Mohandes Saadi Diba (from here on I will call him Diba) passed away in Geneva Switzerland on September 24th, 2005. He was the elder of the Diba Clan, an old dynastic and respected clan whose roots date back to the time of the Prophet Mohammad and the Abbasid Caliphates. Diba, is the newer selection of the last name, whence the real last name was Tabataba, or Seyed Tabataba, from the time of Ismail Tabataba circa the year 767 AD. The name changed to Tabatabai and the Diba was added during the time of Reza Shah, when he mandated all people to take a surname. The word Diba means silk.
Although the Tabatabi Diba have a long and distinguished lineage within the Iranian history, their prominence into Iran’s 20th century politics and their sudden visibility was due to the marriage of Her Majesty Empress Farah Diba to the Late Shahanshah of Iran. Diba was the uncle of her Majesty Shahbanou Farah. Diba once said “the Diba’s had for centuries been involved with politics only from behind the scenes. They masterfully organized and shaped events whilst being the hidden force to the ruling Shahs.
This direct bondage to a King changed centuries of faceless service to one of being in the spotlight. The Diba’s had always raised their offspring to serve and shape three different sectors of government, much like most older families, the service of the religious sect, diplomatic corp and service in the Foreign Ministry and finally to serve in the armed forces.
The marriage was not a good portent for the Diba’s as they were neither ready nor willing to play the sullied games of this type of political activism. Throughout his life Diba showed this type of aloofness to this prominence. He shied away from the glitter and greed of the political establishment, one that he could easily have used to further his own cause. This can only be attributed to his long lineage, and the strength of his character.
Diba was the son and grandson of Nazem-O-Doleh Diba, the senior was the Ambassador to Turkey and the Czarist Russia during the reign of the Naser-Edin Shah, and the junior was the secretariat of Mozafar-Edin Shah, although he spent most of his time tending to the family properties in the Tabriz area.
Diba, to those who knew him intimately, was the last of the breed of the renaissance men. Although he had access to all the echelons of power and could easily use it to further his personal ambitions, instead chose to lead a life immersed in studies of the Persian language, scientific endeavors and of course his public service to his countrymen. He obtained his early childhood and university education in Tehran, then the Agricultural school of Karaj and Univeristy of Tabriz and finally his Masters in agricultural engineering in France.
Upon his most notable accomplishments were being appointed as the head of the “Sefeed Rood” Dam in the Guilan Provincce. His role was defined as the head of the team to take over the French Engineers upon the completion of construction and transform the management and technical expertise to an Iranian squad. In that capacity Mr. Diba lead one of the most aggressive agricultural and water management plans during Prime Minister Hoveyda’s administration and the 5 year reconstruction plan.
The location of this construction resulted in two other dams and a water tunnel, which enabled the irrigation of the outlying farms. This irrigation system also made possible the rapid growth of Olive orchards in both Manjil and Roodbar. These two localities had been growing olive since the time of Alexander the Great’s Persian expedition. The story goes, as the Greek army consumed olives (which along with Persian bread was their staple marching diet) the discarded pits were then planted to create the farms.
Diba was also a consummate tinkerer. In his private time he dedicated his efforts to finding a way to process local Iranian olives and to make it palatable for consumption. Upon a chance to take a government sponsored trip to Spain, Diba spend some time in the olive orchards of southern Spain, perfecting the art of “curing olives” and bottling and canning techniques. He was then able to introduce this technique upon his return to his motherland. He had also authored numerous books on this subject later in his career.
After the dreadful Islamic Revolution, he was forced to leave his beloved land like hundreds of thousands of his compatriots, and seek refuge in Switzerland. A lifetime of public service and dedication had meant little to the revolutionaries and this proud father of two was forced to live a life of solitude in a foreign land. He then dedicated his time to reading and studying the events of his lost homeland. He never lost his zeal for Iran, but had lost hope for any chances for his countrymen to ever be directed to the righteous path of democracy.
May his soul rest in peace and may the Diba’s and clans like them once again rule the vast steppes of Iran. Like many of his generation in the epoch of the Pahlavi dynasty, he departed to meet his creator having lived and breathed an unconditional love for Iran.