Adjective

    having to do with a government or leadership where one party or individual has all power.

    brutal Adjective

    extreme, harsh, or cruel.

    cancer Noun

    growth of abnormal cells in the body.

    consequence Noun

    result or outcome of an action or situation.

    country Noun

    geographic territory with a distinct name, flag, population, boundaries, and government.

    crisis Noun

    event or situation leading to dramatic change.

    depose Verb

    to remove from office.

    election Noun

    selection of people to public office by vote.

    embassy Noun

    residence of an ambassador or place where representatives of a nation conduct business in another country.

    financial Adjective

    having to do with money.

    fundamentalism Noun

    organized movement or belief that advocates strict adherence to a religious doctrine and sacred text.

    government Noun

    system or order of a nation, state, or other political unit.

    hostage Noun

    person held as security until certain terms and conditions (such as payment of a ransom) are met.

    immediate Adjective

    quickly or right away.

    influence Noun

    force that effects the actions, behavior, or policies of others.

    invade Verb

    to enter and attack.

    Islam Noun

    religion based on the words and philosophy of the prophet Mohammed.

    military Noun

    armed forces.

    perceive Verb

    to understand, especially by viewing.

    politics Noun

    art and science of public policy.

    resent Verb

    to reject or dismiss due to a sense of injury or insult.

    revolution Noun

    overthrow or total change of government.

    shah Noun

    king of Persia or Iran.

    society Noun

    large community, linked through similarities or relationships.

    storm Verb

    to deliver a violent attack or assault.

    tactic Noun

    procedure or method for accomplishing a goal.

    vulnerability Noun

    capability of being hurt.

    war Noun

    large-scale armed conflict.

    West Noun

    having to do with the developed nations of Europe and North America.