How royalists seized an Iranian
gunboat off Spain
By Cyrus Kadivar
October 31, 2003
From behind the iron gates the house at 30 Villa Dupont has a private
and secluded appearance, the kind one would expect to find in the
charming 16th arrondissement of Paris. These days there are no
signs of the armed policeman who used to guard it 24hours a day,
nor of the Iranian exiles who used to come here to plan a counter-revolution.
Once upon a time, this three-storey house had belonged
to Her Royal Highness Princess Ashraf Pahlavi, the Shah's twin sister.
Situated in a cul-de-sac just off Rue Pergolese, it was a grey-white
old building, almost falling apart and in need of serious renovation.
Between the dark gates and the main entrance was a small paved
courtyard dotted with plants and trees.
In the days after the revolution, Princess Ashraf
who owned several properties in Paris, the French Riviera and New
York, had left
the house in the care of her precocious daughter, Princess Azadeh
Shafiq. It seemed an odd place for an exiled princess to live in,
but then Azadeh had preferred it that way. Being the daughter of
Princess Ashraf made no difference to her life-style. Her only
distraction after politics was taking care of her young son from
her first husband.
Princess Azadeh had inherited her love of Iran from
her adoring Egyptian father who, after his divorce from Princess
stayed in Tehran to raise her and her brother Shahryar. Azadeh's
relationship with her dominant mother was at best a tempestuous
one. She disliked her self-serving friends and even when her uncle,
the Shah of Iran, was still on the Peacock Throne, she had kept
her distance from many members of the Pahlavi family. At court
circles poisonous tongues had falsely nicknamed her the "Red
Princess" because of her reputation as a defender of the
people and contempt for ostentatious displays.
While in exile, the indefatigable princess had used
her meagre funds to publish Iran Azad, an anti-Khomeini newsletter
Behrouz Souresrafil, a talented journalist. Also in her pay was
the eccentric Parisian lawyer Marc Valle, a female secretary who
had been employed at the Imperial Court, a French couple who cooked
and cleaned the place, and an elderly Iranian husband and wife
who had served in the Shah's government and who now ran
errands for her, including picking up visitors from the airport
or train station and dealing with the post.
Every day, a stream of visitors: politicians, ex-military
officers, tribal chiefs, wealthy industrialists, students, and
figures descended on the house on the Villa Dupont to meet with
Princess Azadeh. Most of the time they met in a large room where
they sat around the dinning table, sipping coffee and talking politics.
Sometimes, they slept over in one of the modestly furnished spare
Azadeh's energy, devotion to her country and boldness had
won her a new title: the Jeanne d'Arc of Iran. Those who
knew her well always spoke of her restless nature. She was always
on the phone, switching easily from Persian to several European
languages. She hardly slept, certainly not much before five. A
heavy smoker with a passion for art books and opera (Carmen was
her favourite) she dressed modestly and hardly wore any makeup
or jewellery. Ever since her brother's murder, the pain
in her face was constant and would not go away.
When the monarchy fell in Iran, Azadeh had shared
her grief with her younger brother, Shahryar, when he went into
exile. For several
months they had lived together in their mother's house.
There were several pictures of him in the living room. But the
main feature was his navy officer's cap that rested on the
fireplace as a memento to his extraordinary life.
Prince Shahryar had been her idol. Brave, patriotic
and dashing, he had seemed the ideal person to lead a major revolt
Trained at the Royal Navy College in Dartmouth, he had served in
the Imperial Iranian Navy and risen to command the Hovercraft fleet
in the South. In 1971 he had played an important role in occupying
three islands in the Persian Gulf.
A brilliant officer, he was loved, respected, and
admired by the men who served under him. He ate, slept and worked
side by side
with his men, be it in the heat of the Persian Gulf or at sea.
Handsome in his navy uniform he shunned any privileges of his position.
His devotion to the needy inhabitants of the coastal region where
he was stationed was well known.
In his private life, Shahryar was just as passionate.
In his youth he had fallen hopelessly in love with Maryam Francoise
the daughter of Manouchehr Eghbal and his French wife.
