The Foreign Service Journal, January-February 2021

46 JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2021 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL BELIEVERS Love and Death in Tehran An Excerpt Background Believers: Love and Death in Tehran (Mazda Publishers, 2020), written by Ambassadors (ret.) Marc Grossman and John Limbert, both AFSA mem- bers, is a work of fiction set in Iran and Washington, D.C., during the 1980s and the present. The hero is the fictional FSO Nilufar Hartman, daughter of an Iranian mother and an American father. With the liberty of novelists, the authors have imagined her in scenes both histori- cal and fictional with people real and invented. The following adapted excerpt, set in late 1980 and early 1981, ends with the release of 52 American hostages on Jan. 20, 1981, just a few minutes after Ron- ald Reagan took his presidential oath of office. Setting the Scene During the early summer of 1979, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Alan Porter had asked first-tour FSO Nilufar Hartman to go to Tehran and, with her fluent On the 40th anniversary of the release of the Iran hostages, a fictional FSO heroine stirs memories of the takeover of the U.S. embassy in Tehran and its aftermath. BY JOHN L I MBERT AND MARC GROSSMAN FEATURE Persian, help the embassy with its flood of visa applicants. When she arrived in the early morning of Nov. 4, 1979, her Iranian mother’s family greeted her at the airport, but no one came from the embassy. She spent the night at the family home and, before she could report to work in the morning, learned that student militants had occupied the U.S. embassy compound and were holding the staff captive. When it became clear that the crisis would drag on, Porter asked her to stay and report secretly to him on developments in Iran. As her cover, the bicultural Nilufar became the devout revolutionary “Mas- soumeh.” Using family connections, she found work, first at Mehrabad Airport and then in the office of Ayatollah Mohammad Beheshti, the second most powerful man in revolutionary Iran. Although at daily risk of exposure, Nilufar quickly became Porter’s indispensable eyes and ears. We pick up the story here, about one-third of the way through the book, when the Iranians have decided they want to end the hostage crisis.