The lessons of the Fedayeen

From a former member


The lessons of the Fedayeen
by yasmine

The month of September is known in the Iranian exile calendar as the month to commemorate one of the biggest mass executions of political prisoners in the Islamic republic’s period of power. This year is the 20th anniversary of the massacre in 1988. The figures are very inaccurate, but I think the government admits that probably 15,000 socialists, communists and some from the Mujahedin were killed in prison. This was ayatollah Khomeini taking his revenge on the Iranian left following his defeat in the war against Saddam Hussein.

These were not the only working class partisans killed in the prisons of the Islamic republic, of course: thousands had already been executed since 1980 and many more died in Kurdistan. What is sad about this is not just that so many thousands gave their lives for socialism and Marxism, but there have been very few lessons learned from this whole experience. The commemorations are now almost non-political events - for many doing their duty of paying respect to ‘martyrs’ is the only political activity they now engage in.

Amongst the thousands who died were those who belonged to the Fedayeen, of which I was a member. What I am going to try to do is give a brief history of the Fedayeen, their theory and ideas, and also my own experience in two main areas - in the Kurdistan branch and on the foreign committee, first as a candidate member and later as a member.


The Fedayeen’s origins go back to 1971, to a forest in the north of Iran, where militants took up arms, having taken over a gendarmerie. They were rebelling not just against the shah’s regime, but also against the Tudeh Party, the traditional ‘official’ communist party in Iran, whose name had become synonymous with compromise and betrayal. It goes without saying that the Soviet Union did not support the Iranian revolutionary movement against the shah, and the Tudeh Party followed the USSR’s line. It was for broad alliances and the peaceful road to socialism. So there was a rebellion against the Tudeh Party amongst the revolutionary youth.

However, to take up arms against the regime in such a way was suicidal, because it was inevitable that a large number of those who did so would be killed - 13 out of the 19 of what is called the original cell of the Fedayeen died in the fighting and a number of members and supporters were executed later.

The Fedayeen was formed through the merging of two groups on the Iranian left, both opposed to Tudeh. One was led by Massoud Ahmadzadeh, who came from a guerilla family and had become very much influenced by Maoism. His politics were a combination of Maoism and guerilla warfare. One of his closest allies was Amir-Parviz Pouyan, again someone influenced by 1968, Maoism and armed struggle. Ahmadzadeh’s book Armed struggle: both strategy and tactics (!) was for many years the bible of the Fedayeen. Amir-Parviz Pouyan also wrote a book called The necessity of armed struggle against the theory of survival. The ‘theory of survival’ referred to the line of the Tudeh Party, against which the Fedayeen were rebelling.

However, Ahmadzadeh also destroyed the illusion that the ‘national bourgeoisie’ could have a revolutionary or progressive role. Describing the democratic character of the revolution, he wrote: Struggle against imperialist domination - ie, world capitalism - has some elements of the struggle with capitalism and therefore some elements of the socialist revolution are born in this struggle. On the role of proletariat he wrote: The proletariat [in Iran] is numerically weak, but its special qualities and capabilities to organise are stronger than any other class.

Bijan Jazani was another leading figure. He came from a different tendency - the youth organisation of the Tudeh Party, but he rebelled against Tudeh and agreed to bring his small forces into the new organisation.

To summarise the politics which influenced the Fedayeen in that original period, one could say that a unique version of guerrillaism and Maoism dominated, but there was also a very simplistic attitude of ‘anti-revisionism’, which did not have much theory behind it. The founders were against the changes represented by the 22nd Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and adopted a line claiming to be independent of both Russia and China. However, they remained very much influenced by Stalinism.

In debates, for example, with Communist Unity, which was more of a middle-of-the-road student organisation, the Fedayeen were very clear on where they stood on the Soviet Union. Their position was that until 1962 the USSR was 65% good and 35% bad, which, I think, is a Maoist view. However, as China adopted the theory of social-imperialism, and later the ‘three worlds’ theory, the Fedayeen and other Iranian left-wing groups distanced themselves from Maoism.

The people who lost their lives in the 1971 operation had considerable effect on the youth and student movement in Iran. Not quite what Ahmadzadeh had predicted - that the small motor would make the large motor move and the whole country would rebel. But the student movement became very sympathetic to this new, emerging left and were influenced by it, as were many young workers.

1971-79 shaped the political thought of the generation which came to the Iranian revolution as leaders of the Fedayeen. So it is an important period. We are talking about an organisation that was mainly underground, preparing for armed warfare and organising the occasional bank robberies.

Its activities were sporadic - the Fedayeen killed a couple of American military personnel in Tehran and a number of the shah’s generals. There were losses, particularly because, as an armed organisation, members of the Fedayeen could simply be killed on the street. This denied the Fedayeen a mass base and endangered anyone who supported them, such as university students, because supporters were regarded as part of the armed movement by association. Around 370 leftwingers were executed in this period, of which 60% were Fedayeen.

Many Fedayeen spent this period in prison, where a debate developed over the organisation’s line. Jazani moved away from some of the original positions. For example, in his book United front against dictatorship Jazani was clearly rejecting earlier positions taken by Ahmadzadeh and Pouyan. However, in another book, Capitalism and revolution in Iran, Jazani provided a valuable analysis of the shah’s regime.

Jazani was killed in Evin prison in 1975. It is therefore difficult to assess whether some of the writings and ideas attributed to him were truly his own opinions. The people around him became leaders of the Fedayeen on their release from prison. By 1979 there was a mass revolutionary movement in Iran and members of the Fedayeen were released from prison, some of them during the February uprising, when people broke down the doors of the jails.