Slim, beautiful and very tall, Maryam had been educated
in Switzerland. Unfortunately, her ambitious father had married
her off to Prince
Mahmoud Reza, one of the Shah's younger brother. Shahryar
was training somewhere in the Far East when he had heard the bad
news. Devastated he threw himself into his career. When Maryam
finally divorced her husband, Shahryar went to her rescue. They
were married and from their happy union were born two sons.
Like his sister, Shahryar soon gained the reputation
as a person unaffected by and uninterested in Court life. A straight-forward
military officer he lost no occasion to criticise the government's
failure to handle Tehran's chaotic traffic congestion, the
absurdities of certain government officials, or the incompetence
of municipal bureaucracy in Bandar Abbas.
At the height of the revolution, Shahryar had gone
straight to Niavaran Palace to plead with the Shah to use force
enemies. He even volunteered to "clean up the country" but
the broken emperor waved his nephew away. "Then all is lost," the
prince had told his uncle.
When Khomeini took over, Shahryar was second-in-command
of the Naval base at Bandar Abbas. After hiding for a month, he
managed to get hold of a small pleasure boat with an engine. His
escape from the clutches of the revolutionaries was short of miraculous.
Accompanied by a fellow naval officer and a Korean who had been
an instructor to the I.I.N. commandos, Shahryar had sailed across
the Persian Gulf to Dubai before flying to Paris.
Once in France, Shahryar soon began creating a kind
of resistance movement at a time when no real political opposition
existed. He redoubled his contacts with his loyal friends inside
Iran's demoralised navy and visited the dying Shah in the
Bahamas to discuss his plans. He went to see Israeli Prime Minister
Begin who listened to him with a degree of curiosity.
As a military man, Shahryar's goal was to
create a training camp somewhere between Egypt and the Sudan, to
gather the military
men scattered around the globe, to recruit young patriotic Iranians
who could assist him in staging a counterrevolution. The storage
in Villa Dupont was filled with all types of survival equipments,
army boots and combat fatigues.
On December 7th, 1979, around two o'clock in the afternoon,
Shahryar was returning home from a meeting when suddenly, two men
riding a motorcycle sped down the Rue Pergolese and turned sharply
into Villa Dupont. As they came closer the man next to the driver
pulled out a 9mm pistol and fired a bullet. The 34-year-old prince
fell to the ground instantly.
An old lady who witnessed the crime from her balcony
claimed that Shahryar was still alive and bleeding when the motorcycle
the street before going in for the kill. The assassin wearing a
wrap-around crash helmet fired several more shots and a final one
into his victim's head to make sure he was dead before fleeing
Azadeh was still haunted by the tragedy. She had
been out of the house when she heard the news about her brother.
Weeping, she had
immediately telephoned Princess Ashraf in New York. She blamed
the French authorities. They had clearly ignored her warnings that
the Iranian embassy had become a haven for terrorists. The knowledge
that Shahryar had been eliminated by agents of the Islamic republic
filled her with anger and she swore revenge.
After Shahryar's death, Azadeh had come to rely more
than ever before on a group of active Constitutional Monarchists
herself who supported the Shah's eldest son, Reza,
then based in Egypt, as their legitimate king. They called themselves,
Javaan, or the Young Ones.
Javaan had gained some publicity for opposing the
rule of the mullahs in Iran by taking to the streets of Paris.
It had about 100 members,
mostly young men and women aged between 16-30. Burning with a desire "to
do something" they had a newsletter and even a logo with
two Persian lions guarding a burning sun with the words Javaan
written on it and a crown above it.
The group had in fact come into existence when its
members had occupied the offices of Iran Air and the Maison d'Iran on
the Champs-Elysees. As they grew bolder, the group had expanded
their political activities to include hanging anti-Khomeini banners
from the Eiffel tower and bridges and chaining themselves to the
Statue de la Liberte in Paris, or protesting vigorously against
the war between Iran and Iraq, among many other publicity stunts.
Sometimes these kids would march to the Trocadero
singing the imperial anthem often being cheered by dissident Iranian
in the nearby cafes. Soon the Paris Metro and other places was
covered with posters and slogans in support of their young king,
"Reza Shah II".
Although living in Europe, many of the people who
were recruited by the Javaan Group had no experience in politics.
