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If I Confess...

06 Aug 2009 21:4328 Comments


A statement for the times.

By MUHAMMAD SAHIMI in Los Angeles | 6 Aug 2009

Mehdi Bazargan, Iran's first prime minister after the 1979 Revolution, is one of the most respected political figures in contemporary Iran. In fact, except for Iran's national hero, Dr. Mohammad Mosaddegh, the democratically-elected prime minister overthrown in a 1953 coup engineered by the CIA and Britain's MI6, Bazargan enjoys more respect than perhaps any other political figure in the past 60 years. He died on January 20, 1995.

He was certainly one of my idols. I first heard about him in 1963. My late father worked in the Tehran Bazaar -- the capital's commercial center -- for decades. Every year, during the first ten days of the Islamic month of Moharram, the part of the Bazaar in which my father worked would be shut down (as it still is) and people working there would mourn Hossein, the Shiites' third Imam, who was slain in the famous battle of Karbala (in present day southern Iraq). This murder took place on Ashura (the tenth day of Moharram), October 9, 680 A.D. (The Islamic calendar is based on a lunar year, which is shorter than a solar year.)

In 1963, the first ten days of Moharram were in late May and early June. On June 5, 1963, my father took me with him to the Bazaar to participate in the mourning rituals of Imam Hossein. That day there was a huge uprising in Tehran and other major Iranian cities because the Shah's government had arrested Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, a fierce opponent of the Shah. I still remember vividly that the demonstrators were chanting, Yaa marg yaa Khomeini (either death or a [freed] Khomeini), as we approached the Bazaar. Needless to say, we barely escaped arrest by the security forces that were attacking the demonstrators, even though we were not chanting.

Every Thursday evening my father would go to Ray, a city on the southern edge of Tehran, where the shrine of Shah Abdolazim was. Shah Abdolazim was a fifth-generation descendent of Imam Hasan, the Shiites' 2nd Imam. He would say his evening prayers at the shrine, and would then come home. During the summers, he would take me with him. My father was highly political. He was opposed to the Shah and well informed. Although he was a pious man, a practicing Muslim, and deeply religious, he was also suspicious of most clerics.

About two weeks after the uprising, he took me with him to Ray on a Thursday evening. After the prayer, we left the shrine to head back home to Tehran. There was a large crowd outside, which reminded me of the June 5 demonstrations. So, I asked him about the demonstrators that we had seen that day. What had happened to them, and did we had to run again? He paused for a moment and then suggested having dinner at a kabob khaneh -- kabob restaurant -- before going home. I was happy; I loved kabob.

While awaiting our kabobs, which were served with warm and delicious bread, my father began to criticize Ayatollah Khomeini. "Do you remember what people were chanting on that day?" he asked. I nodded. "Khomeini is an akhound [cleric]. Most akhounds cannot be trusted. Their place is not in the government, anyway. Khomeini is making trouble for everybody." (Years later, at the peak of the 1979 Revolution, he repeated the same thing to my three sisters and two brothers many times in order to persuade them not to participate in the demonstrations against the Shah. By then, I was in the United States.)

I was only 9, but very curious. Besides, I was hungry and listening to my father helped make me forget the time until our kabob would be served. So, I was listening to him attentively. He then told me -- and I still remember every word -- "I like people like Bazargan. He is a modern practicing Muslim. He wears a tie [Bazargan always did, even after the Revolution when wearing a tie was deeply frowned upon], and is an intellectual who talks about Islam the correct way, not the way these corrupt akhounds do." I had absolutely no idea who Bazargan was or what he had done; I was too young. It was as if my father was talking to himself, venting out his frustrations. But, his words were carved into my brain. I would never forget that name, Bazargan.

