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Iran–United States Hostage Crisis
Part of Consolidation of the Iranian Revolution
Iran hostage crisis - Iraninan students comes up U.S. embassy in Tehran

Iranian students crowd the U.S. Embassy in Tehran (November 4, 1979)
Date November 4, 1979 – January 20, 1981
(444 days or 1 year, 2 months, 2 weeks and 2 days)
Tehran, Iran

Hostages released by Algiers Accords

  • Rupture of Iran–United States relations
  • Prime Minister Mehdi Bazargan and his cabinet resigned


  • Muslim Student Followers of the Imam's Line

People's Mujahedin
 United States
Commanders and leaders
United States Jimmy Carter
Casualties and losses
1 Iranian civilian and 8 American servicemen killed during an attempt to rescue the hostages.

The Iran hostage crisis was a diplomatic standoff between Iran and the United States. Fifty-two American diplomats and citizens were held hostage for 444 days from November 4, 1979, to January 20, 1981, after a group of Iranian students belonging to the Muslim Student Followers of the Imam's Line, who supported the Iranian Revolution, took over the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. It stands as the longest hostage crisis in recorded history.

President Jimmy Carter called the hostages "victims of terrorism and anarchy" and said: "The United States will not yield to blackmail." The crisis is considered a pivotal episode in the history of Iran–United States relations. Political analysts cite it as a major factor in the downfall of Jimmy Carter’s presidency and his landslide loss in the 1980 presidential election.


With the completion of negotiations, the hostages were released on January 20, 1981. That day, at the moment President Reagan completed his 20‑minute inaugural address after being sworn in, the 52 American hostages were released to U.S. personnel. There were 66 original captives: 63 taken at the embassy and three captured and held at the Foreign Ministry offices. Three of the hostages were operatives of the CIA.

Thirteen hostages were released November 19–20, 1979, and one was released on July 11, 1980.


The Iraqi invasion of Iran occurred less than a year after the embassy employees were taken hostage. The journalist Stephen Kinzer argues that the dramatic change in American–Iranian relations, from allies to enemies, helped embolden the Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein, and that the United States’ anger with Iran led it to aid the Iraqis after the war turned against them. The United States supplied Iraq with, among other things, “helicopters and satellite intelligence that was used in selecting bombing targets.” This assistance “deepened and widened anti-American feeling in Iran.”

The hostage-taking was unsuccessful for Iran in some respects. It lost international support for its war against Iraq, and the negotiated settlement was considered almost wholly favorable to the United States because it did not meet any of Iran’s original demands. Nevertheless, the crisis strengthened Iranians who had supported the hostage-taking. Anti-Americanism became even more intense.

Consequences for the United States

Gifts, including lifetime passes to any minor league or Major League Baseball game, were showered on the hostages upon their return to the United States.

In 2000 the hostages and their families tried unsuccessfully to sue Iran under the Antiterrorism Act of 1996. They originally won the case when Iran failed to provide a defense, but the State Department then tried to end the lawsuit, fearing that it would make international relations difficult. As a result, a federal judge ruled that no damages could be awarded to the hostages because of the agreement the United States had made when the hostages were freed.

The former U.S. Embassy building is now used by Iran’s government and affiliated groups. Since 2001 it has served as a museum to the revolution. Outside the door, there is a bronze model based on the Statue of Liberty on one side and a statue portraying one of the hostages on the other.

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See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Crisis de los rehenes en Irán para niños

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