Most were students
and a few of them refugees with no proper papers, jobs or a real
home. Many of them had parents living in Paris. Some had either
fled the revolution or made the hard decision not to go back. Yet,
they shared a common bond.
"We had very strong feelings about the horrible
situation in Iran, and the young Shah," one Javaan activist
felt that what we were doing was important for our compatriots'
morale. By showing ourselves we proved that we cared about our
and were willing to fight!"
Always ready for a new adventure the Javaan Group
fought running battles with suspected Khomeini sympathisers on
campus or on the streets. In fact their fighting spirit was contagious.
"We were often arrested by the French police," one of them recalled,
we never doubted our cause. As a matter of fact, we were very well
treated by the police."
As their numbers grew, these volunteers decided to
get into shape by exercising in the Bois de Bologne. On weekends
the Flea Market looking for cheap uniforms, some dating back to
World War II with bullet holes that needed sewing. Later, in order
to keep their "commando" activities a secret they
moved to the woods and forests in the outskirts of Paris.
They trained hard. Mr Chang, the Korean trainer of
the Imperial Iranian Navy Commandos who had escaped with Prince
later became Princess Ashraf's personal bodyguard, also
volunteered to share his knowledge in martial arts with this enthusiastic
Later they set up a small camp in a garden belonging
to a wealthy Iranian. Several tents were put up along with a flagpole.
were invited to interview "Les Fideles du Shah" who
expressed their wish to overthrow the mullahs and install a constitutional monarchy under Crown Prince Reza. Pictures published in
Paris Match showed them wearing masks over their faces and posing
and T-shirts with the words "Iran" written on their
The spirit of camaraderie was genuine. "I truly
respected and loved each one of those enthusiastic and patriotic
leader recalled. "All of them were ready to give their lives
for what they believed. Although we were naive and lacked
experience we felt that we had a pact with each other, a beautiful
feeling with lots of emotion, love of Iran and a spirit of sacrifice."
One of Princess Azadeh's key qualities was her courage
and shrewd judgement in a game that was becoming increasingly dangerous.
Her support for Javaan had always carried weight. In fact, on numerous
occasions she had personally led from the front, standing on the
Champs-Elysees with her private secretary distributing pamphlets
condemning the atrocities in Iran, or even being arrested by the
police alongside the Javaan demonstrators.
It is perhaps fair to say that it was Azadeh, then
aged thirty, who took many of Javaan's members under her wings.
she became the only person whom they could trust. Without her encouragement,
support and inner fire, many of their operations would have come
Each time one of these batcheha or kids landed in
trouble she would send her lawyer to bail them out. Whenever a
member found himself
without proper shelter Princess Azadeh would offer her house as
a temporary refuge until appropriate accommodation had been found
for them in Paris. If they got injured she made sure they received
proper medical attention.
On Fridays, when the post office was still open a
group of volunteers (mostly old people who had worked in different
ministries in Iran
and half a dozen members of Javaan) would gather at the house on
Villa Dupont. The atmosphere whilst always serious and tense was
without protocol. Everybody admired the Princess. Sometimes she
or her cook would prepare a meal for them which they ate sitting
on the floor, surrounded by stacks of Iran Azad newspapers which
they helped pack for eventual distribution among the Iranian diaspora.
By 1981 the political landscape in Paris had changed.
The Bar Alexandre near the Champs-Elysees, had become a favourite
haunt for a group
of Iranian businessmen who spent many long lazy afternoons sunk
in thick leather armchairs, listening to soft music, smoking fat
cigars and sipping Chivas Regal. Many of them, successful industrialists
and wealthy millionaires, dreamed of regaining their lost power
and prestige. Mostly they talked about staging a counter-revolution
and depending on their sympathies argued over which group to fund.
The trouble with the Iranian opposition was that
it had splintered into several groups gathered around various symbolic
with differing and competing agendas. They included Shapour Bakhtiar,
the Shah's last prime minister, and two ex-generals under
the ancien regime: Gholam Ali Oveissi and Bahram Aryana. Each of
these gentlemen had set up an office, complete with their own staff,
political newspapers and clandestine radio stations.
