Personally and on behalf of the CIA, I wish to commend you most highly and thank you for your outstanding contribution to Operation AJAX…Your expert knowledge of the country and your personal knowledge of many of the leading actors in the operation were invaluable assets during all phases of the operation. Your competence and tact in dealing with [British] in the preparation of the joint plan and your ingenuity, resourcefulness, and untiring efforts in the planning and preparation of the psychological warfare aspects of the operation cannot be too highly praised. — A letter addressed to Donald Wilber by Allen W. Dulles, January 30, 1954
I was reading a magazine fresh out of Iran called Negah-e-nou, a literary/political magazine containing essays, analysis and works of numerous Iranian writers as well as book reviews of foreign authors. The last section of the magazine, called Recollections of 28th of Mordad, is dedicated to the 1953 coup, I found quite fascinating. This recollection has been gathered by Morteza Hashemi Pour and was published in the Mordad 1387- August 2008 issue of the journal negahenou.com
A week earlier, I had come across a book By Ali Mirfetroos called Asib Shenasi yek Shekast “Psychology of a Failure,” Farhang publisher, 2008 which is fiercely critical of Mossadegh and how he handled the oil dispute. In it, Mr. Mirfetroos alleges that if Mossadegh had worked with the British and their US counterparts, and had not been so “stubborn,” he would have saved the situation.
He also claims that the coup was not planned ahead of time: “My insistence that the 1953 coup was not planned ahead is not just an intellectual challenge but it is an attempt to depict reality that, in my opinion, is closer to the truth.”
Elsewhere he says: “ Mossadegh with all his love for Iran, with his national pride, with his integrity and self- glorification, had given hope to the Iranian people but because&nbs p; of political and historical obstacles, it was difficult or rather impossible to attain them. Instead of using wisdom and political insight, he used the people’s emotions which are all too typical of populist leaders and movements.“
Replying to this book and the author is a whole different task, one for those who write book reviews as he refers to many scholars in the field. I for one will not engage with those who deny historical facts.
Today, the story of Iran is different from those days, though in some ways there are a few similarities. Even if the Islamic Republic accepts the terms of the US and its Western allies, regarding the nuclear issue, will everything change and will Iran be seen in a different light by opinion makers? Of course, there is absolutely no comparison with the two governments, but if the US administration and its policy makers decide not to negotiate or compromise with Iran at some level, at the en d, it is the nations of both countries who will bear the consequences.
On the occasion of 28 Mordad (Aug 19, 1953) I thought that by translating and summarizing parts of these recollections, some of which are quite fascinating and moving, we might see the past from different perspectives. In many ways, while Iran is being targeted on all fronts, whether right or wrong, the events of Aug 1953 are still with us in the most haunting way. Writers, scholars and people in general, Iranians and Americans alike, continue to be mesmerized with what really took place on those days when a nation’s destiny was changed overnight, trying to analyze these events and to find answers to the many questions they raise. Above all, more than that of any other Iranian political figure of modern times, Mossadegh’s legacy lives on.
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Dariush Ashouri- scholar
I am from the generation of the period of oil nationalization and I remember growing up with the idea of the oil nationalization and the coup d’état of 1953 which caused a wound that gave birth to the 1979 revolution. I was only 12 years old when I had finished school and all over Tehran you could see a different kind of atmosphere prevailing, especially at the university. A lot of people, especially students who were older than me, had joined different political parties.
On that day, I was a youngster who had just turned 15. I would read the many books and party news papers which were available to us. Sometimes I would go to meetings and party gatherings. In our street corner, we would get into discussions with people on the other side of the political spectrum. We lived on Molavi Street. At the corner was the=2 0Gendarmerie headquarters. It was a really painful event for our generation. On the actual day of 28th of Mordad (Aug 19), I saw people bringing down statues and shouting slogans in support of a Republic. This had happened only three days earlier. But the city seemed calm since Mossadegh’s government had forbidden any demonstrations or gatherings. It was two o’clock in the afternoon when we saw men with bayonets with whores from the Shahr No [the New City- the red light district of Tehran] on trucks who were shouting Marg Bar Mossadegh , Zendeh bad Shah (death to Mossadegh, long live the Shah) It was the most amazing scene. Those who were bystanders were from the Tudeh party, ordinary people or Mossadeghis. All of a sudden the mob got out of the truck and started running towards us using their bayonets and clubs to beat us and the bystanders. We ran as fast as we could to get away from them. One of the people with us got a good beating. I went home to listen to our newly bought radio Fada and heard the voice of Mir Ashrafi who was a journalist and one of the leaders of the anti-Mossadegh movement who talked of the “national uprising”. We sat there listening in=2 0bewilderment.