During this period the Fedayeen had become a real force among students and young people, gaining popularity as a result of its past actions (although some of it was actually populist myth). However, it was now very divided, with Jazani’s supporters following one political line and Ahmadzadeh supporters another.

There were two debates going on and one was over the armed struggle. Jazani supporters contended that the armed struggle line, as both strategy and tactic, was mistaken, and in that they were right, because it had separated the Fedayeen from its potential mass base. But, on the other hand, some Jazani supporters were now excusing Soviet foreign policy and saw a positive role for the ‘national bourgeoisie’. That was a different issue.

What was quite clear was that throughout this period there was very little done in terms of theoretical work. The book that everyone read and which gave them “everything”, according to one of the Fedayeen elders I know, was Lenin’s What is to be done? That was their bible. It gave the Fedayeen their stance against sectarianism, economism, syndicalism and anarchism - their whole analysis was based on it. But they did not necessarily understand it properly, especially given the problematic translation into Farsi by the USSR Academy of Sciences, which emphasises centralism over democracy.

Throughout this period the Fedayeen had failed to make any headway in the working class or in Iranian society as a whole. In the universities, however, they had a great deal of support, as became obvious at the time of the revolution. Among the intellectuals - especially the poets, including some of the most famous - there was an amazing amount of praise for the Fedayeen. One thing is clear, though - they had no strategy about what to do, now that the revolutionary situation had arrived. That was the problem of February 1979.

While the clergy used the period of economic crisis (1974-79) to build their base, to make propaganda, taking advantage of their position in the mosque to organise and mobilise, the Fedayeen in prison were still debating in very abstract terms such questions as the united front against the dictatorship. In addition, the shah was far more lenient towards the religious groups than he was towards the left, for whom building a mass organisation was much more difficult. They attempted to go to the factories, but all they could do was distribute leaflets and then disappear.

It is not, therefore, a question of the February revolution being hijacked: more the fact that the left was simply not prepared for it. In a way it is a good job that the left did not come to power, because it had no plans, no politics, no strategy and definitely no theory about what to do.

The oil workers were crucial in the February revolution. It was their strikes that broke the back of the shah’s regime. The Fedayeen had some influence among them, but they were hampered by their lack of experience of working with the class. There was no plan about what to do with the strike, how to move it forward. Inevitably, the Tudeh Party, which did have a base in the working class, was better represented among the oil workers.

Nevertheless, the first rally called by the Fedayeen in Tehran in 1979 after the overthrow of the shah attracted 500,000 people. Despite reservations, they stood in the elections to what was a sort of constituent assembly and got a couple of million votes.


The splits in the Fedayeen started in 1979 and are still going on. I will not bore you with all the details, but the main ones should be mentioned. The first, immediately after the leaders’ release from prison, was between the supporters of armed struggle and those who said that armed struggle could not be both a strategy and a tactic, and that clearly it could not work.

The problem was that the myths surrounding Fedayeen guerilla struggle did influence the uprising of 1979. On the other hand, many Fedayeen were becoming aware of their organisation’s weaknesses - not least its total divorce from the mass movement.

The supporters of the armed struggle as tactic and strategy were in a small minority, but survived and still survive. To this day their slogan is: The shah was the running dog of imperialism and so is the Islamic republic. No theory, no analysis, but they still exist.

The main division, however, obviously came with the Minority-Majority split, revolving around the analysis of not only the Islamic republic, but a whole set of issues, such as the nature of the current era. The Majority held that it was one of imperialism versus socialism, as represented by the USA and the USSR. On Iran’s regime, they said that, although it was Islamic, the government was objectively moving Iran towards the socialist camp and therefore should be supported. The main questions in the Minority-Majority split concerned the nature of the Iranian government: was it progressive or counter-revolutionary?

The Majority consisted of those who claimed to have been close to Bijan Jazani in prison. They were called Fedayeen Majority only because they constituted a majority on the central committee, although it soon became clear that they did not have majority support in the country. They considered the regime as anti-imperialist and gave it at first conditional and later full support.

Things became much more tense after the spring of 1979, with the government strengthening itself and being in a position to impose repression on opposition forces. For that reason we see a number of specific events, not least the takeover of the US embassy by students. This was hailed by the Fedayeen Majority and most of the left outside Iran as an anti-imperialist act, but was seen by the radical left in Iran as a deliberate diversion to stop the wave of political strikes and opposition to the islamic regime.

It was this event that really brought the arguments within the Iranian left to a head. The Minority had walked out of the CC, but drew in support from thousands of left-wing students and youth who did not want to follow the islamic republic into the abyss. But it was also true that the Fedayeen Majority retained some support among the working class.

The embassy incident was also significant in that the government declared that anyone who did not support it must be a counter-revolutionary or a CIA agent. Counter-revolutionaries could be arrested and even executed - a situation that intensified once the Iran-Iraq war, which the government portrayed as a war against imperialism, started. Some on the left, including the Fedayeen Minority, adopted the line, originally put forward by ‘line three’ Maoists, that the Iran-Iraq war was a reactionary war.

That meant you could now be arrested for being a member of the Fedayeen Minority - you were part of the US aggression against Iran, you were a traitor and you could easily be killed. By contrast at this time the Fedayeen Majority might be invited into ayatollah Rafsanjani’s office for consultations over the organisation of this or that event. Obviously by this stage we are talking about revolution and counter-revolution.