Azadeh's relations with the Iranian opposition leaders
was mostly tenuous and at arms-length. The ambitious and headstrong
Dr Bakhtiar refused to meet with her on the grounds that she was
Princess Ashraf's daughter and it was no secret that they
hated each other. Her views about General Oveissi, a tough loyalist
who had failed to persuade the Shah to crush the revolution, was
equally dismissive. She was unimpressed by his entourage and thought
he lacked what it took to make things happen and was hurt by his
refusal to attend her uncle's funeral in Cairo. On the other
hand dealings with General Aryana was more promising.
At 74, Aryana was something of an old warhorse. Educated
at St. Cyr the General had been living in Paris since the 1970s
late Shah dismissed him for advocating the invasion of Iraq. Before
and after the revolution he was often sighted at the galleries
in the Champs-Elysees, his hands behind his back, and his famous
tuff of hair blowing in the wind. An ardent nationalist he spoke
of the glories of Iran and saw himself as a Persian Napoleon.
The General had hinted to the Princess that he intended
to raise an army of volunteers on the Turkish-Iranian border near
Already some of her friends were spending time at his sinister
apartment on Avenue Foch that doubled up as the headquarters of
the Azadegan, a right-wing organisation comprising of ex-military
officers who had fled the revolution. Like the White Russians they
too believed that not all was lost and that soon they would be
triumphant. Many hoped that the Islamic republic would not last
more than a year or two.
Then one day news reached Aryana that the French
government was about to hand over three of the five gunboats that
had been ordered
during the final years of the Shah's rule to the Islamic
republic of Iran. Originally destined for the I.I.N., the Khanjar,
Neyzeh and Tabarzin were now needed by the Khomeini regime which
was engaged in a bloody war with Iraq.
By a stroke of luck the captain sent from Iran to
Cherbourg to bring back the boats was a loyal monarchist. Not only
that he had
plans to defect, as did two of his mates. He had therefore contacted
one of his relatives, a member of the Azadegan organisation, and
offered to help.
Koroush, Aryana's son, was instructed to approach
the captain through mutual friends and arrange a meeting. As the
not know Koroush he refused. Finally, after several more overtures,
he agreed to talk with the General himself. It was vital that the
meeting be kept a secret.
At the meeting General Aryana had put on a convincing
show. In his usual bombastic way he told the impressionable captain
he had been chosen by Reza Pahlavi as the commander of all the
Iranian forces in exile. He insisted that this was in accordance
to the late Shah's will. It was therefore his patriotic
duty to collaborate with the "Freedom Forces" under
Once the captain had agreed to cooperate the General
ordered him back to Cherbourg. His mission was to make a feasibility
and come up with a plan of action. From now on Koroush Aryana would
be in touch with him as he gathered key information. It was vital
that the captain obtain maps, navigational charts, and anything
useful about the gunboats and their crew.
Several months later the captain returned to Paris
and presented his plan to Aryana's team. The idea he had developed
simple: seize the Tabarzin off the Spanish coast and rename it
"Iran Azad" or Free Iran. There was never any suggestion of hijacking
the gunboat in Cherbourg nor holding on to it for more than a few
days. It would be purely a symbolic act.
It seems that only after the plan had been approved
did Koroush Aryana contact Kamal Habibollahi inviting him to take
part in this
daring undertaking. Since fleeing Iran in 1979, the 52-year-old
Habibollahi had been living in the United States with his wife
who taught ballet. As the last chief of the Imperial Iranian Navy,
he seemed to be the ideal person to lead a team of commandos in
a bid to capture the Tabarzin. Besides his title of "Admiral" sounded
good and undoubtedly fitted well with General Aryana's plans
to recruit other officers to his cause.
In Paris, Habibollahi was offered an impressive incentive package
and briefed on his specific duties. He was to proceed to Madrid
and then to the port of Cadiz where the Tabarzin was due to dock
around the 13th August. The captain would keep him informed of
the gunboat's movements. At the right moment he would send
a signal to start the operation.
Throughout the planning stages, the entire operation
remained a guarded secret among the key players. Princess Azadeh
was in Egypt
to attend the first anniversary of the late Shah's passing
away and had no clue of what was being done in her absence. What
she did know was that a team of young commandos, mostly recruited
from the Javaan Group, were being prepared for a secret mission.
