Hedayat Matin-Daftari is the grandson of Dr. Mohammad Mosaddegh.
Dr. Matin-Daftari is the son of Ahmad Matin-Daftari who was Mosaddegh’s son-in-law (1896-1971). He studied law and practiced in Iran. He was also the vice president of the Iranian Bar Association. In 1979, shortly after the Revolution, he -co founded the National Democratic Front. From the onset he was critical of the policies of the newly established Islamic regime. Like many of the regime’s opponents, he was forced to leave Iran for Europe, where he joined in a coalition in the National Resistance Council with Iran’s fist President, Abolhassan Bani-Sadr and Masoud Rajavi, leader of the People’s Mujahedin Khalq. He soon left because of the undemocratic nature of the Council. Later he was the editor of Azadi, a journal advocating democracy that was published in London. He has recently co-edited a book, titled Ahmad Matin-Daftary: Papers and Documents from the Nationalization of the Iranian Oil Industry to the International Court of Justice, 1951-1952. I had a chance to speak with him in Paris, on the eve of the anniversary of the 1953 coup. Dr. Matin-Daftari speaks about his grandfather and recollects the time he spent with him in Ahmad Abad where the Prime Minister was exiled by the Shah until his death.
What are some of the interesting episodes that stand out from the times you visited your grandfather?
As family members, we would take turns to visit him so that he would not be alone. I remember I would try to go with my wife and kids every few weeks and stay for two whole nights. One time, I was busy with work in Tehran so we left late. On the way we also had a flat tyre so by the time we got to Ahmad Abad it was already quite late. When we got to the entrance of the village, as customary, the soldiers standing there would announce our arrival to the SAVAK guards. We stopped and greeted them (my grandfather had always insisted on being especially cordial to them so as not to diminish their position). When we got to the house, my grandfather looked gloomy, with a long face. He was very upset and asked me why I was late. He had been worried that something had happened to us. My wife, Maryam, who used to call my grandfather Aqa, said to me, “look, you have made Aqa very upset.” I turned to him and said Papa (that’s what we called him) I am sorry but I left late because of the circumstances. He did not say anything but he was clearly upset. The next day, we got up and we were talking and laughing. Over breakfast my grandfather suddenly said to me, “Just come whenever you want, even if you are late, just come. I am always happy to have you and Maryam and the children whenever you come.” He was clearly being courteous as he did not want me to feel obliged to come at a certain time but also that he appreciated our presence whilst we cherished the visits, after all he was alone there.
What do you remember from his bedroom? What were some of the pictures on the wall?
There was just a photograph of Massumeh (Sousou as she was called) who was Dr. Mossadegh’s youngest grandchild [she was killed mysteriously a few years ago in Iran]. Then a photograph of a student demonstration at Tehran University in1960, to commemorate the shooting of protesters on16 Azar 1332 (7 Dec1953) a few months after the August coup d’etat, carrying pictures of the three students shot dead on the occasion. There was also a miniature statue of Gandhi in ivory received from a friend who had visited India. My grandmother, who was rather devout, had also left a small picture of Prophet Mohammad on the mantle.
Was he lonely or did he feel lonely?
Lack of freedom to go where he wants, to see whom he wants, to live where he wants and to be near his friends and family, in short, being under house arrest naturally made him lonely, but he was not altogether alone. There was a lady, Khanoumi, who was his housekeeper and Seyed Ali Akbar who attended to his errands. And, because this was a working farm, he had constant contacts with the villagers and would talk to, for example, the driver of the tractor or truck, or the stewards, or the moghanibashi (the man who looked after the underground irrigation canals).
Some historians claim that he was depressed. Is that true, what was your impression? How did he keep busy? I know he read books but what else did he do?
How did they know? That is nonsense. My grandfather was never depressed. He kept quite busy. He read books and replied to a considerable number of letters he received from far and near. He oversaw the business of the farm, dealing with agricultural issues and coming up with new ideas on the subject, for he was innovative. He also supervised from afar the management of Najmieh hospital in Tehran of which he was a trustee. Najmieh hospital, founded by his mother Malektaj Firouz was run as a charity and had 20 beds reserved for the needy who received free medical and surgical treatment, fully paid for by the trust. He received and was visited by Mr. Nosratollah Amini, his trusted friend and lawyer who attended to his legal affairs, and was also a prominent member of the National Front. He corresponded with students outside of Iran and was also in touch with members of the second National Front and advised them on political issues. But of course, naturally, he felt lonely at times. He often pointed out, both in person and in his letters, that he was a prisoner in his own home and that he could never leave the compound. He made sure nobody would ever forget this fact.
