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Former Iran hostage keeping eye on events

South Carolina native William Belk watched video footage of the recent street uprisings in Iran and thought, "It's about time."

And better yet, this time Belk isn't caught in the turmoil. The last time the streets of Iran roiled this way, during the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Belk was among the 52 hostages held for 444 days at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.

"My heart goes out to the people in the streets," Belk said from his Florida home. "It's horrendous when a country with the power (Iran) has, has to go through something like this.

"But I thought it was inevitable. People don't like dictatorships, and that's basically what they have there now."

Belk, 73, was tying up loose ends Wednesday in hopes of driving to Winnsboro for tonight's opening of "Freedom: The Travels, Trials and Collections of William Belk" at the Fairfield County Museum. The exhibit started as a showing of malachite and ivory sculptures Belk collected during his years as a State Department worker overseas.

The exhibit grew to include a retrospective of Belk's career experiences after he agreed to a filmed interview with Michaela Brown, curator of collections and exhibitions at the museum.

During the hostage crisis, a blindfolded Belk became an iconic image when he graced the cover of Newsweek magazine. Nearly 30 years later, that period is still an extremely painful memory.

"I don't like to talk about it," Belk said. "For years, everybody thought that we owed it to them to talk about it."

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