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Iran’s Hostages: Then and Now

PortandTerminal.com, July 24, 2019

TEHRAN, IRAN – All 23 crew on a British-flagged tanker seized last week by Iran in the Strait of Hormuz are safe and well, the vessel’s Swedish operator Stena Bulk said on Wednesday after speaking to them.

Iran said on Saturday it had seized the Stena Impero because it had collided with a fishing boat. Stena Bulk has said it has received no evidence of such a collision.

Aerial photos of the British-flagged oil tanker Stena Impero, which was  seized by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard last week, being circled by Iranian fast boats (Photo: AP)

“We had direct contact with the crew on board the vessel last night by telephone and they’re all okay and in good health and they’re getting good cooperation with the Iranians on board,” the firm’s spokesman Pat Adamson said.

Britain described the seizure as piracy and called on Monday for a European-led naval mission to ensure safe shipping through the Strait, a strategic waterway for oil transportation.

Hostages now

Images distributed on the Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) show members of the crew on the British-flagged tanker Stena Impero after it was seized by members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in the Gulf Straight of Hormuz.

The men could be seen sitting cross-legged on the bridge having had their shoes removed and piled up.

Iran’s state-affiliated Fars news agency released the first image inside the British-flagged Stena Impero oil tanker on Monday, showing part of the 23-strong crew sitting cross-legged on the floor under the watch of a Revolutionary Guardsman while their shoes sit piled up nearby

A video released shows seven of the crew wearing red jumpsuits and sitting around a table, as one Iranian guard can be heard thanking them for their cooperation. The cameraman can also be heard telling them not to look at him. Another video shows the crew laughing while standing around a coffee machine, and the ship’s cooks preparing food in an apparent attempt to show they are being treated well.  

An armed guardsman is seen patrolling along the deck of the Impero in the latest taunt to Britain. Iran is trying to secure the release of its tanker – the Grace 1 – which was seized by Royal Marines near Gibraltar earlier this month

Two other photos show an armed guardsman on the deck of the tanker, and the tanker being watched over by armed boats at the port of Bandar Abbas, where it is being held.

For now, it appears that the Stena Impero’s crew are being well treated by their captors. Let there be no mistake though, all 23 of the crew of the Stena Impero including nationals from India, the Philippines, Russia and Latvia are now Iranian hostages.

Let there be no mistake though, all 23 of the crew of the Stena Impero including nationals from India, the Philippines, Russia and Latvia are now Iranian hostages.

The crew of the Stena Impero have now become bargaining chips to be negotiated over, put on display and treated in whichever way Iran decides.

Stena Bulk said the crew’s family members were being kept updated on the latest developments and being offered the firm’s full support.

Hostages then

TEHRAN, IRAN – NOVEMBER 4: EXCLUSIVE Photography taken by one of the Iranian students kidnapper inside the US embassy at the very beginning of the hostage crisis, in which 52 Americans were held hostages for 444 days from November 4, 1979 to January 20, 1981 by a group of Islamists students and militants in support of Iranian Revolution, on November 4, 1979 in Tehran, Iran. (Photo by GAMMA/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)

If all of this brings to mind the 52 American hostages that were held by Iran for forty years ago then it should.

The Iran hostage crisis was a diplomatic standoff between the United States and Iran (sound familiar?). Fifty-two American diplomats and citizens were held hostage for 444 days from November 4, 1979, to January 20, 1981, after a group of Iranian college students who supported the Iranian Revolution, took over the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.

In Iran, the crisis strengthened the prestige of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and the political power of theocrats who opposed any normalization of relations with the West. 

The crisis also led to American economic sanctions against Iran, which further weakened ties between the two countries.

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