As the White House seeks a historic détente and nuclear deal with Iran, the 52 Americans held hostage by the Islamic regime back in 1979 are redoubling demands for a formal apology and compensation for their nightmarish ordeal.
“Not only have they not apologized. The taking of that [U.S.] embassy is still celebrated in Iran,” former hostage Rodney Sickmann, who spent 444 days in captivity, told ABC News. “We need to make sure that we show the rest of the world that if you do this to an American embassy, you will be held accountable.”
Sickmann and other survivors are imploring the Obama administration to insist upon a formal apology and compensation for their treatment as part of any agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief. However, the White House has repeatedly said restitution for the hostages is not on the table in the discussions set to conclude in a few days.
“There are a whole host of issues on the side that are also priorities but that are separate from our ongoing efforts to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” Obama spokesman Josh Earnest told ABC News in April.
"Ultimately, the U.S. should insist on an apology,” Sickmann said in the interview. “For 444 days I had to live as a hostage, tied to a chair first 30 days, then locked in a room for the next 400. My freedom was gone. It was torture.”
On Nov. 4th, 1979, the United States embassy in Teheran was overrun by Iranians who Sickmann calls “terrorists,” describing abusive, humiliating and torturous circumstances for over a year. He and the other American captives were released Jan. 20, 1981, just minutes after Ronald Reagan took the oath of office.
“You regret not ever pulling that trigger when all this is happening to you, you think back to the morning I had a chance. I couldn’t have killed everybody but at least I would have given some satisfaction,” Sickmann told ABC. “But I did my job, I did what I was told to do which was to stand down. So stand down I did and now it is time for the US government to stand up and make sure that Iran is held accountable for what they did.”
The former hostages have found some allies on Capitol Hill, working on legislation in consultation with the State Department, that could potentially provide compensation from frozen or seized Iranian assets under US sanctions. Congress has not yet approved any such proposal.
For more on Sickmann’s story and the harrowing tale of his detention in this ABC News Original Video.