One Small Pot, 2 Groups of Terrorism Victims

Former Iranian hostages await compensation more than 4 decades later
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 27, 2021 10:15 AM CDT
One Small Pot, 2 Groups of Terrorism Victims
In this Nov. 9, 1979, file photo, one of the hostages seized when militants stormed the US Embassy in Tehran is displayed to a crowd in Tehran, Iran.   (AP Photo, File)

Two members of a select group died this month—they were among the 52 Americans taken hostage in Iran in 1979, reports Anne Gearan in the Washington Post. With their deaths, the number of surviving members from the group has shrunk to 35. "We are not getting any younger," says 82-year-old David M. Roeder. His comment speaks to the point of Gearan's story—the former hostages are still waiting to receive the compensation they were promised for their 444-day ordeal. The story lays out the background: As part of the agreement struck to free the hostages, they were forbidden to go after Iran in court.

Many tried anyway but failed, and it wasn't until 2015 that the ex-hostages seemed to get justice. Under a new US law set up to compensate "state sponsors of terrorism"—which currently covers acts by Iran, North Korea, Syria, and Cuba—they were each to get $4.44 million. Only a small portion of the money had been doled out when a new snag arose. Congress decided that relatives and survivors of the 9/11 attacks were entitled to the money from the law as well, arguing that Iran had helped the hijackers. As a result, there simply isn't enough money to go around.

"The awkward result has essentially pitted one group of terrorism victims against another," writes Gearan. The Iran hostages point out that 9/11 victims have other sources of compensation, but note they do not, and they want the White House to step in and rectify the matter—or at least give them preference, which the law currently doesn't do. "Time is not on our side," former hostage Barry Rosen wrote in a USA Today op-ed last month. "If the Biden administration truly cares, it must act now." (Read more hostages stories.)

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