Both the Majority and the Tudeh Party definitely supported the government in repressing the rest of the left. By now the Majority was totally following the Moscow line and was very close to the Tudeh Party. The Minority was telling workers that, while we defend Iran, we also have to fight the regime. But the Majority was saying, ‘Produce more - there is an anti-imperialist war and a war economy, and Iran is moving towards the socialist camp.’ Let me also say that Iranian Trotskyist groups were divided along very similar lines.

From this point on we are talking about two very different organisations. The Majority was able to operate openly until at least 1984, with offices in Tehran until 1982-83. The Minority, on the other hand, was considered a proscribed organisation, with their houses raided and a lot of deaths in those first two years.

The first congress of the Fedayeen Minority shows the diversity of forces that had taken a united position against the Fedayeen Majority. For example, there was another split in this congress, with those in favour of joining the Mujahedin in the National Council of Resistance leaving. There was also a Trotskyist Tendency and debates about entrism.

Apart from these political difficulties, it was a bad time generally for the Fedayeen Minority. Its secret printing press was raided by the government and a lot of people were killed. Political debate became confused with security issues and formed a terrible backdrop for what I would call militarism and centralism within the Fedayeen - some of the blame was put unjustly on the Trotskyist Tendency. This marked the beginning of what I call total centralism in the Fedayeen Minority - a complete disregard for democracy by people who were preserving the organisation for the sake of preserving the organisation.

The whole ideology of the Fedayeen had always been dominated by talk of professional revolutionaries, heroes, the elite - dedicated people who have no other life, no other concern (and never meet anybody else either, because they might become ‘confused’ and do something that is not in the interests of the organisation). My personal experience of the Fedayeen began at that time, in the middle of this difficult period. But for all its faults, the Fedayeen Minority remained for many years the main left organisation opposing the islamic republic.

The Majority also suffered when a CIA plant in the Soviet embassy in Tehran gave the names of many Tudeh Party members to the islamic government. Many leading members of the Majority were arrested too. It was the beginning of the end for those two organisations inside Iran - now what remains of them survive in exile. The workers who had illusions in the Majority had by then given up. By 1982 leading oil workers, who had gone with the Majority or Tudeh in the period of debate over whether the government was revolutionary or counter-revolutionary, had left these organisations.

Kurdistan base

As for the Fedayeen Minority, we were forced to move most of our leading members to Kurdistan. The central committee kept one person in Tehran and ironically, as a woman, she could not be recognised by the regime. Although the government posted her photo on every lamppost, showing her without a headscarf, in real life she was totally covered up! She managed to produce a left-wing paper in the middle of Tehran until 1985. Despite the fact that the paper featured mass work among the class more prominently, the image of the heroic guerrillas persisted as a strong element among certain figures in the Fedayeen Minority.

So basically the organisation as a whole moved to Kurdistan, leaving some key figures in various cities - people who had not been involved in the various security scares. Kurdistan was both a good and a bad time for the Fedayeen. It was a safer place than Iranian cities, but here was a Marxist organisation forced to work in the countryside amongst the peasantry, who hardly wanted to build socialism and to whom Fedayeen ideas were quite alien.

They were hospitable towards us, although I suspect this resulted from their hostility to the regime based on Kurdish nationalism rather than any understanding of what the Fedayeen actually stood for. Quite clearly they were not religious in the way that the Islamic republic was, and that is true of the peasantry all over Iran - they have their own ways of expressing their religion. I felt we were a bit like aliens there, especially we women Fedayeen, who wore men’s clothes and carried a gun. The peasant women did not really take to us and the peasant men thought us very strange.

In Kurdistan the organisation needed a lot of backbone to survive the real serious hardship. The winters were terribly cold and the summers very dry. Later, as the government mounted its offensive against us, we had to move from bases in villages to more mountainous areas, where the people were much more tribal and there was no real village.

I think the beginning of corruption within the Fedayeen Minority came during the Kurdish period, when everyone had pragmatic reasons for demanding the right of passage from Iraq. The way many of us travelled to Kurdistan originally was via the southern part of Turkey. In winter it was hell - cold, mountainous, terribly dangerous - and, of course, there was a much easier way through Iraq. All the political organisations of the Iranian left, not just the Fedayeen Minority, agreed to accept right of passage from Iraq - at a cost.

Later on there came the idea that in order to feed and clothe people it was necessary to accept financial aid, including from dubious sources. The Fedayeen were amongst the last to accept such aid, but it began in Kurdistan. So an organisation based on such high principles, whose heroes were supposed to be beyond criticism in the way they behaved, took the first small step of accepting money from Iraq, and so it went on. Today some organisations on the Iranian left see no contradiction in accepting US ‘regime change’ funds or money from certain Israeli institutions (I assume on the basis that the end justifies the means).

Debate in our Kurdish base was very limited. It was not that there was no debate at all, but most people had to ask questions in writing. As the situation became more difficult, the central committee became even more centralised, so that dissent from the political line was seen as equivalent to treachery. Dissidents were not expelled, but were treated less favourably.

For example, four months after a congress, we found out about a pamphlet written by the Trotskyist Tendency - but only thanks to a superficial book, Leninism or Trotskyism, written by a central committee member, who denounced the tendency mainly through insults. The book made a wonderful U-turn regarding one of the Fedayeen’s long-standing positions: “In a future revolutionary Iran the Soviet Union will help us build heavy industries in order to achieve socialism.”

When in a written question some of us asked the author what the difference was between this and the Tudeh Party’s ‘non-capitalist road to development’ - the line that our founders had rebelled against - his comment was: “We are not treacherous like Tudeh”! Of course, the majority of members did not share his opinions, but we were never given the chance of debating such issues or holding another congress.

