Iowa native recalls capture during Iran hostage crisisby Madeleine Baran, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — Anti-government protesters in Iran clashed with security forces during protests Wednesday marking the 30th anniversary of the U.S. Embassy takeover.
The unrest came 30 years after militant Islamic students stormed the embassy in Tehran. With support from the Iranian government, 52 Americans were held hostage for 444 days.
Iowa-native Kathryn Koob was one of two women held captive by the students. She spoke with MPR's Tom Crann today about her experience.
Koob worked at the Iran-America Society, a cultural center less than two miles from the embassy. On the day of the takeover, she received a call that something was happening at the complex.
She called a staff member at the embassy's communications office, who explained that staffers were about to destroy their communications equipment.
The employee asked Koob to contact the U.S. State Department and act as a contact person after the equipment was destroyed.
Koob hid in a building next door to the cultural center, but returned to her building the following day. Iranian militants came to the cultural center that day and brought her to the embassy.
She was kept in a room with another female hostage. For the majority of their captivity, the women were only allowed to leave the room blindfolded to go to the bathroom.
"The mental process of being locked up, of being separated, of not knowing what was going on with your colleagues, what was going on in the world, what was going on with your family--those things were all a part and parcel of it," she said.
Koob said she used the time in captivity to study the Bible and learn how to live a more contemplative life.
"I have hours a day to think about this, to pray about this," she said. "I would get up and I would say, 'Alright God, I'm going to love my enemies today,' and one of our jailors would walk in and say 'Marg bar Amrika, Death to America.' Well, that ended that for a while."
Despite her experiences, Koob says she supports opening dialogue with Iran.
"We know what China's doing because we have access to each other, and I think that's what we need in Iran," she said. "Diplomacy does not mean that we need to walk hand in hand and that we're going to agree with everything."
In Washington, President Barack Obama noted the anniversary of the takeover of the U.S. Embassy and urged the two countries to move beyond the "path of sustained suspicion, mistrust and confrontation."
The hostage crisis "deeply affected the lives of courageous Americans who were unjustly held hostage, and we owe these Americans and their families our gratitude for their extraordinary service and sacrifice," Obama said in a statement.
- All Things Considered, 11/04/2009, 5:40 p.m.