On the night of 1st and 2nd of August 1981 the three
gunboats Tabarzin, Khanjar and Neyzeh, left Cherbourg. During this
and his team left for the Spanish seaport of Cadiz, travelling
by train and car from Paris. Meanwhile, General Aryana headed for
The "team" heading for Southern Spain consisted of
20 commandos: eighteen members of Javaan which included a resourceful
Iranian girl known as Mitra, and two members of Azadegan, among
them General Aryana's son, Vishtasp. It is important to
stress here that none of the commandos (the word is a misnomer
as they had received no real training in the military sense of
the word) were aware of the adventure awaiting them until they
had reached their final rendezvous point. None of them could have
imagined that they were being used as pawns by General Aryana and
his son to promote their cause. In time, Bakhtiar also entered
the picture with the intention of capitalising on the publicity
they hoped to get.
When Habibollahi and his team arrived in Cadiz they
must have been taken by the crowded streets and South American type bars
leading to their hotel. The seaport's unusual position,
stuck out in the Atlantic Ocean at the head of an isthmus, helps
create a sense of carefree isolation. Los gaditanos as the locals
are known, seem to spend virtually their whole lives outdoors,
especially in summer when they pour en masse on to the city's
It was only after they had all settled down at an
undisclosed hotel that Habibollahi finally unveiled the true nature
of the operation
that was to be launched. Everyone listened in silence, unable to
believe their ears. It all sounded like a B-rated movie. Few were
aware of the dangers facing them.
For the next few days as the Tabarzin and the two
other gunboats sailed towards Cadiz, the team busied themselves
with each other and the town. Koroush Aryana flew in to deal with
a few details. One group purchased some khaki uniforms and stun
guns while another went bar hopping as tourists. A third group
posing as student oceanographers hired a fishing boat called the
Salazon and made a few trips to get used to the sea.
The Tabarzin arrived in Cadiz on 7th August along
with the two other gunboats and remained there for seven days.
It left the port
on 13th August. That same morning, at about eight o'clock,
Habibollahi and his team left their hotel as planned and boarded
The skipper of the fishing boat was glad to see them.
His passengers all seemed like a jolly lot. As they explored the
bay, once home
to pirates and buccaneers, someone opened a bottle of cognac that
did the rounds. It was good for the nerves, one of the students
An hour later, the skipper was completely drunk when
he abandoned the helm to his passengers. As no one had any experience in
sailing, Habibollahi took the wheel. That day the sea was a little
rougher than the previous days and many of the so-called students
It was midday when the Salazon finally made contact
with the gunboat. The captain of the Tabarzin now played his part.
He ordered the
motor engineer to slow down, letting the fishing boat get closer,
and distancing it from the other two gunboats, by faking engine
As they got closer, Habibollahi signalled to his
men to get ready. From their little bags they removed their khaki
uniforms and put
them on so that they could pose as Spanish Customs officers.
By the time the drunken skipper of the Salazon had
realised what was going on it was too late. Smashing his radio
promised not to hurt him, insisting that they were simply Iranians
boarding a ship that belonged to Iranians. To shut him up they
gave him a fistful of dollars.
Once on board the Tabarzin, Habibollahi and his team
went into action. Pulling out their fake weapons they forced a
few of the
crew to lie down on the deck with their hands behind their heads.
Then they demanded the keys to the ammunition room. Naturally,
the captain did not resist.
Armed with enough real weapons, the young commandos
quickly overpowered the 30-strong unarmed crew who were directed
below deck and held
captive in their sleeping quarters. Later, Admiral Habibollahi
made a speech to his prisoners, introducing his team as part of
General Aryana's Liberation Army. He promised not to shoot
them if they behaved.
So far, the operation had gone well. The only notable
thing that happened after seizing the gunboat was that the Tabarzin
by two Spanish coast guard helicopters. Realising the gravity of
the situation, Habibollahi made it clear to the Spaniards that
they were now in international waters and that Spain had no right
to stop them. Over the radio he announced that from now on the
Tabarzin was to be considered as part of Iran and its crew her
nationals. Inexplicably, the helicopters circled a few times then
turned away and never came back.