Another corrupting influence was the interference of Jalal Talebani’s group in Kurdistan - Talebani is now president of Iraq, of course. His group was one of those that controlled not just Iranian Kurdistan, but bordering areas in Turkish Kurdistan and part of Iraqi Kurdistan. There is a place known as the ‘valley of the parties’, between Iran, Iraq and Turkey. With high mountains on all sides, it was a safe place to locate your base, training schools, radio stations and so on.

Talebani’s group was dominant there. He had already moved well beyond anything to do with the left and this was more than 25 years ago. He was a bourgeois politician with a tribal, feudal background even then. He would meddle in the affairs of political groups, supporting one faction of this or that group against its central committee. The whole situation was pretty bad.

However, amongst the positives was the fact that people who wanted to fight the government arrived in numbers in Kurdistan. They had no history of involvement with the Fedayeen, no theoretical background, but unfortunately there was no real attempt to give them a political education. Most members and cadres only read the works of Lenin or of ‘martyred’ Fedayeen comrades.

One of the worst events was the battle for control of the Fedayeen radio station. Ordinary members wanted a congress and the central committee refused to organise it, because it knew it would lose power. It had co-opted members who agreed with its line and there were many complaints about lack of democracy. The political line of the people who attacked the radio station in order to take control of it from the central committee was pretty dodgy and they moved gradually further to the right as time went by (now they are in discussions to rejoin the Fedayeen Majority, which gives you some indication of their trajectory even then).

However, the central committee delayed the congress and stopped everybody having a proper discussion about our strategy and tactics, and our current political theory. Where did we stand now? We were no longer guerrilaist or Maoist and the Trotskyist Tendency had been expelled. Clearly some in the central committee did not see anything wrong with the Soviet Union under Brezhnev. But none of this was discussed. This situation threw into relief the political decline of the Fedayeen Minority.

Even with all these disasters in Kurdistan, even with the fact that the Fedayeen had not managed to gain much support inside Iran, they remained a very powerful force outside the country. When I was sent to the foreign committee in 1984, we had about 1,000 supporters in the US and around 100 in several European countries.

These supporters were doing a lot of work for the Fedayeen - fund-raising, publicity, producing their own publications, including a student journal. But Fedayeen membership was totally different. Remember, this was an organisation of professional revolutionaries, and because recruitment had slowed to perhaps one a year and many had died, there were probably only around 40 Fedayeen Minority members left, compared with 60 at the first congress.

Supporters had few rights. They could elect their own representatives, but these representatives had no influence on the organisation. At the end of the 20th century this model - a body of professional revolutionaries aided by supporters - was alien to most people, but we still kept it.
Most importantly, the Fedayeen still worked on a ‘need to know’ basis, so supporters had a distorted view of both the theory and practice of the organisation. It was very hard to do much to change this, because members like myself were not allowed to divulge any secrets.

There was very little serious political discussion in the foreign committee. If in Kurdistan there was the excuse that we were fighting a war and did not want the enemy to take prisoners who knew too much and so on, in Europe that argument was really redundant.

Most of us were given so much to do and were literally so exhausted that we could not even read or study properly. It was not unusual to be sent to another continent at a few hours’ notice, so it was really a very disruptive time.

Many of us by 1985-86 had come to the conclusion that we just could not work effectively, but you cannot just leave such an organisation. I resigned three times and was told each time that my resignation was not accepted! The central committee discussed my resignation and threw it in the bin. Eventually I just stopped working and went into hiding.


What are the main lessons? First of all, one has to remember that it is easy to criticise all of this in retrospect, just as it is easy to underestimate the repression of the shah and the islamic republic. The influence that the Fedayeen had in the birth of the new left and on the Iranian revolution is historic and cannot be taken away, though a very heavy price was paid for it.

But there were many mistakes - militarism, Stalinism, centralism, the culture of the heroic guerilla and the professional revolutionary. As the organisation disintegrated, not surprisingly heroes suddenly became villains in the eyes of many supporters.

A lesson that I personally learnt is that without debate, without democracy, without the ability to discuss every aspect of theory, your organisation will end up as a sect rather than a serious force capable of leading a revolution. I have also come to the conclusion that the end does not just justify the means. I know some people think I am very dogmatic and uncompromising, but my experience with the Fedayeen has made me very vigilant about the betrayal of principles. We started by being pragmatic on minor things and ended up compromising on very big issues.

At the end of my stay in Kurdistan I was in a base with about 40 people and, apart from one other person, I am the only survivor. That gives me a responsibility. I just cannot give up politics, because, whatever you think of the Fedayeen’s various leaders, the 38 people who died in that base were all Marxists; they all believed in and wanted to achieve socialism, though they knew they would not see it in their lifetime. Tens of thousands of Fedayeen died.

Our task is to ensure that their lives were not lost in vain.

UK-based Yasmine Mather is on the co-ordinating committee of Workers' Left Unity Iran. This is an edited version of a speech delivered to the September 7, 2008, London meeting of the Campaign for a Marxist Party.


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To: Aghayeh Alborzi

by Aboli (not verified) on

Never heard of "Iraqi axis"!
That's why I asked.
And, No, I am not a Shahi; whatever that means.

You, sir, are the first person, in history, who is even thinking of a scenario, where the Iraqis had the balls to look at Iran the wrong way, under the Shah!
He was there for 37 years, and Iraq was behaving.
He left, and they invaded.
Go figure...


Mammad: Your false

by sickofiri (not verified) on

Mammad: Your false equivalency arguments rank up there with Joseph Goebbles's twisted propaganda literature. You, sir are an immoral cretin of a highest order. Yet, again, one should not expect anything less from an IRI's apalogist.