Years later, while I was attending the engineering school at Tehran University, I began to learn about Bazargan. In fact, he had taught at the same school, and had been its first dean after the school had been founded in 1934. He was an engineer who had studied at Ecole Centrale Arts et Manufacturers in Paris. After his arrest and imprisonment in the 1960s, he had been barred from teaching there, but he was highly popular among the politically-inclined Islamic leftists. He had been the first head of the National Iranian Oil Company after Dr. Mosaddegh nationalized Iran's oil industry in 1951, and was a member of the National Front, Dr. Mosaddegh's political group. Politically-inclined Islamic leftists like me loved the fact that Bazargan had tried to interpret Islamic and Quranic teachings in modern terms.

In 1961, Bazargan, Ayatollah Seyyed Mahmoud Taleghani (a progressive leftist cleric, and a revered figure of the 1979 Revolution), and Dr. Yadollah Sahabi, another close aid and friend of Dr. Mosaddegh and a professor of geological sciences at Tehran University, broke away from the National Front, and formed their own political group, the Freedom Movement (FM). In the first statement that the FM issued, the group declared that, "We [the founders] are Muslim, Iranian, nationalist, and constitutionalists," implying that they respected Iran's Constitution and wanted to oppose the Shah peacefully and within the Constitution's framework.

But the Shah outlawed the FM (and the National Front) after the June 5, 1963, uprising and jailed its leaders. During the show trials in the Shah's military court [civilian judges and prosecutors at that time would refuse to prosecute political activists, as a show of their opposition to the Shah], Bazargan declared that, "We [the FM] are the last group that talks to you [the Shah] peacefully. The next confrontation will be armed." He was correct. By 1965, the Shah had closed the door to all political dissent. Both Islamic and secular leftists took up arms to fight the Shah's regime.

On February 5, 1979, at the suggestion of Ayatollah Morteza Motahari, a disciple of Ayatollah Khomeini (who was assassinated shortly after the Revolution), Ayatollah Khomeini appointed Bazargan as the Prime Minister of the provisional government that was emerging (the Shah's regime was toppled a week later). But, almost right from the beginning, Bazargan was constantly clashing with the clerics, and even with Ayatollah Khomeini himself. He once said, "I am like a Volkswagen, but the Imam [Ayatollah Khomeini] is like a bulldozer," meaning that he could not be like the Ayatollah, destroying everything of the old regime.

In another speech, when he mentioned the Ayatollah's name, the crowd chanted a Quarnic verse that praises the Prophet, his family and descendants. This is a tradition in Iran to chant this when the Prophet is mentioned. But, not only did the crowd chant the verse for the Ayatollah, but they did so three times, whereas it is chanted only once for the Prophet. Bazargan got angry and said, "Come on! This is done only once for the Prophet, but you do it three times for the Imam? What is going on?"

Bazargan was opposed to the summary trials (and often summary executions) of the Shah's officials, including the officers and commanders of the armed forces. He tried to save as many lives as he could. It is believed that he helped Shapour Bakhtiar, the Shah's last Prime Minister and a personal friend of Bazargan, escape to Europe. There was a joke about it in Iran: "Bakhtiar escaped through the Bazargan border," alluding to both Bazargan and a town with the same name on the Iran-Turkey border. (Bakhtiar was later assassinated in Paris in 1992.)

Both the Islamic and secular left criticized Bazargan constantly. I confess that I was a critic myself, even though he was my idol. I loved the man's honesty, integrity and bluntness, but thought that Iran needed a revolutionary leader. He had been labeled a liberal, which was considered bad and almost insulting at that time, because liberals were thought of as being anti-revolutionaries, and being receptive to an opening with the United States.

Just a few days before the Islamic-leftist students occupied the American embassy in Tehran and took 53 people hostage, Bazargan and his Foreign Minister Dr. Ebrahim Yazdi (who now leads the FM) met with Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Jimmy Carter's national security advisor, in Algeria. The Islamic-leftist students were virtually certain that Bazargan was reaching an accommodation with the United States and "selling Iran out," which was, of course, nonsense. But those were revolutionary times, and everything was interpreted in the most extreme way. After the U.S. Embassy was overrun by the students, Bazargan immediately resigned.

