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THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL

|

MARCH 2015

33

Foreign Service Political Officer Michael Metrinko spent most of his

14 months as a hostage in solitary confinement. Here is his story.

BY M I CHAE L METR I NKO

W

hat happened on Novem-

ber 4, 1979?

I generally got into the

embassy late because I

would go out every night.

I would not get home

until midnight or 1 a.m. I

was one of the few people

who was going out, but I

was also seeing a whole wide range of people who were useful to

the embassy, for reporting and to get things done.

On Nov. 3, I had been contacted by two of Ayatollah Taleghani’s

sons, saying they wanted to meet me the next morning at the

embassy. I told them that I wouldn’t be able to get there until

around 11 a.m. or so. They were insistent it had to be earlier,

because they were leaving to see Yasser Arafat and they wanted to

talk to me before they went. This was logical, knowing these two

people, so I agreed to be there early.

I was in my office waiting for my friends to call. I noticed that

there was a tremendous amount of activity around the embassy.

The noise level had just picked up considerably, and when we

looked out we could see lots of heads. Suddenly the heads were

coming over the walls. And that was that. When I got to the main

floor, people were at the doors. Then it was a matter of battening

down the hatches.

I was part of the group in the ambassador’s office—a large

group with some discipline, not a tremendous amount. The

chargé, his deputy and the regional security officer were gone,

so there was some confusion over who was in charge. There was

more noise outside. The phone lines were still working. We were

The 1979 Hostage Crisis:

Down and Out in Tehran

FOCUS

ON IRAN

Michael Metrinko addressing a huge crowd in Scranton, Pa., the

first stop en route to his hometown from Iran in January 1981.