1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites
Ken Taylor
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/The Canadian Press/G. Rodan

Canadian hero of Iran hostage crisis dies

October 16, 2015

Former Canadian ambassador in Iran Ken Taylor has passed away at the age of 81. The envoy hid American embassy staff in his Tehran residence during the 1979 hostage crisis, and later facilitated their escape.


Taylor died after a two-month battle with colon cancer, his wife Pat said late Thursday.

The Canadian diplomat took in six American citizens who slip away when Iranian revolutionaries stormed the US embassy in 1979. Taylor and his deputy sheltered the Americans for three months.

"He did all sorts of things for everyone without any expectation of something coming back," Pat Taylor told the AP news agency.

"It's why that incident in Iran happened," she added. "There was no second thought about it. He just went ahead and did it. His legacy is that giving is what is important, not receiving. With all his friends that's what he did."

The student followers of Ayatollah Khomeini took the remaining 52 embassy staff and civilians hostage, launching a stand off with the US that lasted 444 days.

However, Taylor managed to send the six diplomats home in three months. In cooperation with the CIA, he persuaded the Ottawa government to issue fake passports for them and to smuggle them out of the country disguised as a film crew.

Hollywood vs. reality

The US awarded Taylor the Congressional Gold Medal for helping the American citizens and providing them with shelter in his residence and his deputy's Tehran home.

"Ambassador Taylor's actions during the Iran hostage crisis were unquestionably heroic," said Peter Boogaard, a White House National Security Council spokesman said on Thursday.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said he was sad to learn of the news of the diplomat's death.

"Ken Taylor represented the very best that Canada's foreign service has to offer," he said.

Part of Taylor's story is shown in the Oscar-winning picture "Argo," directed by the Hollywood star Ben Affleck.

However, Taylor and many others, including former US president Jimmy Carter, felt that the 2012 movie downplayed Canada's and Taylor's role, while putting the CIA in the forefront.

The story of the former ambassador was told again in the 2013 documentary "Our Man in Tehran."

dj/kms (AP, AFP)

Skip next section DW's Top Story

DW's Top Story

A US F-16 fighter jet goes through a preflight inspection at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan.

After tanks for Ukraine, are fighter jets next in line?

Skip next section More stories from DW
Go to homepage