Opinion: US Embassy takeover in Iran and my arrest in NY protest in 1979
By Mohsen Badakhsh
This day, 43 years ago, I was detained atop the Statue of Liberty in New York for taking part in a peaceful protest against the Jimmy Carter administration for hosting Mohammad Reza Pahlavi after the popular Islamic Revolution toppled the West-backed monarch.
The entire Liberty Island housing the France-gifted colossal neoclassical sculpture was immediately evacuated.
Six of us protesting against the US government's decision chained ourselves to the statue while holding huge banners condemning Washington's continued support for the ruthless despot.
We were soon arrested, strip-searched, handcuffed behind the back, and held in detention for over eight hours before being transferred to a jail in Manhattan.
The inhumane treatment meted out to us by the American police and the country's legal system following the protest action, which coincided with the takeover of the US Embassy in Tehran, reinforced my belief that the exaggerated Western claims of upholding human rights were hollow.
I came to realize that the right to free speech and other so-called “liberties” outlined in the First Amendment were baseless publicity tools to advance the US military-industrial complex's inhumane, discriminatory, and hegemonic ambitions across the globe.
The students who took over the US Embassy in Tehran – which later came to be known in Iran as the 'Den of Espionage' – exposed through classified documents found there that the sprawling compound located in the heart of the Iranian capital was used to orchestrate vicious coup plots to overthrow the nascent Islamic Republic.
The students later published the damning documents in the form of multi-volume books to reveal the sinister agenda of American “diplomats” stationed in Iran, but the incriminating documents were never allowed to be published in the United States.
After the evacuation of the island housing the Statue of Liberty, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other US security and intelligence agencies tried to get us to unchain ourselves from the statue promising to set us free without charges.
We did comply, only to be firmly handcuffed and detained and held without food or water until being transferred in the evening to the Manhattan jail, where we decided to go on hunger strike in protest against the inhumane treatment meted out to us. We were placed in a dingy cell, where jail guards deliberately staged mocking moves to break our will by obnoxiously eating in front of us.
Eventually, we appeared in court and gave a bond to reappear for sentencing about a month later. We were slapped with a $50 fine and 6-month probation, which meant that we had to report to a police authority every month to prove we were behaving well.
Shortly after my return to Chicago -- a major mid-western city where I lived and attended college – I found out that its City Council had submitted a proposal for deporting all Iranian students enrolled in colleges and universities across the city at the time.
I was asked by a group of fellow Iranian students to represent them at a hearing deliberating on the passage of the racist legislation. When I attended the sham hearing I was shocked to witness an American student-activist testifying against the proposal being harshly taunted by city aldermen (council members) with unbelievably obscene language and then brutally beaten and dragged out of the hearing room by police officers.
As I was awaiting my turn to testify and wondering about my fate after testifying, I simply started smiling at the mean-looking lawmakers, only to be cussed at angrily and asked “what the F--- are you laughing at?”
I then decided to walk out of the room after reminding the city legislators that there was no point in testifying since their minds were already fixed on something.
I later learned that the draft proposal never became law because it defied every basic right outlined in the US Constitution under the preamble, “We the People".
Today Iranians annually observe November 4 as the National Day Against Global Arrogance by taking part in demonstrations from the compound that formerly housed the US embassy in Tehran to recall what took place on this day back in 1979.
It's still relevant as the US continues to interfere in the internal affairs of other nations, including Iran.
This year, the countrywide demonstrations drew a much larger crowd than in previous years with people from all walks of life denouncing the Western regimes for instigating deadly riots in the country through media and political campaigns to bring about a "regime change" in the Islamic Republic.
Iranians appear ever more determined to resist and rigorously campaign against all US-led ploys to meddle not only in their nation but the world over.
Mohsen Badakhsh is an educator and freelance journalist.
(The views expressed in this article are author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of Hausa TV.)