Ezatollah Entezami- actor
Our house was near the Mojassameh square (now the Revolution square). We heard some gun shots. A child was hit and we took him to the nearby hospital. It was full of people. Lots of injured. We finally found the child’s father. The city was noisy, especially near and around Dr. Mossadegh’s house in Kakh Street. Two days before the coup there were slogans for Mossadegh and today they were pro Shah. It appeared that the coup was being directed from Park Gheitaryieh. I had played a few films there. No single political party stood up against the coup, not even the Tudeh party. They burnt down a few theatres. I was working in Sa’adi Theatre. They burned that too. They also arrested a few actors. After a few days, they arrested and held me for 4-5 moths. I later heard that Timsar Bakhtiar [later head of SAVAK] did not like us artists. It was a very difficult time. I left for Germany. It was a repressive atmosphere.
Manoucher Anvar- writer and translator
I was in England at the time. I was an Iranian student studying there. Like so many other students we were shocked to hear the news. We had tears in our eyes and were in total grief. The extent of our grief was as huge as our joy a year earlier when we had heard the news from the radio of the outcome of the Hague Court ruling in favor of Iran. At that time, we were twenty in a room and sitting next to the radio when we heard the good news. We were congratulating one another. There was only one person who was not happy and I am sure that person was having a ball when the coup happened.
Ghamar Aryan- scholar and writer
The 28th of Mordad and the coup against Mossadegh is unforgettable. Everywhere there was talk of Mossadegh and the coup. My husband, Abdi (Dr. Abdolhossein Zarrin Koub) and I we were busy with our own lives. It was on that day that we got married, in the city of Mashad.
Azartash Azarnoush – scholar and writer
I was sixteen years old. At Razi High School, we had been gathering with some of my friends on old Pahlavi Street. The city was crowded. We saw three jeeps near the Marmar Palace [one of the Shah’s many palaces]. One of them got out and threw a knife at us to scare us away. There were 10-15 of us. We ran away but they threw stones at us. We went home in the dark. We were Mossadeghis but didn’t know what to do.
Abdolrahim Ja’afari- founder of Amir Kabir Publishing house
It was ten O’clock when I was standing in front of Nasser Khosrow store. I heard a lot of sound. I thought, like the previous days when there were demonstrations against the Shah and his departure people and military people are running away, but this time the noise was bigger. I came to the southern part of the street, Bouzerjomehri Street and I saw 500 people with ragged clothing and bayonets in hand down on Nasser Khosrow Street. It looked like they had come from the southern part of the city- Zaghe Neshin [one of the shanty districts of southern Tehran]- they had picture of the Shah and a few had clubs in their hands and would shout Marg bar Mossadegh, Marg bar Tudeh . A lot of police and security forces who were on jeeps and army trucks were joining them.
The chant of “we will pay for the skin and the flesh of Tudeh sympathizers” was heard all over the city.
I heard the awkward voice of Mir Ashrafi who was on the radio saying the people have cut the traitor Mossadegh to pieces and Zendeh bad Shah. After he spoke, it was Seyed Mehdi Pirasteh and Zahedi’s turn.
In the afternoon, I was with my friend Hassan Sa’adat, the son of Ahmad Sa’adat who was the head of Sherkat Matbou’at, (the Press Company) we started walking down towards Kakh and Shah Streets. [Dr. Mossadegh’s residence was on Kakh Street]. Thousands of people were out and the hooligans were throwing papers from the second floor of an office. Slogans of Marg bar Mossadegh and Marg bar Tudeh (death to Mossadegh and death to Tudeh sympathizers) were everywhere. I suddenly heard gun shots. And every time we went closer to Dr. Mossadegh’s house, the shots were higher. When we finally got there, we saw that the door of the house had been taken out by a tank. There were=2 0holes from the gun shots all over the wall and the house. There was a struggle between those defending the house and the military. In front of the joub (gutter) in front of his house, there were bodies; you could see the inside of their bodies. There were people, who were ransacking his house; they were carrying everything from his house- furniture, door knobs, heaters, rugs even toilet bowls, everything they could get their hands on. Shaban bee Mokh and his collaborators were looking for people to confront, but there was no one to stand up to them. Shaban bee Mokh (Shaban the brainless) [ a wrestler and a thug who was paid to mobilize the anti-Mossadegh mob] later titled himself Shaban Tajbaksh (Shaban who has handed over the throne.)
I saw these events with my own eyes and grieved that it maybe that is the destiny of great men. Who knows maybe these were the same people who just a few days ago were saying, “we will sacrifice our lives, we will write in blood, either death or Mossadegh.”
Ali Ashraf Darvishian- playwright
On that day, I was 12 years old. I heard the news of the coup from radio. I was standing in the Timcheh area of Kermnashah and was in line to get bread. We ran with my brother towards the house and tried to clean up the slogans we had written on the walls of our street. It was sad news. We were cleaning the slogans we had written sometime earlier.
