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Iranian embassy siege Wednesday, 26 April, 2000, 16:58 GMT 17:58 UK
Lucky to be alive
Chris Cramer
Chris Cramer 'recovers' in hospital after being released
Twenty years after the event, some people will never forget the Iranian embassy siege - the hostages.
Chris Cramer
Chris Cramer looks back 20 years
"You think about it most days and reflect on how lucky you have been," says former hostage Chris Cramer.

Then a BBC journalist, Mr Cramer was visiting the embassy with sound recordist Sim Harris to pick up visas for a visit to Iran when they were captured.


My fear was that having killed one hostage, why shouldn't they kill the next one? And then again, why shouldn't it be me?

Sim Harris
He was released after 24 hours. At the time Mr Cramer was reported to be suffering from a severe stomach virus picked up in Africa. But this was not quite true.

"The four non-Arab persons, myself, Ron Morris, Sim Harris and Trevor Lock, decided that one of us had to get out.

"I was rather conveniently ill, so I ramped it up a little," he says.


You think about it most days and reflect on how lucky you have been.

Chris Cramer
The gunmen became alarmed and they agreed to release him. This enabled Mr Cramer to provide crucial information about the embassy layout, the number of gunmen and number of hostages.

This intelligence was used by the SAS when they stormed the building a few days later.

Sim Harris
Sim Harris escapes with the help of the SAS
Mr Cramer, now managing editor of CNN International, says the siege affected him psychologically. He later realised he had suffered post-traumatic stress disorder - a condition unheard of at the time.

"You don't have to lie awake at night screaming to be affected by it," he says.

Although he tried to put the siege out of his mind, it took him a long time.

"We're talking years rather than months," he says.

'Living through a feature film'

Former sound recordist Sim Harris was held for six days. He was seen on TV escaping over a balcony at the front of the embassy when the SAS made their assault.

"It was like living through a feature film, you just couldn't believe it was all happening," he says.

Sim Harris
Sim Harris explains his experiences the day after the siege
It was the execution of hostage Abbas Lavasani on Bank Holiday Monday that precipitated the SAS action. Mr Harris says that up until that final day he still thought the siege would end peacefully.

But after the shooting, each one of the hostages was scared they were going to be next.

"My fear was that having killed one hostage, why shouldn't they kill the next one? And then again, why shouldn't it be me?

"Everybody's mind was racing and the atmosphere was absolutely dreadful."

'Very special friendship'

Since the siege took place some of the hostages have kept in touch with each other. Occasionally they get together to talk about their experiences.


There is a very peculiar bond between hostages. Nobody else went through it as we did. It brings a very special sort of friendship.

Sim Harris
Although infrequent, these reunions can be emotional.

"There is always a lot of hugging and kissing," says Sim Harris.

"There is a very peculiar bond between hostages. Nobody else went through it as we did. It brings a very special sort of friendship."

This year a reunion is planned for 7 May. Former hostages Mustapha Karkouti, Akmed Dadgar and Dr Abul Fazi Ezzat will join Sim Harris and Chris Cramer for an evening remembering the siege, and their narrow escape.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Sim Harris describes the last day of the siege
"It was going very seriously wrong"
See also:

26 Apr 00 | Iranian embassy siege
26 Apr 00 | Iranian embassy siege
26 Apr 00 | Iranian embassy siege
Links to more Iranian embassy siege stories are at the foot of the page.


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