How many soldiers and Savak guards were there?
There were a dozen soldiers who changed shifts and two Savak guards who replaced each other and kept guard at all times. The guards acted with great respect towards him, having been attracted by his kindness and charisma. One was Shahidi and the other was called Ma’soumkhani. They cried relentlessly when they heard that Dr. Mossadegh had passed away after being moved to the hospital where they also kept guard. After the death of my grandfather Sergeant Shahidi came to me and told me that he was demoted. They said that he had been too influenced by Dr. Mossadegh and had been corrupted by him!
When I visited Ahmad Abad in 2005, Mr. Takrousta, the caretaker of the residence told me that he had learned how to read and write in the school, which Dr. Mossadegh had established inside the compound. What do you know about this?
Yes, in 1941, at the suggestion of my aunt Khadijeh, his youngest child, he established a school and appointed a teacher from the nearby village of Taleqan named Rastegar. Taleqan was well known for its tradition of literacy and for producing mirzas (scribes). Dr. Mossadegh’s own steward, Mirza Zeygham, was a Taleqani. Every time they needed a new scribe, he would send him to fetch a Mirza from Taleqan.
In which grades were the kids?
It was a primary school. The pupils were different ages, from 1st to 6th grade. At that time, all pupils would learn in the same classroom so Mr. Rastegar would go around teaching them at different levels. Boys and girls were together but Dr. M. insisted that classes be held after the harvest time as the elder boys helped their fathers with threshing the harvest. At the beginning, classes were held in a small building adjacent to the entrance to the compound; later he had a building constructed especially for this purpose in the middle of the compound near the main entrance. Later on, the same building, housed the soldiers and the Savak guards. I have heard that trespassers have now seized a considerable part of the compound.
Did any of the authorities ever contact you or any member of the family that if Dr. Mossadegh said something he could leave Ahmad Abad?
No! Never, they knew whom they were dealing with and that he would not accept any offer or compromise. However, I remember once that officials from the establishment had been concerned with my grandfather’s correspondence with members of the National Front. They wrote to him especially after the second Front was established. At one stage, after the first congress of the National Front held in 1962, he deemed the constitution suited a political party and not a front that itself in fact is comprised of various political parties and organization with different programs and ideologies making joint efforts for the establishment of democracy and freedom. This argument led to exchanges of correspondence and a public discussion among the ranks of the Front. Thus the head of Karaj Savak, Khadivi, came to see Dr. Mossadegh. to ask him to stop his letter writing. Of course, he was not successful. The second time round, the head of Tehran Savak, Colonel Molavi came along. Dr. M. reminded them of his right as a citizen to write to whomever he wished. “Hold a new trial and officially deprive me of this right”, he said, “otherwise you will have to handcuff me by force and undo it when I need to eat!” They both left having failed in their mission.
What do you remember about others, like my father?