Bazargan was elected as a Tehran deputy to the first Majles (parliament). He was an outspoken deputy, the way he had been all his life. In 1982, in an open letter to Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who was the Speaker of the Majles at that time, he wrote famously that,

What has the ruling elite done in nearly four years [after the Revolution], besides bringing death and destruction, packing the prisons and the cemeteries in every city, creating long queues, high prices, unemployment, poverty, homeless people, repetitious slogans and a dark future?

He also said in a speech,

The greatest threat to Islam in Iran since the Revolution has been the experience of living under the Islamic Republic [of Iran].

Bazargan wanted to run for president in 1985, but the Guardian Council (a Constitutional body that vets the candidates) disqualified him. He and his FM party persistently opposed the continuation of Iran-Iraq war after Iran's forces had pushed back Iraq's forces to the international borders by summer of 1982. He was constantly threatened, but continued his outspoken criticism of the Islamic Republic. On January 20, 1995, he died of a heart attack on his way to Switzerland. He was 87.

One of the most important statements that Bazargan made, which is completely relevant to what is going on now in Iran, is the following. In the last session of the first Majles on May 1, 1982, he said,

In two days, the first Majles, of which I was a member and enjoyed some rights, including parliamentary immunity [from persecution], will end. Beginning with the day after tomorrow, I, like the people that I represent [in the Majles], can be arrested and prosecuted. For this reason, and taking advantage of the opportunity that the Speaker of the Majles has provided me with, I declare that if I am arrested in the coming days, and then with much propaganda and noise they [the government] announce that in order to explain and clarify certain issues, I will appear on television, [if that happens] and you see what that person [the Bazargan that has appears on television] is saying is against what I have been saying yesterday and today, and repeats everything like a parrot, you must know and be aware that that person is not Mehdi Bazargan.

In essence, Bazargan confessed before he thought he would be forced to confess, except that his confession in the Majles was about the political state of affairs.

The statement perfectly applies to the jailed reformist leaders now, the Stalinist show trials in progress, televised on national television. The same people who have been struggling for decades to push and move Iran toward a democratic path, to make their country a better place to live, and to offer the nation's children a better future, have, after spending a few weeks in jail, recanted and retracted everything that they have believed in. How credible is that? How much more likely is it that they have been tortured and forced to repeat what they have been told, like a parrot?

Copyright (c) 2009 Tehran Bureau

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Dear Professor Sahimi,

your personal recollections are interesting and valuable. Your historical overview of Bazargan's is less so. You make no mention of his bungled attempt to have the Provisional Revolutionary Government's constitution presented before a 600 member strong Assembly, despite the wishes of Khomeini to the contrary, who wanted to place the velayat-e faqih-less constitution before general referendum. In doing so, and agreeing to organise the tainted Majles-e Khobregan elections, Bazargan indirectly but crucially aided the establishment of the clerical state he later came to despise. You also fail to mention his government's support for the first law regulating the press in the Islamic Republic, which in many ways paved the way for the current repressive atmosphere against domestic media.

You then state that "leftist" students took over the embassy in November 1979. The leftists took over the embassy for a few days in the immediate aftermath of the fall of the Shah's regime. I hope you have mistaken the two events, as in no way where Asgharzadeh, Abdi or Mirdamadi at the time labelled as "leftist".

Last but not least, do not forget his most valuable contribution: The long pamphlet titled "Tafsir va Tahlil-e Velayat-e Motlaqeh-ye Faqih" he wrote with other LMI members in 1988. It was a poignant stand against clerical absolutism.

Well Wisher / August 6, 2009 6:32 PM

"Mehdi Bazargan, Iran's first prime minister after the 1979 Revolution, is one of the most respected political figures in contemporary Iran."


I assume you are joking here! He is one the most hated islamists and responsible for where we are today. Simply put, he was none but a fanatic who closed his eyes to, and participated in, all sorts of crimes for the sake of power and his misguided religion. Blood of tens of thousands of iranians, looting of resources of the country, and thirty years of disaster is on shoulders of none but likes of Bazargan, all those who participated in the revolution and cooperated with khomeini in his crimes against iran and iranians. I wish he could survive to stand trial for his crimes against humanity and people of iran. May he rot in Hell alongside his master, ayatollah khomeini.

