Man in the middle

You sometimes ponder what would have been if… This is the thought that preoccupies most of us who went through the events that led to the revolution. A lot has been said and opinions are abound, thanks to online media, otherwise it would have been next to an act of god to make most of these opinions heard.

For years I asked people like my father to put their opinions, memories and life's struggles into a written medium so that others can benefit from it. He, like most from his generation refused for a variety of reasons. Once they move on, a great part of history moves with them, and that is a shame.

I was able to extract a few of his views here and there and these are some of the stories.

One of the great politicians of Iran was Amir Abbas Hoveyda, the longest serving prime minister of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi. Whether this name sends a jolt down some ones spine or not, we have to accept that his contributions, good or bad, are a hallmark for Iran's twentieth century politics.

Those who knew him from a close distance agree that his charismatic and amiable personality were marks of a true politician. My father used to say that in the impetuous days leading to the revolution while Hoveyda was serving as his Majesty's Imperial Ccourt Minister Amir Taheri was strolling down the hallways of the ministry and told my father, “When we needed a technocrat to run the country we had Hoveyda, now that we need a politician we have Amouzegar.” A very true statement indeed.

Hoveyda was an astute politician and his prowess would have been best served during those days and not the hay days of the past. Hoveyda was also a true friend. I used to see him on occasions at the Friday gatherings at Abdullah Entezam's house. At the time when it was a taboo to be seen on the side of laid off politicians he would brave his position and stay by the side of his friend and mentor.

He would always place himself on a chair near the end of the gathering room or stay standing if there were no spots and refuse the customary “taarof” to take some one else's. This left an indelible mark on me. How can a personality like him not want to sit? Are they not a notch above the mortal kind?

Years later I well understood the qualities of this man. Alas, that he had to be sacrificed by two opposing camps, one to save the crown the other to trash it.

My father's most revealed secret was on a sunny day a few years back as we were both in the car driving from California to the one the wonders of the world, Grand Canyon. It was a morning like any other when Hoveyda asked him to his office and handed him a sealed envelope that should be delivered to the Information Ministry.

Hoveyda, my father said, “did not know of the contents of the letter” as he had told my dad, “I was given this by the 'Arbab' (Master),” as he used to call the sovereign, “and must be delivered as mandated.”

The letter was judiciously delivered to the person of the Information Minister Dariush Homayoun, with the explicit directions that it must be printed in the capital's daily. Contrary to popular belief, Hoveyda did not have any knowledge of the contents of the letter.

On another occasion, while under house arrest, the sovereign sent two generals (names my father did not supply). Both Hoveyda and my father were home at the time when the messengers arrived and had delivered what seemed to be a genuine message from the Shah, asking Hoveyda to accept an appointed as the Ambassador to Belgium.

Hoveyda refused the offer, and asked that the sovereign excuse him from the responsibility. He'd rather stay in Tehran and not be remembered as some one who accepted a post to recuse himself from his past responsibilities.

While in the Islamic Republic prison and during Bazargan's provisional government, Abdullah Entezam tried in vain numerous times to call Bazargan. The day before Hoveyda's murder, Abdullah tried 12 times to get a hold of Bazargan. His hope was Bazargan could use his influence with Khomeini to ask a stay of his trial for a period of time. Bazargan never returned his calls until the day after Hoveyda's murder.

In the ensuing phone conversation, Entezam told Bazargan, “the reason why I called you is no longer relevant.” Bazargan then answered, “I knew what you had called for, but I could not interfere on his behalf and his fate was out of my hand.” This answer from a premiere and a government put in charge to oversee the administration of the rule of law!

On the day that the prisons were broken into and the jailers had abandoned their position, we got a call at home. I was the one who picked up the phone, even though we were not to pick up that line. It was the one for the explicit use of my Dad and the office of Hoveyda. I could not mistake the voice, even though it was shaky, and the first time I had heard it over the copper wire, if was that of Hoveyda.

I passed the handset to my dad. I could see the cringing of his brows and hear his short and obedient responses. Hoveyda was asking for transportation to pick him up from the prison. At the time when all other prisoners had fled their captors this noble man stood by his fate and refused to slip away. He wanted to be delivered to the authorities in charge so he can defend himself in a court of law. How, wrong he was.

The farce he ended up in was not to be a court of the Napoleonic code he was so fond of. The natural laws of the human dignity ended up not applying to him.

The progression of human civilization has been replete with mistakes. Hoveyda ended up being caught in one of those. Iran, lost many of its good citizens, he was one of them. Hoping that such travesty would not be repeated in the future when Iran transforms itself into a free society.

Mahmoud Ghaffari is the president of an IT and ERP consulting firm in Los Angeles and adjunct professor of telecommunications and computer science at National University and Devry University.

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