Dr. Abass Milani is a descendant of Ayatollah Milani. (Milani means from Milan – a small town in Iran’s Azarbayejan — just as Khomeini means from Khomein). Abass’ maternal uncles held cabinet-level positions during the Shah’s rule.
“Born in Iran in 1949, [Abass] came as a teenager to California, where he completed high school, attended college, and embraced Maoist Marxism. After earning a Ph.D. in political science at the University of Hawaii, he returned to Iran and” and began teaching at the National University of Iran(NUI) in 1974-75 academic year. At the National University of Iran, Dr. Miliani was a close friend of Dr. Manouchehr Ganji – at the time, an adjunct professor at NUI but an advisor to, and confidant of the Queen Farah. [Dr. Ganji was the Minister of Education in the Amouzegar cabinet].
Prior to his arrest in 1977, Dr. Milani was Queen Farah’s speech-writer – he wrote speeches that the Queen delivered in English in the Western venues in mid-1970’s on how the Shah had promoted women’s right, human rights, arts, etc., in Iran. At the same time, Dr. Milani portrayed himself as an authentic leftist to the gullible students, in-or-out of class rooms, particularly in the field-trips that were organized and shepherded by him. SAVAK arrested Dr. Milani on return from his last “field trip”, in which he must have over-played his Marxist-Maoist credentials.
Shortly after the arrest, Housahang Sabeti, Savak’s chief torturer, had assured Dr. Ganji that Dr Milani was not being mistreated because he had been fully cooperative from the moment of his arrest. (…Az dagigaheh avval bazdasht, Abbas darad ainea bolbol etraff mikonad. Chera shekanjeh?!).
Dr. Milani was given a ten-year prison term. Shortly then-after, in a series of articles that were published in the Iranian press, Dr. Milani, in “eloquent” Persian renounced his prior beliefs and ideologies, heaped praise on the Shah’s “White Revolution”, and was certain that Iranians were about to reach the “Gates of the Great Civilization” that the Aryameher had envisioned for them. Dr. Milani, through his writings in English and Persian, prior to-and-after his arrest, had established his talent and credentials to act as “a polished ideologue of the [shah’s] regime”.
Had the Shah’s regime lasted a few more years, Dr. Milani was destined to be released from prison in a year or so, and be given a position commensurate with his talents, credentials, and familial background. This, however, was not to be. The “release of all political prisoners” was among the first demand of the demonstrators that the Shah’s regime was forced to comply with. And, in the mid-1988, Dr. Milani, along with other political prisoners, were released from jail. Ironically, the Islamic Revolution that had freed Dr. Milani from the Shah’s jail, had also put to waste the investments and sacrifices that he had made in establishing his credentials for acting as “a polished ideologue of the [Shah’s] regime”.
Iranian universities were mostly closed in 1978 and early part of 1979. Shortly after the Revolution and the re-opening of the universities, however, Dr. Miliani was able to join the Faculty of Law and Political Science of the University of Tehran. Dr. Milani taught at the University of Tehran until his departure to California in 1986. During this period, Dr. Milani managed to stay out of harm’s way. A couple of such harms that were visited to Dr. Milani’s colleagues are worth mentioning.
First, in the 2nd half of 1979, a number of professors at the Faculty of Law and Political Science of the University of Tehran had signed-off to an open letter that was widely circulated in Iran. In the letter, the signatories had raised alarm against the rumored intention of some clerics to enact and enforce Shariah Law. Some of the signatories of the open letter were made to pay for the indiscretion. Dr. Milani either did not sign the open letter and/or was not made to pay for the discretion.
Second, the “Cultural Revolution” led to a 2-year closure of the Iranian universities and extensive purge of the faculty members in the early 1980s. Particularly targeted were the faculty members that were insufficiently in tune with the Islamic Revolution, had espoused leftist ideologies, or had praised the Shah and collaborated with his regime. Dr. Milani was an ideal candidate for the purges. How did he manage to survive the purges?