Students In the Line of the Imam

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An organization of Iranian students that held U.S. hostages for over one year.

Students in the Line of the Imam was a militant group formed after the Iranian Revolution (1979). It advocated radical policies that its members insisted were supported by the revolution's leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, whom they called imam. The group acquired domestic and international attention when it seized the U.S. embassy in Tehran in November 1979 and announced that captured U.S. diplomatic personnel would be held until the United States extradited the deposed shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, to Iran for trial. This action began the most dramatic of regional hostage crises, one that would not be resolved for 444 days. During the crisis, the students pasted together shredded secret documents pertaining to U.S. policy that they found in the embassy compound. They published the U.S. documents in several volumes and also used the material in the documents to discredit moderate politicians mentioned in them. Although the Students in the Line of the Imam group gradually was relegated to the margins of Iranian politics after the hostage crisis was resolved in January 1981, several of its leaders subsequently played important roles. Abbas Abdi, for example, became an influential editor and champion of the reform movement in the 1990s. Maryam Ebtehar, media spokesperson for the Students in the Line of the Imam, became Iran's first woman vice president in 1997.

see also hostage crises; iranian revolution (1979); khomeini, ruhollah; pahlavi, mohammad reza.


Bakhash, Shaul. The Reign of the Ayatollahs: Iran and the Islamic Revolution. New York: Basic Books, 1986.

Iran Research Group. Who's Who in Iran. Meckenheim, Germany, 1990.

neguin yavari
updated by eric hooglund

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Students In the Line of the Imam

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