Sweden slammed for inviting ‘mastermind’ of 1979 Iranian hostage crisis

Dissidents say hosting Islamic Republic’s VP Masoumeh Ebtekar, who represented hostage-takers to international media, akin to supporting terrorism

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Masoumeh Ebtekar (Vahid Salemi/AP)
Masoumeh Ebtekar (Vahid Salemi/AP)

Iranian dissidents this week condemned Sweden’s invitation to Masoumeh Ebtekar, the Islamic Republic’s vice president for women and family affairs, who was actively involved in the storming of the US embassy in Tehran 40 years ago.

Ebtekar, 57, was “an organizer and participant” in the hostage crisis, according to a statement signed by more than a hundred expat Iranians from across the globe.

“Mrs. Ebtekar has never expressed regret for that act,” according to the statement. “And yet the Swedish government, through Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom, has invited her to Sweden.”

In November 1979, Iranian students supportive of the Islamic Revolution, which had taken place a few months earlier, took American diplomats and citizens hostage and kept them captive for 444 days.

Ebtekar has been hosted by the European Union and individual European governments before. In 1979, she served as the Iranian hostage-takers’ spokesperson to the international media. She later wrote a book about her role in the event, known as the longest hostage crisis in modern history.

The Iranian dissidents, including Times of Israel blogger Neda Amin, said hosting Ebtekar was akin to supporting the Iranian storming of the US Embassy.

“We Iranians living in democratic western countries are greatly disturbed by the total lack of human dignity in this invitation. We believe the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs is supporting an illegal act, where an embassy was taken over by force and diplomats taken hostage, by inviting one of the masterminds behind that horrific act,” their statement reads.

“There are many distinguished Iranian women who are true leaders and are respected globally. They are human rights champions and proponents of gender equality. Sweden could have invited one of them instead.”

Iran’s Vice President and Minister of State for Environmental Protection, Masoumeh Ebtekar (C), walks with French Ecology Minister Segolene Royal (L), following their meeting in Tehran on August 28, 2016. (AFP PHOTO / ATTA KENARE)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday described the Iranian storming of the US embassy as the beginning of a new age of terrorism.

“If I had to mark the day when terrorism began to break out onto the modern world, I would say it was in a dramatic event in Tehran 39 years ago: the takeover of the US embassy in Tehran and the capture of dozens of diplomats and civilians as hostages,” he said at a memorial event for Israeli diplomats who were killed while serving their country abroad. “Terror, and more terrorism, a terror that crosses borders.”

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