Among the National Front members, your father and Mr. Mohammad Ali Keshavarz Sadr, with whom I had the honor to be associated in my law practice, were particularly men of positive action. They were both from the same province formerly known as Araq. Your father was from the City of Arak and Keshavarz Sadr was from neighboring Mahallat. I remember one time; a number of the members of Student Organization of the National Front were arrested and imprisoned after they called for an official election rally in Tehran in the autumn of 1963. The regime had announced that elections were free and they, the students, wanted to call its bluff and to prove whether it was real or not. They asked the NF leadership what to do. All but one, were still in prison for openly denouncing the Shah’s dictatorship in 1962. They said that it was not wise for them to give any direction from inside the prison and left the matter for those still free to decide. The students had already distributed tracts and had invited people to come to Baharestan Square. Around 80 students were arrested. Usually in those days the military investigating magistrate would take a written and signed statement from those arrested, pledging not to leave the district within his jurisdiction without his knowledge pending further summons. But the situation had changed; this time they required a written guarantee from a third party (kafil) or a bail to release the students. I brought the matter to the attention of the leadership who had themselves been released two days earlier without bail or any form of guarantee after seven months of illegal detention by SAVAK. There was a long silence from them. Suddenly, your father turned to me and said I have a deed to a property; let’s go and get some of them released. That would be a start. We both went to the military prosecutor’s office and presented the deed and asked for the release of Mr. Yazdi, then a dental student. The investigating judge, Colonel Behzadi, said as a matter of fact, his father came with a deed and had him released moments before your arrival. But we were able to help others who had no relatives, among them a student leader by the name of Manouchehr Shoja, who was a law student. Unfortunately, some years later, just before the Revolution, he lost his life in an automobile accident. The same was true of Mr. Keshavarz Sadr. He was, on his own standing, a well-known and respected statesman. He was a former judge, later a member of the Majlis, a former governor of the Province of Guilan and later Esfahan under Mossadegh. He had resisted the coup d’état of 1953 in Isfahan, and was beaten and detained. As a member of the Executive Committee of the Second NF and its spokesman, for a time, he was in charge of student affairs. Whenever a member of the Student Organization or any other person in the Front was in trouble, he would go there in person, make a strong protest and a big fuss about the illegality of their actions and have the person freed. I mean these men would use their integrity, their clout, their prestige and age to do positive things. Unfortunately, to be positive, not only in words but in action, would attract, not from the enemy but from within, jealousy and malicious whispers.
You also acted as Dr. Mossadegh’s lawyer at times. In what capacity were you involved?
Yes, in the last two years of his life when Mr. Amini had become too occupied in his tasks. Once he told me to intervene in a matter concerning damage incurred to one of the properties of the hospital. Mr. Nikpour, a neighbor of the property and a well-known businessman, was building a house in Qavam al-Saltaneh Street and by mistake had destroyed the wall to a coal store that belonged to the trust. My grandfather was upset and for the first time wanted me to represent him. I decided to talk to Nikpour first. He acknowledged that they had indeed destroyed the wall but that they would build a new one and promised that no part of the land would be compromised. But my grandfather wanted me to make sure that everything was in order, black and white. He told me that I was too naive to accept such a promise! So I asked for Mr. Amini to be our arbitrator in this case and he agreed with my approach. I know my grandfather wanted everything correct, in writing and to the point. He did not want anything to jeopardize the business of the hospital and the trust.
Was the wall built to Dr. Mossadegh’s satisfaction?
Yes, it was.
They say Dr. Mossadegh was a stubborn man. What can you say about this as his grandson?
As a matter of fact, I always felt he was quite a flexible person in his public and private life but where principles were concerned, he would not compromise. Yes, perhaps you can say in this respect he was stubborn.
* I have spelled Mossadegh this way because this is how Mossadegh signed his name in the Latin scripts.
The following are some interesting reports from the period before and after the coup (translated from the French by F. Amini):
– The repressive measures taken by the government in regards to the Fedayeen Islam after their attempt to assassinate Mr. Fatemi have not made any impression on the leaders of the said movement. Their leader, Navab Safavi, who remains in Qasr Prison, has sent a letter to the newspaper Dad, which was given prominent coverage. In it Mossadegh is called “an octogenarian of European inspiration who has imprisoned patriots.” It is interesting to note that Safavi attributes the motivation behind the assassination attempt to much more than just rivalry with the National Front. He reproaches the PM [Mossadegh] in vague terms for caving in to foreigners in the oil negotiations. François Couliet, Ambassador of France to his Excellency Robert Schuman, Minister of Foreign Affairs, February 22, 1952
– The assassination attempt on February 15, the first against an influential member of the National Front, Mr. Hossein Fatemi, deputy of Tehran and former Deputy Secretary of State, happened while the latter was giving a talk at the tomb of the journalist Mohammad Massoud, who was murdered five years ago. While saying that “the blood of Massoud…” Fatemi fell as a shot from a revolver hit his stomach…. The assassin, who had previously made an attempt on the life of Mr. Zanghenneh, was a very young man, barely sixteen years old. Ambassador of France to the Foreign Minister, February 19, 1952.
– Following anti- NF demonstrations, the opposition has decided to boycott the referendum. Mollah Kashani has declared yesterday that no patriotic Muslim should participate in this referendum. There was a moment of hope that a declaration would be forthcoming by the highest Shia authorities, Ayatollah Boroujerdi and Ayatollah Behbehani. But… Tehran, telegram to the Foreign Ministry, August 2, 1953.