Farzad / August 6, 2009 8:22 PM

Dear well wisher:

Thank you for your comment.

You are, of course, correct mostly, but the piece was not meant to be one about Bazargan's life, achievements, and shortcomings. It was about the last quote of his about confessions. I just wanted to briefly talk about him, and "set the stage up" for the quote. If I get the time, I intend to write one about him, if for no reason other than the fact that I have been regretting my criticisms of him right after the Revolution.

There is a historical note here of much signigicance. The first draft of the Constitution, written by Bazargan's aids and friends, did not contain Velaayat-e Faghih in it, and had been modelled on the French model, namely, a president and strong PM. Bazargan presented it to Ayatollah Khomeini, and the Ayatollah signed on it and asked Bazargan to put it to a referendum. Due to his honesty, Bazargan reminded the Ayatollah that, while in Paris, he had promised people that the new Constitution would be drafted by a Constitutional Assembly. The Ayatollah told him to go ahgead and make arrangements for its election. The CA then became the Assembly of Experts, and the rest is history. Bazargan did regret that.

Muhammad Sahimi / August 6, 2009 9:34 PM

Dear Well Wisher:

I read your comment once more, and realized that you and I were talking about the same (I had mentioned my first comment in other stories). But, we differ in one respect, and that is that, it was Bazargan's honesty and integrity that was the culprit behind his mistake.

Regarding the leftist students: true, the secular left (supporters of People's Fedaeen) did take over the US embassy right after the revolution for a few days. But, Student Followers of Imam's Line were also Islamic (not secular) leftists, most of whom are considered today as belonging to the left. Of course, we must also remember that left and right have been relative terms, particularly in Iran.

I hope that my response is satisfactory. Thank you again.

Muhammad Sahimi / August 6, 2009 9:41 PM

I agree with the first 2 commenters, are you oblivious to the amount of blood is on that man's hands? He and Yazdi are responsible for the murders of countless officials and other brave Iranians. He's a criminal and got what he deserved. Please do not speak for all iranians because we do not agree with you.

James / August 6, 2009 10:14 PM

I think the likes of Bazargan and Banisadr, who were followers of Mosaddegh, believed that they could have an Islamic revolution and a secular, nationalist government.

I'm guessing, they believed in due time the clerics would return to Qom and leave the politics to the politicians. But I think so did Most Iranians.

I believe these men were good people, with good intentions who made bad choices and at times conducted horrific deeds in order to achieve their objectives. In short time however, they realized they were powerless against the fascist clerics, who were out for revenge and blood, and would kill anyone who opposed them.

Eventually, Bazargan resigned and Banisadr fled the country. Maybe they were not as smart as Mosaddegh, who kept the clerics on a short leash and as far from politics as possible.

Armen / August 7, 2009 4:02 AM

Of course the commentators lack enough historical knowledge to know that Bazargan was a true liberal. He among other members of nehzate azadi were the shining stars of revolution and they are highly respected. those who ill speak of Bazargan are either Monarchist, radical islamists or radical leftists, factions that have a dark history of extremism and violence.

Amir / August 7, 2009 8:21 AM

I do not know where the allegiance of the author is, but in the eyes of any nationalist iranian the ones who are praised in this article are participants in murders and directly responsible for 30 years of disaster brought upon iran and iranians and are fully responsible for the tragedy that we see today.

What we are seeing every day now, broken jaws, ripped off womb, torn away bottoms of young boys and girls, and delivery of dead 12 year old boy to his parents with broken skull, did NOT begin on June 22; it began on the first day that khomeini was in charge, and has continued, in various degrees, to this day. If there was an ounce of humanity and decency in ANY of these ideologues (Bazargan, Sanjabi, Yazdi, Banisadr, ...) they would have objected and taken opposite side of khomeini when they saw the first bullet shot without due process on day 1. Without such dedicated blind followers, Khomeini could not establish the fascist regime that we see today. Had they discredited Khomeini then, maybe we would not be here today, and we would be speaking highly of them. They had been screaming about atrocities of the Shah for decades, yet when Khomeini murdered more in his first month in power than Shah did in his entire regime, they not only kept silence but supported and praised him in various ways. They were Heinrich Himmler's of the regime that Khomeini was establishing and as much responsible for his crimes against iranian people. The kind of rationale brought here is already discredited in Nuremberg.

