Iran photoshops Michelle Obama's dress; response to Argo win

WASHINGTON, February 26, 2013 – The Fars News Agency photoshopped sleeves and a more demure neckline onto pictures of Michelle Obama at the Oscars. The change was made to conform to Iranian restrictions on images of the female body broadcast via the media.

First Lady Michelle Obama

First Lady Michelle Obama

SEE RELATED: Oscars 2013: Michelle Obama declares merger of Hollywood and State

Affiliated with the Islamic republic’s elite Revolutionary Guards, the Fars News Agency redesigned the gown covering Mrs. Obama’s upper arms and chest, exposed with a low, slight exposed cleavage, to the neck.

Islamic rules dictate that woman on state television should have their hair covered with a hijab; however this rule is relaxed for broadcasts from outside of Islamic controlled states which have lesser restrictions, to a point.

Obviously, the broadcast via link from the White House, showing Mrs. Obama announcing that Argo had won best picture, did not meet those restrictions.

It is interesting to note that there are plans to release a response to Argo, which is generally viewed in Iran as “anti-Iranian.” The Academy Award winning film portrays the brutal, violent actions against Americans or those seen as sympathizing or hiding Americans caught in the country during the hostage crisis that started in 1979, lasting 444 days. 

The Art Bureau will support the Iranian state film, with the working title The General Staff, an affiliation of the Islamic Ideology Dissemination Organization. 

Speaking for the Persian service of MNA, director Atalloah Salmanian says “The movie, entitled The General Staff, is about the 20 American hostages who were delivered to the United States by the revolutionaries.”

While Argo focuses on the rescue of six Americans that escaped from the American Embassy in Iran as it was under siege by militants, 66 Americans were taken hostage that November 4, 1979, most remaining in captivity for 444 days until they were released on January 20, 1984. They won release only after President Jimmy Carter left the White House, during the initial hours of President Ronald Reagan’s first term.

Fars News Agency broadcast of First Lady Michelle Obama's Academy Award's moment

Fars News Agency broadcast of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Academy Award’s moment

SEE RELATED: Michelle Obama’s Oscar appearance raises questions about ‘Argo’ win


An expert on Iran with the Atlantic Council, Barbara Slavin, notes that 13 African Americans and women were released shortly after the takeover in what hostage-takers claimed was sympathy for oppressed minorities. 

“The movie Argo has embarrassed Iranians who would rather forget the hostage crisis — the violation of international law and the cruelty that it entailed,” Slavin said. “Long before the movie, however, Iranian officials have tried to portray the 444-day ordeal as not so terrible for the hostages and justified in light of Iranian fears that the U.S. would try to reimpose the Shah’s rule.”

Hostages speaking out about the ordeal to reporter Matthew Barakat (AP/February 11, 2009) reflect that today’s war on terrorism began that November afternoon. Barakat points out that the U.S. government agreed to release $8 billion in frozen Iranian assets, and that many see the “subsequent kidnappings and beheadings in Iraq as a consequence.  “of the hostage takers success in the Iranian Hostage crisis.

From that February 2009 AP report, the hostages are recorded as saying:

“The day they took us is the day they should have started the war on terrorism,” said Rodney “Rocky” Sickmann, 47, of St. Louis County, Mo., an embassy security guard.

“Given the terrorist modus operandi nowadays, we probably wouldn’t come out alive. They weren’t as bold then. They had a latent fear of the United States,” said Chuck Scott, 72, of Jonesboro, Ga., a former Green Beret in Vietnam who was an Army colonel when he was taken hostage.

Steven Kirtley, 47, of McLean, who was a Marine security guard at the embassy, said that while he’s grateful everybody survived, he’s also angry about what he sees as America’s largely ineffectual response to the hostage-takers. He called the episode “a stepping stone to get that terrorist movement going. It was such a terrible loss of face … such a show of weakness that I still don’t think we’ve recovered.”
“When I saw them there blindfolded with the guys with the ski masks on - I had gone through those things in Iran,” said Rick Kupke, 57, of Rensselaer, Ind. “I can tell exactly what they felt and the fear that’s going through them.”

William Blackburn Royer Jr., 73, of Katy, Texas, remembers being jolted awake by the screams of his captors, “herded like cattle” into another room, stripped naked and forced up against a wall in front of a firing squad.

“The whole thing was a shock to the system - my legs were shaking from the insecurity of the situation,” he said. “It was intended as a good psychological upheaval.”

Still, he was not sure if he would be killed.

“I knew this was a political thing,” he said. “Ultimately, I think I thought that we were too valuable to be disposed of completely. So I kept the faith in that respect. (But) I had my doubts at a couple points.”

Paul Needham said he remembers reciting the 23rd Psalm as he was lined up for a firing squad. He said he reflects on his captivity every day.

“It definitely changed me,” said Needham, 53, of Oakton, Va., a professor at the National Defense University. “I took a look at getting my priorities in life in order - God and family and country, rather than work, work and work.”

While nearly all the hostages said they feared for their lives at some point, many said their memories center on the tedium. Most hostages were largely isolated, and many said they were allowed outside for exercise less than once a month.

During a six-week stint in solitary confinement, Gary Earl Lee said he “made friends” with ants and a salamander that inhabited his room. He would tease the ants with a pistachio nut, letting them almost reach it before nudging it farther away.

“At least they were something better than the guards,” said Lee, a retiree living in south Texas.

L. Bruce Laingen, of Bethesda, the embassy’s charge d’affaires, was the highest-ranking American taken hostage. But he doesn’t blame the Iranian people, who he said were welcoming.

“We need to understand Iran, and Iran needs to seek to understand us,” he said.

Scott said he’s still frustrated that the U.S. government has never held Iran accountable for taking the hostages.

“I agree with the war on terrorism, but the war on terror by the current administration has been a very selective war. So far we’ve gone after the really easy targets,” said Scott, who opposed going into Iraq but says America must now remain committed to finishing the job there.

Kirtley, on the other hand, believes America is on the right track with the war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“It’s the right approach,” he said. “That culture responds more to strength than to a negotiated response.”

As for the anniversary, many said they prefer to remember another day.

“We celebrate Jan. 20, the anniversary of our release,” Laingen said. “That’s a good day. Nov. 4 is the day the roof fell in.”


Associated Press historical content is italicized.



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Jacquie Kubin

Jacquie Kubin is an award winning journalist that began writing in 1993 following a successful career in marketing and advertising in Chicago.  She started Communities Digital News in 2009 as a way to adapt to the changing online journalism marketing place.  Jacquie is President and Managing Editor of Communities Digital News, LLC and a frequent contributor to The Washington Times Communities as well as a member of the National Association of Professional Woman, New American Foundation and the Society of Professional Journalist.  Email Jacquie here

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