Mahmoud Kashechi- director of Gutenburg publications
On that day, I had come from Mashad to Tehran. My bookstore was in front of the National Garden and near Homa theatre. Nearby, the Boroumand bookstore had been burned down by hooligans. After the coup, we could not print many books and sometimes we would print things clandestinely like Bargardim Goleh Nassrin Bechinim. I have been to almost all the prisons of Tehran since the 28th of Mordad. From the 86 years of my life, I have dedicated 66 years of it in publishing books and journals, all in the service of the people and my country.
Hassan Kamshad-writer and translator
My brother and I Houshang who lived with us in Ahwaz went to visit the city of Isfahan. There we met up with Shahrokh Meskoub [a renowned writer of numerous works and a scholar on Shahnameh who died in Paris in 2005.] We were all jolly walking in Chahar Bagh Street. Shahrokh had come to see his wife. All of a sudden we saw a truck and there were villagers, youngsters and soldiers who were shouting Zendeh bad Shah, Marg bar Mossadegh. Marg bar Tudeh. There were a few of Shahrokh’s wife relatives on the truck as well. We were stunned. Didn’t the shah leave the country? Didn’t Dr. Fatemi, Mossadegh’s foreign minister announced a Republic? There were many trucks and the same slogans were chanted. Suddenly someone saw us; it was Meskoub’s wife’s chauffeur who shouted: “Are you guys crazy? What are you doing here?” He took us with him and it was there that we heard from Erham Sadr, the actor, from Radio Isfahan: “this is Isfahan, half of the world, we hear terrible news from Radio Tehran but the lawful government of Dr. Mossadegh still continues to hold on to its legal rule…”
From Ahwaz we heard that they took all our belongings, took over our house, and burned down everything else. The days and months after 28 of Mordad were the worse days of my life. All over Iran, there was a state of siege. Shahrokh Meskoub was imprisoned and I left the country…
Jamal Mir Sadeghi- playwright and scholar
It was the day of 28th of Mordad. I was insane. I was asking myself how could this happen? Some were shouting slogans. There were hooligans and mobs all over the capital, shouting slogans of Marg bar Mossadegh and Zendeh Bad Shah (Death to Mossadegh and Long live the Shah.) Those who are today talking of democracy did not let our country take its natural route and stood up against the nation and the government. Before the 28th of Mordad when the Shah had left, we were all happy and then Zahedi came with his tanks and again repression found new ways.
Goli Taraghi – author and playwright
It was 28th of Mordad. We were in Naderi Street, going to Mrs. Yelna’s dance school. I was 13-14 years old. All of sudden, there was lots of noise and there were skirmishes outside. We came to the balcony and saw some hooligans. They shouted, “hey look at the girls.” Mrs. Yelna took us inside. I didn’t go to my house directly as it was far, so I we nt to my grandmothers’ house which was near Heshmatdolleh. I saw people carrying things. One had a chandelier, one had a table. Scores of people were carrying different objects. They said, these were objects belonging to Mossadegh’s house. Before that day, they were shouting slogans in his favor. But on this day, his house was being ransacked. And then later, I witnessed statues coming down and going up. It seems that people study history, but never really learns from it.
Abdollah Kowsari- translator
In those years, in early 1950’s, people who could afford, would go out of Tehran to places like Meygoon, Oshan and Feshan [three resort towns outside of Tehran] Since most homes in Tehran did not have air conditioning, it was a way to spend the summer in cooler places. In the summer of 1953, my family had rented a house and we all went to a beautiful garden in Meygoon. There were roaring creeks, ni ce gardens, and small alleys. At night all the Tehranis would get together in the main square of Meygoon and play the accordion and sing songs and have a jolly time.
At another corner, supporters of Mossadegh and Tudeh would get together and have heated discussions. I was only seven years old. Like most people from the middle class, my father was a Mossadeghi so I guess I was too! I remember we used to play in the river nearby and one day, we saw a large, tall man who was far away from all of us and was standing there, smoking a pipe, just looking deeply into the river. They told me it was Dr. Baghaiee [founder of Hezbeh Zahmatkeshan, who supported Mossadegh at first but then turned his back on him and collaborated with the coup organizers].
In those days, the last thing on everyone’s mind was the disaster that was shaping and befalling us. I read a verse from a Latin American poet that still shakes me: “A calm street before a crime taking place”… The atm osphere in Meygoon, all the joy and fun in the evenings had nothing to do with the horrific crime taking place [in the capital]. The only thing I remember from the coup is that I saw my father like a lost child on a balcony, hitting on his forehead. No one could grasp the shocking thing that had happened to a nation. No one could grasp the depth of it.
And the rest is history……
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