Abouzar / August 7, 2009 2:01 PM

Sure , he was the greatest what in Iran we call "TOO Sarikhor" va "bi Tokhm".

That is the simplest term to discribe men like him ( massod Rajavi ,Bani Sadr, etc)

to place them in Iran history. Keep deceiving yourself and give these men all names

and credit they don't deserve or be honest and call the bunch of cowards and fools .

They were all the first to flee the scene and left Iranian confused and betrayed for

years to come .

They practically injected us with a strain of deadly virus that as time passes by

becomes more deadlier than ever.

No thanks for the false history lesson.

Darius / August 7, 2009 3:31 PM

Dear Professor Sahimi,.

I thank you for taking time to craft your courteous response. I suggest you take a look, whenever you have spare time, at the "Barkhord Ba Nehzat va Pasokh-e Ma" pamphlet published by the LMI in 1983. You can find it in their excellent online archive. It clarifies most of the issues surrounding the CA story. There are two points however. Secular as it was, the PRG's constitution introduced the Guardian Council as a body with "supervision" - nezarat - over the presidential elections. This provision was directly carried over by the framers of the final text and you will certainly appreciate the effect it had in the current events.

Secondly, Bazargan wanted a 600 member assembly, but then agreed to hold an election, according to Ahmad Hajj Seyyed Javadi, his Interior Minister, in which there would be one representative for every 5 million people, thus ending up with a 72 member body skewed completely in favour of rural centres where the mullahs held sway. I appreciate that we are splitting hairs here, but unfortunately Bazargan committed a series of political errors in that crucial moment of state-building from which we are still reeling today. Nevertheless, Bazargan was one of the last bastions of opposition to clerical absolutism, as his Majles record shows.

All the best

Well Wisher / August 7, 2009 5:07 PM

Abouzar, James, & Dariush:

Thank you for commenting on my article.

You are entitled to your opinion, and I respect that. I do not anticipate the redears' reaction, nor do I craft my articles to please a particular type of readers. I write as I believe should write.

Bazargan and his groups were always opposed to the clerics rule. The man in his group (the Freedom Movement and the Nationalist REligious Coalition)have been frequently jailed and harrassed over the past thirty years. As of this writing several of them are in jail.

As Well Wisher said in his comment, Bazargan wrote one of the toughest critique of Velaayat-e Faghih.

Since you three call Bazargan and his group all sorts of names, let me ask: Bazargan and his group stayed in Iran and did what they could. What have the three of you done? Where are you living?

Even when you want to comment here, you use an alias not your full or real name, yet expect everybody else to be courageous, and not of any kind, but OF YOUR TYPE, namely, do what you think should have been done, while you enjoy your comfortable life outside Iran.

Bazargan and his group did, over a 45 year period, what they could. They are highly respected within Iran. The most popular political group among university students in Iran is the Nationalist-Religious group. Quite frankly, it does not matter what your type thinks of Bazargan and his group. Think what you want. It is your right, but keep in mind that you are not in Iran to know the sentiments of the people, particularly university students.

Muhammad Sahimi / August 7, 2009 6:11 PM

Dear Professor, Obviously you have not been to iran to see and feel the footprints of these so-called heroes that you consider respected, and see how deeply people detest them, but I have! In your view, not participating in the crime of the century - the revolution and its aftermath - is worse than providing the dagger, the shield, and the get-away car for khomeini's crimes, which is what these respected heroes did at best. I assure you that many many many iranians have far cleaner record than any of these criminal heroes, and at a minimum have not participated in IRI crimes and have not done any harm to the people of iran that these people did. Without these criminal heroes, the intelligentsia of the regime, there would have probably not been an Islamic Republic as we see today. You are turning criminals into heroes simply because they opposed the shah and were islamist; in that frame of mind, Omar Khattab, Genghis Khan, and Timur Lenk should also be considered heroes as they all defeated the Shah of Iran of their times and all helped spread Islam by their swords at the end.

