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Reps. Suozzi, Bacon Introduce Iran Hostages Congressional Gold Medal Act

Thursday, February 18, 2021
2021 marks the 40th anniversary of the release of American hostages held in the U.S. Embassy in Iran, legislation would award the Congressional Gold Medal to the former hostages

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congressman Tom Suozzi (D-NY) and Congressman Don Bacon (R-NE) introduced bipartisan legislation that would award the Congressional Gold Medal to hostages held against their will in the U.S. Embassy in Iran in 1979. Under the legislation, a silver duplicate of the medal would be awarded to the individual hostages or their next of kin. The hostages endured 444 days of captivity. This year marks the 40th anniversary of their release.


“The bravery and sacrifice made by U.S. Embassy workers who were held against their will must be honored,” said Rep. Suozzi. “We can never forget their sacrifice and their never-ending will to uphold the values our country holds so dear.”


“America will always stand for freedom, individual liberty, and basic human rights,” said Rep. Bacon. “For 444 days, these Americans had to endure unbearable physical and psychological torture by Iranian militants that do not share the same values as our great nation. In the face of evil, they stood tall, and we must honor their courage and sacrifice.”


“On behalf of my fellow Foreign Service and military colleagues who were held in Iran by student terrorists for the 444 days of our captivity, I am proud Reps. Suozzi and Bacon have introduced legislation that would award the Congressional Gold Medal for bravery and patriotism under unendurable conditions. We also recognize that our love of country is not a one-way street and that our nation’s promise of compensation for the pain we endured must be part of this ceremony and must be fulfilled,” said Barry Rose, former hostage. 


"For the hostages, this traumatic ordeal was filled with a horrifying gamut of human rights violations. Yet when faced with the lure of cooperation, 52 American men and women chose instead to resist. They would continue to make this conscious choice daily, for 444 days. 40 years later, the Iranian Hostage Crisis continues to "mean something". The Iranian hostages served the American nation and her people in a way which goes beyond anyone's call to duty in service of the security, prosperity or national security of the American nation. On behalf of Commission 52, we are grateful to Representatives Suozzi and Bacon and the aforementioned members of Congress for its most profound expression of national appreciation,” said Ezra Friedlander and Marlen Kruzhkov on behalf of Commission 52, which is helping work on this important initiative.


“The Hostages and their families are genuine heroes - - but also very real victims of Iranian kidnapping and torture. They humbly and gratefully accept this high honor you are bestowing upon them.  But their ordeal continues, and justice promised by this great body and so many of you personally has yet to be fulfilled. As these medals are pinned to their chests, it is only just to right an ongoing wrong of over 40 years, sending a message that lawless incidents like this and the accompanying physical and mental brutalization will no longer be tolerated by Iran or any other violator of fundamental human rights. No greater good could come from this celebratory moment,” said Tom Lankford, lead attorney for the Hostages and families since 1999.


On November 4, 1979, fifty-two Americans were taken hostage from the US Embassy in Iran by militant supporters of the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in violation of international law. For the next 444 days, they were subjected to intense physical and psychological torture, including mock executions, beatings, solitary confinement, and inhospitable living conditions.


Throughout their ordeal, the hostages showed unfathomable resilience, strength, and courage. Famously, one scrawled “viva la roja, blanco, y azul:” Long Live the Red, White, and Blue, on his cell wall as a reminder of the values he swore to protect. Despite abuses designed to break their spirits and faith in the United States, they stood resolute, and refused to denounce or sign fraudulent statements condemning the United States.


The more than fourteen-month nightmare the hostages endured inspired unity in the American people, who hoped and prayed for their safe return. 35 of the original hostages are still alive, and many are still suffering the lasting effects of the trauma from their tribulation. The Iran Hostages Congressional Gold Medal act would honor their bravery, sacrifice, and outstanding service to the United States. 


The legislation has bipartisan support in the House of Representatives. Original cosponsors include representatives Dan Crenshaw (R-TX), Jared Huffman (D-CA), Derek Kilmer (D-WA), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Jim McGovern (D-MA), Alex X. Mooney (R-WV), David Trone (D-MD), and Bruce Westerman (R-AR).



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