Padilla, Rubio Introduce Legislation to Award Congressional Gold Medal to Iran Hostage Crisis Victims

WASHINGTON, D.C.  – Today, U.S. Senators Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) introduced the Iran Hostages Congressional Gold Medal Act to honor the 52 Americans who endured 444 days held in captivity by the Islamic Republic of Iran in the late 1970s with a Congressional Gold Medal, the highest award that Congress can bestow. 

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Americans’ release and their return home. Thirty-four of the original hostages are still alive, with some still suffering the lasting effects of the trauma from their captivity. The families of five former hostages reside in California and three of the hostages are Floridians.

“40 years ago, the nation came together to celebrate 52 patriots’ safe return after more than a year in captivity under brutal conditions,”Padilla said. “The resilience, strength, and courage of these American heroes must never be forgotten. Their bravery and valor deserves to be honored with Congress’ highest civilian honor, the Congressional Gold Medal.”

“As Iran continues to hold American citizens hostage, I’m proud to honor the 52 Americans, including three Floridians, who were held captive during the 1979 Iranian Hostage Crisis,” Rubio said. “Through this Congressional gold medal, we pay tribute to the courage and resilience of our fellow Americans who were the first to be held hostage by the evil regime in Tehran.”

“It is past time that these fifty-two American heroes, whose resolve did not waver under the worst of conditions, be honored by their government,” said Ezra Friedlander founder of Commission 52, which is spearheading a grassroots effort to honor the former hostages. “Fortunately, with the introduction of the Iran Congressional Gold Medal legislation in the Senate, justice delayed will no longer mean justice denied for the patriots who went through hell to defend and uphold our American values of freedom and democracy.”

“This act of the Senate and leadership of our sponsors lifts our spirits, honors our service and sacrifices, and shouts out to the world, we in the United States will stand by our voices in foreign lands. It will not go unnoticed or unrecognized,” said Tom Lankford, lead counsel for the former hostages held in Iran.

On November 4, 1979, 52 Americans were taken hostage from the U.S. Embassy in Iran by militant supporters of the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in violation of international law. For the next 444 days, they were subjected to intense physical and psychological torture, including mock executions, beatings, solitary confinement, and inhospitable living conditions.

Despite abuses designed to break their spirits and faith in democracy, the hostages stood resolute, and refused to denounce or sign fraudulent statements condemning the United States. 

Senators John Cornyn (R-TX), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), and Ben Ray Lujan (D-N.M.) are cosponsors of the legislation.

Text of the bill can be found here.