If you have not been to Iran lately, let me tell you what the new generation feels. The new generation has no memory and no hatred of the Shah, and no particular affinity with Islam that they see every day in action, and thus would not judge these criminals based on those same criteria as yours. On the contrary, despite all the efforts of the islamic republic, pretty much the only left-over signs of a modern society that the new generation sees are from the Pahlavi era. Thus they judge IRI solely by what they see today and everyday and cruse the founders of IRI all day and night. Even their support for likes of Mousavi is out of desperation for getting out of the abyss by hanging on to the only worn-out rope that is available, and not out of belief or trust or respect for him. Mousavi was confronted and cursed in University of Sistan and Baluchestan right before election about the same issues; if you have not seen reports of that confrontation, I suggest that you look it up to see what University students of today feel; they are not as fanatic as their fathers once were as they are paying with their lives for the mistakes of their forefathers and participation of those whom you consider respected in the establishment of the crime scene that is called the Islamic Republic. Your heros are, at a very minimum, as guilty as likes of General Nasiri in Shah's regime - voluntary participants in crime where in any civil society is indisputable evidence of guilt.

Abouzar / August 7, 2009 7:54 PM

Dear Abouzar:

Thank you for your passinate comment. Your very name, Abouzar, goes to show the extent of Islam's influence.

Yes, I go to Iran all the time. I have seen nothing of the sort that you say. So, clearly, we look at things very differently.

Muhammad Sahimi / August 7, 2009 8:43 PM

Bazargan was always a respected figure in Iran. I remember conversations with my father during that period (Bazargan used to be my father's professor in college), my dad always said that Bazargan is one of the most honest people he knew. The particular flaw in Bazargan was that he never knew how to stand up to the group that ended moving Iran very far to the right. At the time when we needed a strong leader to stand up against Islam having a direct prominent role in the politics of Iran we ended up with a gentle, honest but weak prime minister. Bazargan is an important figure in the modern Iranian history, but I agree that the young generation wants to have nothing to do with the current state of affairs in Iran. The current Iranian events have the feeling that either Iran will become more of a republic or move even further to the right, but status quo will not continue. People will not stop going into the streets. I also agree with Abouzar that Mousavi is just a way for people to show they want something else. The regime through possible compromises (finding a way to get Ahmadinejad out of the picture and changing the constitution) could last longer, but no one wants them and these potential changes will only be temporary. Iranians are demanding significant changes and sooner or later we will have it.

Sia / August 7, 2009 10:19 PM

Dear Professor,

Like myself you are entitled to your opinion, and I respect that. However it is not my fault that I was not born in Iran nor do I have the financial capabilities of really returning. And after what that regime has done to my family I have no desire to return to Iran. I resent the fact that you accuse me of not doing anything, what would you think I could possibly do? Go to a protest? What for? I'm sorry we can't all be revolutionaries.

I commend the work you do on this website, but don't go making broad generalizations when not all of us are able to be activists. I probably have more of a problem with Yazdi than I do with Bazargan. Yazdi's brutality and lack of any sort of remorse since his brutal acts exhibit to me that he is nothing but a thug and does not deserve any sort of lionization. I'm not a monarchist nor am I a leftist I want whats best for the Iranian people, which I think you do as well. I think individuals such as Mr. Yazdi give Iranians a bad name.

And from my experiences in speaking with the youth that have left Iran, Bazargan is not a prominent figure and is not spoken with in a positive light. So please do not paint me with such a broad brush just because I shared a different view point and have spoken with other Iranians that you may not have had the chance to speak with.

