Over a hundred and fifty people attended two fascinating talks in Yalding church in April and September 2013, entitled “Iran’s Islamic Revolution: A Close-Up and Personal View.”
Martin Williams lives in Yalding, and gave talks on the time he was posted as a First Secretary at the British Embassy in Tehran between 1977 and 1980. This was during the tumultuous time of the Islamic Revolution and particularly topical as many of his audience had recently seen or at least heard of the blockbuster film Argo about events featured in the talk.
Martin and his wife Sue drove out to Iran in October & November 1977 in their Austin Maxi (colour ‘desert sand’) – quite a memorable journey by all accounts. The car, with its GB sticker, was to take part in an adventure that none could have foreseen at the time. After introducing his audience to details of life in Tehran, Martin talked of the gradual breakdown of law and order until at one stage wives and families of Embassy staff, including Sue, had to return to the UK for their own safety.
It was after her return that events again took a turn for the worse when on 4th November 1979 Islamic militants, in protest against America giving the Shah protection and demanding his return to Iran to face justice, stormed the American Embassy. They took 52 hostages, and sparked an international crisis that lasted 14 months.
What was particularly fascinating was the role Martin and Sue, together with other diplomatic colleagues, played in rescuing six American diplomats who had escaped during the melee. The Austin Maxi was called into use on three separate occasions to collect the six people originally, and subsequently to take them to other places of safe hiding, with Sue amongst those providing for the Americans in any way they could.
The talks raised over £500 for YCPS funds.