If you have to ask

by Alborzi (not verified) on

If you cannot figure out the idiot coward who was sent packing to Cancun by a bunch of mullahs, who left his faithful prime minister in prison to be executed then you are an official Shahi. Anyway he would have done the same when faced by Arab axis, Iran was fortunate he was not there.

On a separate note, for people who have more IQ, can the leftist say what they want to say in a shorter article, this is supposed to be a shorter version, God help us if she had posted the original version.



by Aboli (not verified) on

"Its very simple to know the idiot coward would
have been in Cancun if faced with Iraqi axis"
"Iraqi axis"?
Is this a new term?

What the hell is he talking about?
Does anyone know???


au contraire

by Alborzi (not verified) on

Its very simple to know the idiot coward would
have been in Cancun if faced with Iraqi axis. The guy had two major occasions that he needed to prove his mettle.
The first was in 1953, he left when he found opposition and returned when CIA assured him it was safe.
The second time was back in 1979, he left in such a hurry he left his buddies in prison to be executed.
Now you may have your own definition of disaster, but like I said things will get better and you should not
be impatient.


Delusional grace....

by KavehV (not verified) on

"if Shah was there he would be in Cancun. Khomeini was also brilliant in destroying the criminals who were instrumental in the revolution. There is no doubt that if Iran was saddled with any of these groups it would have been disaster"

This kind of delusional nonsense can only be the by product of a severe hang-over on holidays. Wake up! How would you know if Shah would be in Cancun ? KHOMEINI WAS THE DISASTER! There was no worse way to conduct the war with Saddam than the way these idiots did. To prolong a war, were your side is continuously at a disadvantage in terms of (lack of) armaments, critical political alliances, high casualty rates and greater destruction on your soil than enemies etc. etc. ? Where is the freaking BRILLINACE in this Mr. Genius ?

"In a very strange way these guys are similar to many invaders who got absorbed and improved Iran."

When did that ever happen??!!
Only a member of the invading group and their descendants would make such an absurd comment!



by KavehV (not verified) on

I don't find much to argue with here, except that you, because of your Tehran Univ. affiliations, were closer to the hard core cells of these extremist groups.

Although I do not have any specific numbers or details other than the specific cases I have heard and familiar with (10's of people), the majority of the victims of these crimes (1980-1988) were the supporters and sympathizers of these groups, rather than the hard core ones. Statistically that would be feasible as well, since there are usually much more supporters than active members. Also, most hard core members were already in hiding and armed. Many were killed in confrontations with Islamist goons.


These guys have one saving grace

by Alborzi (not verified) on

Many innocent people were killed by these guys.
The crimes committed against Bahai's is a genocide. That guy Khalkhali was just crazy. Their suppression of Iranian culture and history cannot be denied. But these guys stood the Iraq (and their axis ) , if Shah was there
he would be in Cancun. Khomeini was also brilliant in destroying the criminals who were instrumental in the revolution. There is no doubt that if Iran was saddled with any of these groups it would have been disaster. In a very strange way these guys are similar to many invaders who got absorbed and improved Iran. They already are showing that by their independent productions. While Shah needed an Adviser to go to bathroom, these guys have been more grass root based. In the long run that will be
better for Iran.



by Mammad on

I did not equate the two. I agree with you that the young people who were killed in 1988 were very different from those killed in 1970s. There is no question in my mind - and I say this as a supporter of the Iranian Revolution - that the political crimes committed by the IRI are on a completely different scale and nature than those committed by the Shah and his regime - the IRI's have been worse.

But, also saying that all the 4500 killed were young, idealistic college and high school kids is not correct. As someone who has followed all the developments since the 1970s - because of my own political thinking and activities, the university that I attended in Iran, and what happened to my own family and many many old friends - I know that many of the 4500, including my own three friends who were killed were hard core Mojahed, socialist, and communist. The one friend of mine who was murdered because he refused to say that he no longer believes in his leftist thinking, was a Mojahed during the 1970s, and then turned to communism. The other two were Mojahed, one of whom was a high ranking guy.

The only thing that I said is similar in both cases is: We had political prisoners who had been given jail sentences, were serving their sentences, but were killed. In this sense they were similar. Political violence is political violence.




by KavehV (not verified) on

We have talked about this issue before. Personally, I would agree that taking even a single life can be a "crime against humanity". But, I have to remind you again, and I don't think you disagree with me, that there is a difference between the killing of the 9 CFK guerillas around Evin during Pahlavi's and the 4500+ college and high school kids in 1988, and prior, in IRI.

The 9 founding members of the CFK murdered in 1975 were hard core guerillas that took part in assassinating government and security officials. Most of these CFK guerillas (not very many compared to IRI) were killed in confrontation with police and those tried were guilty of specific acts of terror (bombing, assassination with significant damage to property and civilian lives). These are vey different types of people than the college and high school kids who were snatched up from their parents house and class rooms in the 80's on suspicion of being CFK, or MKO sympathizers. What is even worse, IRI judges were sentencing these kids to death for being "hypocrites", "against god and Islam", or just not being a Muslim. IRI crimes were orders of magnitude worse than Shah's, you CAN NOT equate the two.


Arion Barzan

by Mammad on

I agree with you that killing is wrong and, as I said in my post, the Fedayeen (and Mojahedin) were wrong about their armed struggle.

But, that was not the point of my comment. The point was, those 9 people had been tried in a military court and had been given jail sentences. One can question the legitimacy of the military court, but the Pahlavi regime itself thought of it as legitimate. Therefore, killing them the way they did was totally wrong - in fact it was a crime.