James / August 7, 2009 11:53 PM

The royalists are living in a dream world. They think they can go back to Pahlavi's extraganza at Persepolis. They pretend the Shah's rule was not based on savagery and SAVAK, they deny the opular support for the 1979 Revolution.

This was a balanced and interesting article. People have different opinions, but it is worrying when they cannot express them without violently denouncing other people. If you want to understand how the royalists helped produce the current intolerence between Iranians, then you have a clear example in some of the reactions to the article.

Nazih Musa / August 8, 2009 3:26 AM

I was wondering if the author, or anyone else for that matter, could be kind enough please tell us the results from Dr Mossadeq's election. You know, the one that made him 'democratically-elected.' I have looked all over for these election results and have had no luck so far. Thanks!

History Question / August 8, 2009 8:18 PM

"was wondering if the author, or anyone else for that matter, could be kind enough please tell us the results from Dr Mossadeq's election. You know, the one that made him 'democratically-elected.' I have looked all over for these election results and have had no luck so far. Thanks!"

For someone to be 'democratically elected', one needs to have a democratic system of governance. Don't you think so?? He was elected by the Shah's parliament under the monarchial system of government.

Mossadegh was appointed twice by the Shah to be a prime Minster of the constitutional monarchy. Mossadageh himself was a constitutional monarchy attorney.

unitedforiran / August 8, 2009 9:13 PM

Sitting here and criticizing efficiency of somebody like Bazargan without considering the challenges he had to face is not fair.

At the time most of Iranians respected and followed JUST Ayatollah Khomeini and the country was in a revolutionary state. Keeping this in mind I think Bazargan did as much as he could in his good will.

I am a young Iranian student and at this time I (and my friends as I speak with them) believe that the best way is to follow Mr. Mousavi lead and I am sure it is a wise move. Sustainable change should happen gradually. We don't want another blind revolution leading to another corrupt dictator or another Vladimir Putin type of government.

Yeki, / August 8, 2009 9:14 PM

correction: Mossadegh was appointed BY THE SHAH ;NOt ELECTED.

unitedforiran / August 8, 2009 9:22 PM

History Question: I believe the law of the land was that Shah had to nominate a Prime Minister and the Parliament would vote for him and approve him as PM by majority vote, and since Parliament members were elected by the people, thus PM would be considered democratically elected by the representatives of the people, albeit indirectly. This indeed happened. But, people would not directly vote for or elect the PM.

However, the controversial part of the story is that according to then constitution, Shah was above PM and could dismiss the PM (but not the other way around) or the Parliament could vote to dismiss PM by majority vote of no confidence in PM. Dr. Mosaddeq went through a lot of extralegal maneuvers to stop the parliament from a vote of no confidence in him (he dismissed the Parliament, which some believe he had no legal right to do so) and did not recognize the order of the Shah to dismiss him either; instead he orchestrated a referendum and re-election to justify his actions.

At any rate, it appears that constitutionally, Shah was above PM and PM had no legal right to dismiss the Shah if we accept the rule of constitutional law in effect at the time. Based on these conjectures, the 1953 coup to return the Shah was in reality a counter-coup for the Shah to assume his legal right and return the Shah to his constitutional position.

History Answer / August 8, 2009 11:42 PM

Intellectuals like Bazargan provided a semblance of credibility to the archaic agenda of that Akhund, much like Hoveyda did for the Shah. They made the autocrats' gross injustice seem plausible and slowly digestible. But, I don't blame the intellectuals; they never possess a strong enough sense of indignation to act decisively.

Ben / August 9, 2009 1:07 AM

Adding to my prervious post, I have a question for Prof. Sahimi. I hope you would be kind enough to respond.

Towards the end of the Shah's regime, Mr. Bakhtiar, a well respected, righteous man, from the Mosaddegh era became prime minister. He eventually had full control of the country, including the military. The Shah left the country shortly after.

My questions is why people like Mr. Bazargan and Banisadr, who were friends of Mr. Bakhtiar, and if I'm not wrong, belonged to the same political party, not only did not support Mr. Bakhtiar, but actually betrayed him?

