February 16, 1979 – Flight From Tehran
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February 16, 1979 – a day of evacuation, confusion and purges in Tehran, and a day of logger-heads in Mexico City.
In Iran, the escape was on, and hundreds of American nationals were lining up at Tehran Airport to get the next flight out. Meanwhile, the purge was on, with trials and hurried executions of Generals and other military figures, loyal to the Shah being carried out in the early morning hours. Among them was the head of the Shah’s Secret Police – the trials, held in secret, brought hasty verdicts and even hastier firing squads. Iranian Prime Minister Bazargan promised more would be coming up over the following days and weeks as well as assurances all the Shah’s properties would be seized and turned over to the Ayatollah.
Back at Tehran International Airport – a full-scale evacuation was on, with American nationals scheduled to leave the following day, but many decided to get a jump on the panic, and leave a day early. The U.S. Embassy issued a statement saying it could no longer insure the protection of U.S. citizens in Iran. Shortly after, an airliner crammed with Americans left Tehran, bound for Frankfurt and eventually back to the States . However, in the midst of preparations for the rest to leave, a snag developed for some 15-20 Americans whose residency visas had expired. And rather than surrender their passports during the last days of the previous government, they were advised to hold on to their passports and not try to renew their visas until the new government was installed. But officials of the new government would not allow Americans with expired residency visas to leave. With no functioning Foreign Ministry for people to renew their visas, they couldn’t leave. But the Khomeini committee assured the stranded Americans they would try and help. But the scene in Tehran was one of chaos, with practically everyone armed and ready for a shoot out.
And that’s just a small slice of what went on in the world, this February 16th 1979, as reported by The CBS World News Roundup, Newsbreak and the 9:00 am Network news.