This is the same argument when people discuss the killings of 1988. Thousands of political activists had been tried in revolutionary courts and had been given jail sentences. One can completely reject the legitimacy of those courts, but the IRI itself thought of them as legitimate. Therefore, it was wrong - indeed a crime - to kill those prisoners.

A long-time friend of mine was killed in Evin in 1988 because he refused to say that he no longer believed in his leftist thinking. Two other friends had finished their jail terms but, instead of being released, they were executed. 



Mr. Mamad

by Arion Barzan (not verified) on

Killing is wrong, regardless of which side you are with. What was happening in Iran in 70s was a war. The killing of the 9 on Evin Hills did not happen accidentally. Fedayyean assassinated a number of government officials and agents including Abbass Shahriari ( I am sure you recognize the name), American Military Personnel, and police/military officers. So........the back and forth killings and assassinations were cycles of a war.

Lesson of the history has been that LEFTist ideology as a whole has been a failure, both the Soviet (its collapse) and Chinese (its conversion to full blown capitalism) versions.

Leftist ideology seduced many good but naiive Iranians, but those kids were chasing a mirage. The quality of life both in Soviet and China were terrible compared to Iran of that era.



Cyrus Tabatabai /Jamshid Niavarani

by Aboli (not verified) on

What's the matter?

Running out of names?? ;-)


The Fedayan don't exist anymore as a force

by Cyrus Tabatabai (not verified) on

The Fedayan don't exist anymore. The MEK/MKO are non existant as an opposition group since the US war on Saddam. And the Monarchists have not been of any significance for over 30 years.

Today the only solution for Iran is a democratic republic. Historains have said that the Shah was a barbarian. It is time to move on from that time. The Revolution happened for a reason. Iran should become like America.

When the Americans overthrew Saddam there were some Iraqis that wanted to install a constitutional monarch. That monarch was to be a Sunni related to the Prophet Mohammad, who happened to be the relative of the King Abd'Allah of Jordan.

The Americans stopped that movement. Any new government in the middle east will be a democratic republic. The days of monarchies are over. Especially for the middle east.

peace in the middle east will only come if Iran becomes a democratic republic.

Reading about the fedayan is a nice history lesson. That is where it ends. the leftists and the monarchists have been abolished forever.


It does not work that way

by Alborzi (not verified) on

First of all these "braves" hid behind the skirts of
16 year olds and sent them to impossible missions, reminds you of another fascist organization. The thing is
when some one talks to you about the guy who is evil you better watch or better yet start running. They are trying to impose their values and brain wash you. Iranian people will decide who is talking about their interest, certainly not the guys who send teenagers to their death and thats part of the history of fedayan.


To: Jamshid Niavarani ...WRONG AGAIN!

by Aboli (not verified) on

Let me explain something to you, in simple words:

History 101: If someone says,

"Thousands of Iranian girls died while distributing their leaflets including my sister"

they probably ain't talking about the Shah, as much as that would be music to your ears.They're talking about the massacre of Iranian youth by the IRI, after the victory of your glorious Islamic Revolution.


Alborzi, the Shah was evil for killing your sister

by Jamshid Niavarani (not verified) on

The Shah killed your sister for no reason what so ever. This just shows that the Shah was evil. The guy who sells rugs in Beverly Hills is also a bad man. The Revolution happened for a reason. And that reason was to rid Iran of the evil dictatorship of the Pahlavis.


They hide behind the skirts

by Alborzi (not verified) on

Look at the comments. There is not a single one that disagrees with posting. In fact back when I was in Iran the brave fadeayan made the hs girls to go distribute the leaflets. They and Mojahedeens brought the mullahs to Iran. Iranians are much better without them, they are like mojahedeens, except their master is Soviet Union. Thousands of Iranian girls died while distributing their leaflets including my sister. They all dies for a bunch of manipulating masters, The guy who was master of my sister's group is now in Beverly Hills selling rugs.

Azadeh Azad

A comprehensive research on the Fedayeen

by Azadeh Azad on

There is a new, comprehensive research by Mahmoud Naderi in Persian called “Cherik-haaye Fadayi-e Khalgh: az nokhostin konesh-haa taa bahman-e 1357”, published by the Political Studies and Research Institute (PSRI) in Tehran.  However, the book now seems to have been removed from the bookstores.


I have received the PDFs of most parts of this detailed and informative work. If interested, email me at and I'll be glad to send them to you.




Murder of Political Prisoners: April 1975

by Mammad on

Every year the anniversary of murder of thousands of political prisoners in Summer of 1988 - which is truly a crime against humanity - is passed in absolute silence by Tehran's fundamentalists. It is as if, in their historical Matrix, the crime never took place. The few people who have tried to speak up against what had happened have been silenced, including Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri.

But, in addition to the fact that the Shah's regime executed hundreds of political prisoners, the exiled secular fundamentalists who speak loudly about the 1988 executions, are absolutely silent about an exactly similar crime - similar in nature - that was committed by the Pahlavi regime, because they would like to erase that crime from people's memories and Iran's history when they reload their historical Matrix. Let me explain.

On April 19, 1975 (Farvardin 30, 1354), nine courageous political prisoners - Ahmad Jalil Afshar, Mohammad Choupanzadeh, Bijan Jazani, Mash'oof (Saeed) Kalantari (Jazani's uncle), Aziz Sarmadi, Abbas Sourki, Hassan Zia Zarifi (all members of Fedayeen), and Mostafa Javan Khoshdel and Kazem Zolanvar (members of Mojahedin) - who had been sentenced by the Shah's military courts to prison terms, were murdered by agents of the SAVAK, the Shah's dreaded secret service. Jazani had been given a 15 year sentence, Zia Zarifi a life sentence, and the rest 10 years who had already done 7 years of their sentence.