Wasn't this a perfect opportunity for these men to create a secular, nationalist government with The Shah gone?

Armen / August 9, 2009 3:34 AM

Dear professor

Calling anyone dumb enough to have collaborated with the current regime "revered" is an oxymoron!

Comparing him with Mossadeq is sacrilege.

Petrous Sartipian / August 9, 2009 2:08 PM

So Mossadeq WASN'T democratically elected? Could it just be a lie that imitator intellectuals have been repeating for years now?? Say it isn't so!

I guess saying that the CIA helped get rid of an appointed Prime Minister who dissolved the Parliament and re-elected himself in an open ballot election with 99.93% of the vote isn't HALF as damning as just calling him 'democratically-elected'

It seems the old saying is true, the more you keep repeating a lie, the more people start believing it.

History Question / August 9, 2009 4:24 PM

Dear Prof., This article could be written and bought into in 70s but not any more. Calling these opportunist hooligans, like Bazargan and Yazdi, respected is an insult to intelligence and dignity of iranians. These are the same people who planted, fertilized, and watered the regime that we see today.

Judging people based on if they have been to prison during the Shah's is incorrect as both Khamenei and Rafsanjani had been to Shah's prison many times (and claim to have been tortured in prison!), and as we see today, they were there not for the sake of the country or the people but in pursuit of their self-interest and ambitions. They all wanted to be the shah, nothing less, nothing more. It is really not that complicated!

Judging people by intention is also incorrect, as both Pahlavi kings had far better intentions than any of these people, only that their tactics were unacceptable. Besides, no one can read true intentions of anyone, if he intends good for the people or for himself and has financial, power, and ideologic ambitions as in the case of numerous IRI leaders that we see today.

People should be judged based on their actions and the result that they produce. And with power comes responsibility; no one asked Bazargan or others like him to lead the revolution, but once they did, they had to be sure of their action, get credit for any positive outcome (which does not exist) and blame for the negative result (that is ALL that there is). These hooligans deserve none but the eternal curse and insult of iranians who lost so much, at a minimum, as the price for stupidity and inhumanity of likes of Bazargan. They pushed the country backwards, if not more than 1400 years, but at least by some 50 years (so far); and as we see, what was built in iran with so much iranian cost and effort before them, such as Steel Mill, Iran Khodro, Sugar Producing Factories, and many many others, are at the verge of bankruptcy. These are what Bazargan et al did for iran. The time to stop the islamic republic was then when it was weak, and these people had neither the wisdom nor the decency to oppose it. They just wanted to be part of it no matter what it was to become. The blame is solely on shoulders of the left, the clergy, and the intellectuals; all of whom cooperated with Khomeini in the construction of the Hell that came to be known as the islamic republic, while ordinary folks were openly deceived and trapped.

True heros of Iran and the ones who exclusively deserve respect and reverence are likes of Neda and Sohrab, who so innocently, without an eye on wealth or power or pursuit of ideology, ended up at the receiving end of what these thugs planted some 30 years ago.

Barzin K. / August 9, 2009 6:42 PM

Dear Dr. Sahimi,

I strongly believe that Dr. Mossadegh was a very decent man, and fully deserves the respect of iranians and decent persons in general.
When CIA and MI& engenired the coup to oust Dr. Mossadegh, a relative young and obscure mullah cherished the coup with enthousiasm: his name - Ruollah Khomeney.
Kind regards.

António Eduardo Lico / January 21, 2011 1:01 AM

Dr Sahimi,

The fate of the vaste mouvement against tha Shah was sealed in a meeting at Paris where several persons, among them a representative of Mr.Brzezinski heard from Khomeiny his conditions: the americans should avoid the Army to make a coup. The american part keep the promise!
After that, Barzagan or Bani Sadr were unable to pose the dynamics created, and they were muslims, they wouldn't ever oppose Khomeiny and all the others.
Kind regards.

António Eduardo Lico / January 21, 2011 1:14 AM