Whenever I look at his face, I see thousands of dead. So many innocent lives were taken because of his ignorance. As head of the Islamic Revolutionary Courts, Hojatoleslam Sadegh Khalkhali was in charge of overseeing the cases of the Shah's generals and ministers. The “trials” of these men were a mockery of the judicial system.
Some generals who had committed crimes were executed. Yet many others were killed because of their love for their country. Some believed they would be getting a fair trial yet their hopes were dashed.
As I sit here looking at pictures of Khalkhali and those he ordered killed (See under “tribunals” in Revolution photo section), the story of two of men catch my attention: General Mehdi Rahimi and Prime Minister Amir Abbas Hoveyda.
Rahimi had been one of the most loyal generals of the Shah until the last cold February day he was alive. Many who knew him saw him as a kind and gentle man. Many wonder if the Revolution could have been stopped if Rahimi had full control of the armed forces and if the Shah had allowed him to shoot at all protests even in those late months (November 1978-January 1979).
That will never be known but what is known is that he was fully loyal to his country. In February 1979, while Rahimi was in the hands of the mullahs, he constantly berated them by saying that they were not “true” Iranians because they and Ayatollah Khomeini claimed to be descendants of Prophet Mohammad, an Arab.
By mid-February, the general's fate was decided. Khalkhali said he and three other generals had gone against the forces of Islam and were to be executed. On a cold February night, he was brutally murdered on a roof of the building he was being held at in South Tehran.
The next man that I think of when I hear the name Khalkhali is Prime Minister Amir Abbas Hoveyda. Many historians consider Hoveyda as one of the Shah's last diplomats (while his successor, Jamshid Amouzegar, was a technocrat). Hoveyda had become Prime Minister in February 1965 when his predecessor, Hassan Ali Mansur, was assassinated by Islamic militants on his way to Parliament.
Hoveyda was a very educated man (studied at the Sorbonne in Paris) and was known amongst foreign diplomats and Iranians for his love of roses and his signature pipe. In late 1978, the Iranian state was beginning to collapse. The economy was failing as inflation was skyrocketing and strikes were common. Protests choked all the major streets in the capital. Some foreigners so kindly observed: “all of Iran is protesting on Shah Reza Avenue”.
The Shah's military government needed to calm the protests by taking action against “corrupt” officials. Hoveyda, who had been the longest serving prime minister, was arrested in November of 1978 and held in prison.
When the monarchy fell in February 1979, Hoveyda believed he was going to receive a fair trial. While waiting for his court date, he read books on law to prepare for his defense in the front of Revolutionary Judge.
In April 1979 when Hoveyda went to court, he had documents and legal papers. But they were not needed. Khalkhali read off a list of “crimes” Hoveyda had committed and did not allow Hoveyda to defend himself. On April 7, Hoveyda was executed, shot twice on the same roof that many others had been put to death. Many say that it was Khalkhali, the “judge” himself, who proudly executed Hoveyda.
These two men were not the only ones that were ruthlessly murdered by Khalkhali. Many innocent bureaucrats and military officials were also killed for “betraying Islam” and “having ties” to SAVAK secret police.
Some of the same military officers who were innocently killed could have helped in defending Iran in the wat with Iraq and while saving millions from death and destruction. Yet sadly that did not happen.
Khalkhali fell out of favor under the suspicion of corruption in the early 1980's. As head of the anti-drug task force, he supposedly diverted millions from captured drug lords to his own bank account!
As time went on, the ruling clergy thought less and less of Khalkhali and many chose to ignore him. This weekend he died of brain and cardiac complications. I and many Iranians hope that the faces of the people he murdered without mercy haunted him to the last day of his life.