Today marks the 30th anniversary of the taking of American hostages by radical Islamists during Iran’s 1979 Revolution. Every year, the theocracy celebrates the occasion with orchestrated demonstrations against the United States, complete with the requisite burning of the American flag and chants of “Death to America.”
But this year, the regime’s anti-Americanism is being boldly confronted. Democratic organizers are subverting the day’s tightly controlled activities with their own planned rallies featuring a
day-long message of apology and friendship to the U.S. The brave Iranian women and men fighting for an open society are intent on showing the West that they are ashamed of the regime’s violence and the pain the American people experienced 30 years ago.
One of us, Akbar, served in the leadership of Tahkim Vahdat, the very organization that took Americans hostage three decades ago. During the late 1990s when Akbar was involved, activists in favor of a liberal society that embraces modernity struggled to become the leading voices of the student movement. Despite incessant state surveillance, intimidation and imprisonment, we managed to turn Tahkim Vahdat inside out—from a tool of regime control into a leading voice for democratic opposition. We see today’s movement as the fruit of seeds we planted over a decade ago.