Now that the gunboat had changed hands the new masters
of the Tabarzin needed to make one more symbolic act. They pulled
down the flag
of the Islamic republic and raised the pre-revolutionary one with
its fierce lion and sun emblem. It would be another day before
news that an Iranian gunboat had been "hijacked" was
reported by every international news agency.
Princess Azadeh was in Cairo when she heard the Tabarzin
news. It came as a complete surprise. Immediately she contacted
who informed her that this was the beginning of something big.
Azadeh later flew to see the General at his make shift headquarters
When she discovered that the people who had taken
over the Tabarzin were members of Javaan she could not hide her
excitement. But gradually
she realised that their lives were in danger. What if the gunboat
ran into trouble? What if someone drowned? There were so many questions.
From then on she could only pray that the whole thing would end
peacefully and quickly.
As the world awoke to what had happened, the Azadegan
organisation immediately claimed responsibility. In an improvised
at Aryana's apartment a so-called military spokesman declared
the capture of the Tabarzin by "patriotic forces".
He went on to say that the objectives of Azadegan was "to
overthrow the mullahs in Iran" and claimed that 1,400 crack
partisans were preparing to go into action from their Turkish bases.
General Aryana also issued a statement saluting Admiral
Habibollahi and his "brave" commandos. Bakhtiar quickly threw
his weight behind Aryana to project a united front in their campaign
to free Iran.
The fact that the majority of those on board the
Tabarzin were staunch monarchists was deliberately downplayed by
would become a sore point between the opposition. In fact each
time press helicopters flew over the gunboat the commandos would
make V-signs and shout: "Vive Le Roi!" Others held
photos of Reza Pahlavi. One of them wearing dark glasses and a
cap brandished a pistol and a sub-machine gun in defiant pose >>> See photos
In Tehran the revolutionary authorities were forced
to admit that one of their gunboats had been hijacked by pirates
and gone missing.
Later they accused the Spanish government of not interceding and
threatened diplomatic reprisals. By then the Tabarzin was sailing
towards Morocco. Despite Habibollahi's symbolic role the
true hero was really the captain who now had to sail the gunboat
with an even larger crew, most of them young and inexperienced.
On 15th August, following a harrowing journey through
stormy weather, the Tabarzin docked at Casablanca. It appears that
at this stage
the captain and the kids on board had hoped that Reza Pahlavi whom
they called Reza Shah II would agree to join them. Habibollahi
felt that this went against Aryana's plan yet he did not
oppose the idea altogether. When he went on shore he was surprised
to find himself under arrest on orders of the Moroccan king.
Reza Pahlavi was in Egypt when he received a call
from King Hassan who promptly informed the young shah about the
that it had been taken over by his supporters. King Hassan had
detained its crew and wanted to know what should be done with them.
Clearly, the young shah needed time to think. He
promised to give his answer shortly. Almost at once, Reza Pahlavi
President Sadat who politely refused to get involved. At this point
King Hassan sent his private plane to pick up Reza Pahlavi and
bring him to Rabat where an emergency meeting had been called.
After much discussion with King Hassan and senior
members of the Moroccan government, Reza Pahlavi made it clear
that whilst he
understood the "patriotic" motives of the so-called "hijackers"
he could not condone an act that by international standards was
Eventually a deal was struck by all parties whereby
the Tabarzin would be allowed to refuel and leave Morocco for Toulon
would be handed to the French navy with a promise that the crew
would be fairly treated.
By now the story had become as good as a summer thriller.
The press was clearly sympathetic to the motives of the young monarchists
on board. Meanwhile, in Iran, repression reached a new high with
hundreds of political executions announced by the revolutionaries.
Khomeini's regime was now openly denounced as "barbaric"
by various opposition leaders. Aryana, Bakhtiar, Amini, Madani
Oveissi joined the chorus against the mullahs, each claiming that
they had the support of the Iranian people and exaggerating their
forces. The French government announced that it was ready to grant
political asylum to the "hijackers" and "safe
conduct" if they agreed to surrender the Tabarzin without
any surprises. They also confirmed that their action was of a military
nature and not an act of terrorism.
One week after its dramatic capture the Tabarzin
was escorted by French naval units to Toulon as tourists sun bathed
on the beach
and waved at the boats. Rumours that the commandos were planning
to blow up the gunboat proved baseless.
