November 4, 2004: Headlines: COS - Iran: COS - Afghanistan: Hostages: Terrorism: Newsday: RPCV Barry Rosen left Manhattan last month for Afghanistan, next door to Iran, where he was held hostage for 444 days in 1979. Rosen is determined to recapture something that was taken from him more than two decades ago: his overseas life

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Iran: Peace Corps Iran : The Peace Corps in Iran: November 4, 2004: Headlines: COS - Iran: COS - Afghanistan: Hostages: Terrorism: Newsday: RPCV Barry Rosen left Manhattan last month for Afghanistan, next door to Iran, where he was held hostage for 444 days in 1979. Rosen is determined to recapture something that was taken from him more than two decades ago: his overseas life

By Admin1 (admin) (pool-141-157-21-111.balt.east.verizon.net - 141.157.21.111) on Saturday, November 06, 2004 - 10:00 am: Edit Post

RPCV Barry Rosen left Manhattan last month for Afghanistan, next door to Iran, where he was held hostage for 444 days in 1979. Rosen is determined to recapture something that was taken from him more than two decades ago: his overseas life

RPCV Barry Rosen left  Manhattan last month for Afghanistan, next door to Iran, where he was held hostage for 444 days in 1979. Rosen is determined to recapture something that was taken from him more than two decades ago: his overseas life

RPCV Barry Rosen left Manhattan last month for Afghanistan, next door to Iran, where he was held hostage for 444 days in 1979. Rosen is determined to recapture something that was taken from him more than two decades ago: his overseas life

For the Americans held hostage in Iran for 444 days and their families the terrorism of today holds eerie resonance


By Beth Whitehouse
Staff Writer

November 4, 2004

Caption: Barry Rosen (left)

The bird kept flying back.

It perched on a branch outside the dark room where Barry Rosen was held captive in Iran; where a louvered vent was the only opening between Rosen and freedom. That bird became Rosen's link to an outside world, a world where he might feel happy and sane.

"I hope you come back, I hope you come back," he would whisper each day when the bird flew off.

Now, it's Rosen who has returned. He left Manhattan last month for Afghanistan, next door to Iran, where the people also practice Islam and live under the specter of terrorism. Rosen is determined to recapture something that was taken from him more than two decades ago: his overseas life.

On Nov. 4, 1979 -- 25 years ago today -- the U.S. Embassy in Tehran was seized by militant Iranian students who were part of that country's Islamic revolution. They were furious that the United States had allowed Iran's ousted Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi into the country to be treated for cancer in a New York hospital. Rosen, then working as a press attaché, became one of 52 Americans held for more than 14 months -- 444 days. Freedom came on Jan. 20, 1981, the day President Ronald Reagan was inaugurated.

Rosen came home to a pre- school-age son who had nearly forgotten him and a toddler daughter who certainly had. His wife, Barbara, was terrified to return to another overseas assignment, so Rosen spent the following decades here, teaching at Brooklyn College and Teachers College of Columbia University.

A question of why

"Why would a 60-year-old man want to be in Afghanistan?" Rosen says in a telephone interview from his now- grown son's house in Washingtonville, N.Y., the day before he returned to the country where he's been working for almost a year now, helping to write textbooks for Afghan students with themes of peace and conflict resolution.

"It's my way of saying to myself, 'I want to do something that I feel is real and palpable, to be out there rather than sitting behind a desk now and retiring.' This is something of that part of my life."

That part of his life. Today, the former hostages see that part of their lives in different ways. A number say their time held captive is relegated to the distant past. "How much do I think about it?" asks former hostage Kathryn Koob, who continued in the foreign service at posts in cities such as Vienna and Munich after her release and is now an adjunct professor at Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa. "It was less than 1/60th of my life. It was 25 years ago. Life is too short and too busy to think about 444 days constantly."

Some say they are much more likely to mark the anniversary of their release than the day of the seizure. But Bruce Laingen of Bethesda, Md., who was the chief of the embassy mission and is now 82 years old, will meet for lunch in mid- November with the two men who shared a room with him for part of their time in captivity. For Rosen as well, the day won't pass without some introspection. "The fourth of November is always a solemn day in my life. It's a day I kind of reflect on the fact that I am still alive. I could've been dead a long time. A long time."


"I don't think I would go back to Iran right now if I were invited back," Rosen says. "I just don't want to go back to a place that is so prohibitive, so destructive to human rights."

Rosen had been a Peace Corps volunteer in Iran from 1967 to 1969. "I spent two great years of my life in Iran. I loved Iran, traveled everywhere, had great friends. I liked the architecture, I loved the history," Rosen says.

He knew enough Farsi to be able to read the locally bottled milk the hostages' captors brought them and figure out what area they were being held in -- after the United States attempted a rescue in April 1980, the hostages were dispersed throughout the country.

Then, last year, the desire to recapture the expatriate life he'd always wanted spurred Rosen to become director of Teachers College Columbia University's Afghanistan Education Project. His wife stays in New York, and Rosen returns every two months for a few weeks to be with her, their children and their two young grandchildren. "Barbara has been the greatest support of what I'm doing," Rosen says of his wife, who declined to be interviewed for this story.

"She doesn't want me to be there, but she feels I made sacrifices when I came home from Iran, and she doesn't want to stand in my way now."

Copyright © 2004, Newsday, Inc. | Article licensing and reprint options





When this story was posted in November 2004, this was on the front page of PCOL:

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Story Source: Newsday

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Iran; COS - Afghanistan; Hostages; Terrorism

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