A spending bill recently signed by President Obama had a generous little provision slipped into it — a promise that up to $4.4 million will be given to to each of the 37 surviving hostages taken during a terror incident at the American Embassy in Iran in 1979, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. The sum will also be awarded to the estates of 16 others who underwent the terrifying ordeal and have died in the years since their release.
The hostages were held captive for 444 days in total, so the compensation sum works out to $10,000 for each day of their captivity. The compensation has finally been secured by lawyers who fought on behalf of the terrorized Americans and their families over the decades. Obama’s bill decrees that the money will come, in part, from a French bank called BNP Paribas, which was fined $9 billion for violating sanctions against Iran, Cuba and Sudan.
— CNN Breaking News (@cnnbrk) December 24, 2015
The hostages were captured in 1979 after student militants stormed the American Embassy during the fraught Iranian Revolution, a time of tense relations between Washington and Tehran. The Daily Mail reports that the incident strained the relationship between Iran and America further.
Lawyers argued that the emotional toll on the embassy workers and their families was severe enough to warrant the ample compensation — victims suffered depression and ruptured personal relations after they were released in January 1981. Lawyer Alan Madison said that one of the victims committed suicide and that there were several other suicide attempts.
The agreement that freed the hostages in the early ’80s included a clause barring them from collecting any sort of compensation from the Iranian government.
Following the passing of the generous recent Obama bill, attorney Thomas Lankford reflected.
“Iran is not paying the money, but it’s as close as you can get.”
The lawyer, who has fought the U.S. government and finally achieved a satisfying verdict after years of having his client’s requests denied, also said that the payment is “gratifying after a long, long time.”
Not everyone is totally happy about the compensation. One critic on social media asked why the hostages are being compensated so handsomely when African-Americans have not been paid a cent following the trauma induced by 400 years of slavery and life as second-class citizens.
— BYHISGRACE8 (@BYHISGRACE64) December 25, 2015
36 years after the Iran hostage crisis, Americans will receive compensation https://t.co/iziR3kBliE
— TIME.com (@TIME) December 25, 2015
In a separate interview, hostage lawyer Lankford told the press that many of the hostages are reclusive and have a debilitating fear of Iran, even now that they are safely back on American soil. Severe paranoia and mental issues are the result of years of mistreatment at the hands of their Iranian captors, who issued threats that still haunt their victims.
“We have hostages who are reclusive and still scared of Iran because they were told when they left, ‘We’re going to come and get you.'”
The U.S. government did give the traumatized hostages a token compensation back in in 1986, five years after their release. A Congressional Research Service report reveals that an allowance of $100 per day was promised, but that small sum was apparently cut in half during budget negotiations.
[The former hostages] were never allowed to take Iran to court because of the agreement with Tehran that freed them.
This year’s nuclear agreement between the United States and Iran helped to bring the hostages and their plight back into public consciousness, as did the release of a film Argo that documented the rescue of six of the captured Americans.
It is believed that the hostages and their families will not seek further compensation following the Obama payout.
[M]ore than three decades of lobbying and legal battles over compensation have finally ended.
— Star Tribune (@StarTribune) December 25, 2015
Compensation for Hostages, Finally — Hostage Accords Were a Legal Mistake. https://t.co/LwufmNdhY3
— Stuart S. Malawer (@smalawer) December 25, 2015
(Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)