THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
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
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
Michael Metrinko addressing a huge crowd in Scranton, Pa., the
first stop en route to his hometown from Iran in January 1981.