The executioners' leaders were Reza Attarpour - A notorious SAVAK agent known as Dr. Hossein Zadeh (who escaped to Israel after the Revolution) - and Colonel Vaziri, the Evin's warden at that time. Let us read how Bahman Naderipour - known as Hossein Tehrani - who was a SAVAK agent and was closely involved with the executions, described the events:

"We took the prinoners to the high hills above Evin. They were blind-folded and their hands were tied. We got them off the minibus and had them sit on the ground. Then, Attarpour told them that,  'just as your friends have killed our commrades, we have decided to execute you -the brain behind those executions .......'

Jazani and the others began protesting. I do not know whether it was Attarpour or Colonel Vaziri who first pulled out a machine gun and started shooting them. I do not remember whether I was the 4th or 5th person to whom they gave the machine gun. I had never done that before ......

At the end, Sa'di Jalil Esfahani [another SAVAK agent, known as Babak] shot them in their heads [to make sure that they were dead]."

It was then announced that those brave men had tried to escape while being transferred from Evin and, thus, had been killed. The SAVAK did not allow the medical doctor, who had examined the bodies of the nine, to question in his report the cause of death, since he had seen that the bullets had entered their bodies through their chests, not their backs. The murder of those brave men was apparently in retaliation for assassination of Abbas Shahriari, a notorious SAVAK agent who, by penetrating the armed-resistance groups, had caused the arrest and executions of many brave political activists, and Brigadier General Zandipour, who headed the infamous the "anti-terrorism committee" within the SAVAK, whereas in reality those nine men had nothing to do with the assassinations.

When Amir Asadollah Alam, the Shah's long-time confidante and Imperial Court Minister, asked him why those [brave] men had been murdered, the Shah had responded that (see Alam's Memoirs),

"We had no choice. They were all terrorists, and would have escaped, which would have been worse,"

hence indicating clearly that the Shah himself was a culprit in the crime.

In fact, execution of the political prisoners in 1975 and 1988 are BOTH crimes against humanity, not one or the other. None must be forgotten. In both cases, the murderers could not recognize that nothing would change by executing the political prisoners, because the prisoners were the product of the prevailing conditions of the society and the era and, therefore, so long as the conditions did not change, more brave people would come forward to change them.



Politics is a dirty game. I

by Hossein (not verified) on

Politics is a dirty game. I think this is the moral of the story here regardless of which political tendency we are talking about, whether left, Islamist or monarchist. In retrospect it is easy to say and admit, but people were caught up in some kind of process they couldn't control. This is the enigma of fate or destiny. I think today everyone has a stake in an Iranian identity that takes it's root from millenial traditions. People are still fighting for control of resources. I am coming from a background with a parent who was a Fedayeen member. In a sense this isn't my war. I wouldn't say I don't care, but I can see that politics is pure bs: the culture of Iran is more important and we can all rally around this


Some corrections

by Mammad on

Although the article is interesting to read, and has some useful information for those who do not know much or remember that era, it also has many mistakes, as well as exaggerations.

1. The IRI has actually never admitted the mass killings of summer 1988. There were some whispers during the first two years of Khatami, but that stopped.

2. The best estimate of the number of people executed in summer of 1988 is about 4500, not 15000. At least the list of the victims that has been compiled has about that many names. But, that is not the point. The point is, it is utterly wrong to claim that the large majority were communists and socialists. No, the big majority of the victims was made of Mojahedin members.

3. Fedayeen did not start in 1971. What happened in February 1971 in Siahkal in northern Iran was the FIRST armed action of the group, but not the beginning of the organization. A few years of preparation and planning had been spent.

4. Masoud Ahmadzadeh did not come from a family of guerillas. His father, Taher Ahmadzadeh, is a religious man, a National Front/Freedom Movement member, and the first governor general of Khorasan after the Revolution. He was arrersted 5 years ago, at the age of 83, but was released. I believe that he is still living. Masoud's younger brother, Majid, was a guerilla, and the first student at Aryamehr University (now Sharif University) to be killed by the Shah's security forces.

5. Jazani's faction was not small. He was a leading thinker of that era among the secular leftists. In his book, "The Thirty Years History of Iran," he actually predicted that, if there was going to be a revolution in Iran, it would be led by Ayatollah Khomeini, and he made this prediction in mid 1960s. He was very popular in the left side of the political spectrum. It is also unfair to speculate, without presenting any credible evidence, that not all of his writings were his own work. A couple of small pieces under his name are known to be not his, but that was for security reason.

6. Fedayeen never had any influence among the workers, at least not before the revolution. True, a couple of their members were from working families, but the vast majority of their members were from the middle class and upper middle class. They were not known to the workers.

7. Jazani was not executed in Evin. He and 8 others were taken outside Evin to the hills in that area, and were told by Savak Agents that they were going to be killed. Then, they killed them all. The Pahlavi regime declared that they were killed while escaping Evin, but after the Revolution the whole story was told by Savak agents. See my next post for more details.

8. Doubts about armed struggle had already penetrated the student movement in mid 1970s. By 1976, most of the Fedayeen, including the legendary Hamid Ashraf, had been killed. There was a split in Mojahedin also, whereby the minority that had converted to Marxism, killed Majid Sharif Vaghefi, burned his body, and declared the organization a communist one. Most of the high command were killed. At least in Faculty of Engineering of Tehran University, the center of anti-Shah activity, there was a new movement called the New Wave - Moj-e No'.