The end came on 19th August at Toulon where Habibollahi
and his accomplices sent word that they were prepared to turn themselves
in. A brief ceremony was held on deck. The commandos stood in line
as the captain and Habibollahi thanked them for their bravery and
professionalism. After singing the national anthem a sailor lowered
the flag. It was an emotional scene with many tearful eyes. As
a mark of respect the French marines lowered their heads.
Princess Azadeh was in Paris when she learned that
the Tabarzin had reached French waters. She was furious with Azadegan
endangered the lives of several young kids. A well-placed source
had told her about the lack of preparation and consideration shown
to them. The whole operation had been a temporary show so that
General Aryana could raise funds from Bakhtiar who in turn could
claim that he had a military wing capable of action.
Nonetheless she was proud of the kids and in order
to show her support she flew to Toulon to greet them. Outside Toulon
she found a large crowd made of over a hundred Iranian exiles who
had spent the day calling for their release. One of the protestors
told her that the Tabarzin crew had already been transferred to
Marseilles and Paris by bus.
Two days later, Habibollahi gave his final "symbolic"
performance at the headquarters of Azadegan on Avenue Foch. Dressed
in an elegant
suit and looking very handsome, the former admiral faced an array
of reporters and cameramen. He explained that the Tabarzin Affair
had been an extraordinary platform for his organisation and that
it had served to show that millions of Iranians were prepared to
denounce the crimes committed by the mullahs.
"I believe that our mission was a success," Habibollahi
declared. During the televised interview someone asked him if he
Tehran's recent accusation that he was a "pirate". Smiling besides
an Iranian flag and Azadegan's eagle-shaped logo, Habibollahi made
everyone laugh when he replied: "Ladies
and Gentlemen, I ask you, do I look like a pirate or Khomeini?"
In a parting statement, the former commander of the
late Shah's navy, announced: "Our goal is to unite all Iranians
to win back our country. Most of us are monarchists by tradition,
but we also have republicans in our midst. Of course, it is the
people who will decide which to choose. As for me, I can receive
political asylum in France, but I will soon be leaving for other
In the days that followed the story of the Tabarzin
was transformed into a legend. Many of the young lads who had played
a vital role
grew disillusioned when they discovered that they had been exploited.
After the initial euphoria that had accompanied their return to
shore many had to face the real world again. Since the Javaan group
no longer existed a few of its members joined Aryana in Turkey
but not for long. They returned completely embittered even complaining
that the Liberation Army was all a bluff and that their lives had
Azadeh tried very hard to help them find a roof over
their heads, visas and jobs. Her house was always open to these
kids who continued
to seek her out despite their everyday problems. They had to work
and make a living. The little money they got from General Aryana
For some of them who didn't speak French life was
tough. Some found jobs as drivers and security officers. A few
in shady activities and ran into trouble. The others left France
for the United States and other countries where they had friends
or families. One or two returned to Iran as did the Tabarzin that
continues to be part of the Iranian navy. As for the captain, the
unsung hero of the operation, he never forgave those who had deceived
For those closely connected to the Tabarzin Affair
the entire episode left them with a bitter feeling that their patriotism
abused by a group of elderly generals and politicians who thought
only of self-aggrandisement. Aryana's liberation armies
soon evaporated and the General spent the remaining days of his
life a broken man living in a fantasy world of his own creation.
In later years General Oveissi and Dr Bakhtiar would
be brutally assasinated in Paris by agents sent from Tehran thus
a mortal blow to the exiled opposition groups. Habibollahi
returned to the USA, teaching and researching at the War Institute
his wife run her ballet school.
One of the last bold acts of the disbanded Javaan
group was blowing up the house used by Ayatollah Khomeini during
his exile in Neuphle-le-Chateau
and hanging his effigy from an apple tree.
Disenchanted by the "games" being played behind her
back Princess Azadeh cut off all relations with the Azadegan organisation,
ceased all political activity and shut down Iran Azad.
For a while Azadeh devoted her time to humanitarian
work, primarily assisting Iranian refugees in Turkey. After her
to a former Iranian officer few ever heard of the Princess again.
The domicile at 30 Villa Dupont was eventually sold for a reasonable
sum of money >>> See photos
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