– At 19:00 hours, it was announced that the residence of Dr. Mossadegh was occupied by the demonstrators. The former Prime Minister has fled. General Riahi, has been arrested. The entire city is now controlled by the partisans of General Zahedi. There is fighting going on in different places. The majority of the old generals loyal to the Shah who had been victims of Dr. Mossadegh’s purge are now supporting General Zahedi. Tehran, telegram arrived from Iran to the French Ministry of Affairs, August 19, 1953.
– Along with Dr. Mossadegh, the following people have been arrested: Mr. Sadighi, Minister of Interior, Mr. Moazzami, President of the Chamber and Mr. Shayegan. Orders have been given for the arrest of the previous cabinet members as well as the entire entourage of the former Prime Minister [Mossadegh]… Telegram to the foreign Ministry, August 21, 1953.
– Dr. Mossadegh was arrested yesterday, at the house of Moazami where he had taken refuge. There is no news of Mr. Fatemi. Calm has been restored to Tehran where the new government has taken exceptional police measures to discourage people who do not submit, those loyal to the former PM as well as the Tudeh. General Zahedi is trying to form his cabinet. There is talk about the appointment of General Vossough as Minister of War and Mr Entezam as Foreign Minister. The Shah is due to arrive today or tomorrow. Telegram to French Foreign Ministry, August 21, 1953.
– Pravda, which had hailed August 19 as the “failure of the American adventure in Iran” and “a severe blow to the partisans of the politics of force” limits itself today to the publication without commentary of press agencies which announced the success of General Zahedi and the pending return of the Shah. Moscow, Le Roy, telegram to the Foreign Ministry, August 21, 1953
– Maj. Gen. Fazllolah Zahedi is the man who will spend the millions of American dollars soon to be advanced to Iran. General Zahedi is the new Iranian Premier Minister and strong man, successor to the teary Mohammad Mossadegh. The General is strongly entrenched in his new job. And the United States is eager to keep things that way. Not that there is any solicitude in Washington for Premier Zahedi as an individual. His adventurous career as a swaggering soldier and a wily politician includes, in fact, episodes that scarcely would meet Western approval. “Zahedi Fights Communists, so U.S. overlooks His Past”, US News and World Report, September 11, 1953
– Dear compatriots, I consider it my duty, with the help of the almighty God, to continue my work on behalf of the dispossessed people of Iran and I will never stop nor will I hesitate now to risk my life to safeguard the interests of the nation. It is for this reason that I find myself obliged once again today to share certain truths with you in the pursuit of your final objectives. The rupture of relations with Great Britain was a bad idea and it was due to prolong the power of Dr. Mossadegh. The question of our Muslim people is rested upon the traditions of the law national and religion. At the moment you should abstain from any form of manifestations which do not serve the interest of our nation and may hinder on our security… at the end I would like to bring to the attention of his Excellency the Prime Minister [Zahedi] who has addressed these issues… Seyed Abol Qasem Kashani, Message to the Iranian people, December 3rd, 1953
– In a few days, Dr. Mossadegh will be released from 3 years of imprisonment. There is no question in allowing Dr. Mossadegh to continue with any political life. Even if he has lost his great past popularity, the ex-prime minister remains for many the symbol of Iranian nationalism with great personal prestige after 3 years of detention. Chargé d’Affaires of France in Iran, telegram to the Foreign Ministry, Aug 7, 1955
– This year, the anniversary of the 18 Mordad, commemorating the uprising of 1953 which marked the downfall of Dr. Mossadegh was celebrated discretely. The Shah declared said that on this day, he celebrated the courage of the people for saving the homeland. It is significant that there was neither a single mention of Dr. Mossadegh nor of General Zahedi who was the hero of this day and the coup. Embassy of France in Iran, Aug 23rd 1957
– I am informing you for all intents and purposes that Princess Ashraf, the sister of the Shah who came from Rome to Paris, was searched by the customs authorities at Orly. She declared that she only had 10,000 FF on her. But 800,000 FF and pieces of gold were found in her purse and seized. The Princess was traveling with a regular passport. Embassy of France in Tehran, October 18, 1958