9. Fadayeen never had a rally in Tehran that attracted 500,000 people. Even Mojahedin never made made such a grand claim, even though they were far more popular than any other organization. The most Fedayeen could attract was 20,000.

Fedayeen of before Revolution were a bunch of brave, idealistic men (and some women, such as Nastaran Aal-e Agha, Tahereh Khorram, Ashraf Dehghani, etc.) who did what they thought the best for Iran. They were wrong, in terms of their belief in armed struggle, but how many of us are willing to lose our lives over our beliefs? That is what made them special. 



Another Clip

by Jamshid Niavarani (not verified) on


Regarding the Theocracy

by Cyrus Tabatabai (not verified) on

Regarding executions, people were also executed during the Pahlavi dynasty, therefore, political executions are a standard of Iran pre and post revolution.

As for what is owned by Rafsanjani in Toronto, the Canadian government has never reported on such matter. For all I know, this is a rumor.

Iranian pistachio nuts, by the way, are not allowed to enter the United States legally without the permission of Home Land Security's Customs and Border protection permission.

Canada, especially Toronto imports a lot of Iranian products. No where in the world have I seen a country like Canada that helps the Islamic Republic of Iran monetarily. Just visit any Iranian grocery shop on Younge Street in Toronto. The US has an embargo on Iranian goods, what's the use when the northern neighbor, Canada, imports everything possible from Iran.

The Iranian Clergy are stingy, misers. They don't spend money on themselves. And as the saying goes, a hearse does not have a luggage rack. All the money the money the Clergy "steals" remains in Iran. Anything outside Iran is owned by the Iranian government, even if there is a change of government. The Pahlavi Foundation in the United States after the Revolution became the IRI's Alavi Foundation.

Saddam Hussein attacked Kuwait which had more backing of the United States than the Shah ever had. Hypotheticals are nice but, chances are Saddam would have attacked Iran no matter what. Chances are if the Shah was in power, Saddam would have entered Tehran and beheaded the Shah. The Shah did not have the backing of the people in 1979. The Iranians would have welcolmed Saddam as a liberator.

Cinema Rex in Abadan has been concluded to have been the work of the Mujahedin Khalq (MEK or MKO). Today, the MKO is an insignificant group of people. They beg for money on the streets of Europe to help their political cause. How will you get them to repay the lives lost in Cinema Rex? Spilt milk. Move On.

Yasser Arafat was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize. The Palestinian Authority and the Hamas government is a legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. How the Palestinians were involved in the Iranian Revolution was never historically substantiated. You can probably sue the Palestinians but, you probably won't see a dime of that money. The Palestinian government is aided by the West, 22 Arab Countires and the United Nations.

Anyone who uses drugs has a problem. Stop using drugs. If one doesn't have a job, one should get a job. During the Pahlavi period there was unemployment, poverty and drug use. What is your point? The population in Iran in 1979 was 30 million, Iran today is over 70 million. More people, more poverty.

I hope you don't believe Iran as a whole could be as developed as the US and the UK if the Shah was still in power.

Iran's Rial is backed by Petro-dollars. Oil prices fluctuate with the world economy. The Iran-Iraq war cost a lot of Rials. Iran's petro-dollars can't pay for the advance it needs. The west is looking for alternative sources of energy. Hybrid Cars have been a tax write-off in the United States for several years. Even the Petro-dollars can't keep Iran economically viable in the future.

The petro-dollars have been a source of income for the Iranian government since the time of the Qajars. petro-dollars can help the economy but, it can never advance that country to make it a developed nation.


tabatabaie......I want what you're smokin~!

by ali1348 (not verified) on

I hope you're joking with this nonsense about iran being better off today than 30 years ago! my god, no wonder iran is in such a shape....!
it's funny that you never mention anything about the akhoonds' crimes and the ENORMOUS NATIONAL FORTUNE which they have stolen over the past 30 years:
let's see:
-iran-iraq war- there's no way in hell that saddam hussain would have had the juevos to even look at iran the wrong way prior to the disaster of 79....and what was the result of that: multibillion dollar abadan refinery- the largest in the world- destoryed, billions of $ of damage to our oil industry, platforms, cities, schools, etc. a million of our brightest young men killed or injured....
-over a trillion $ has been siphoned off by the dirty akhoonds to themselves, arafat, palestinian terrorist(the same scumbags that burned cinema rex and stood on alavi school's roof executing our brave officers)....u think rafsanjani owns half of toronto from his pistachio farms>>????!!
-millions of drug addicts roam the streets without jobs
-petrol has to be IMPORTED and rationed!!! in a country that is floating on oil!-
-what is the value of rial now vs. 79?> 7 tomans to 1$ vs. 1000 tomans to 1$ now!!!
-and you have the audacity to talk about freedom.....where 15000 innocent young political prisoner where murdered at the order of khomeini the devil in 1367.....people being hung from cranes in the streets, lashings in public,,and on and on....
-and you go on to quote CNN as saying iran has more freedom than before!!! since when is CNN and authority on human rights!?
-i don't know how much the mullahs are spending on propaganda, but it is very scary to think that they are spreading bs all over the world and on sites like this


Iran is better off today without the Shah

by Cyrus Tabatabai (not verified) on

30 years ago.

Tehran did not have a Subway system.

Tehran did not have internet service.

There was less freedom of press in Iran than there is now. The resignation of Ahmadinejad's cabinet members is proof of this.

During the Shah's time:

There would have to be riots for the Shah to replace his prime minister.

The Shah and his family was stealing money from the national treasury.

CNN and other news outlets have stated, that the Islamic Republic is more of a democratic system than the monarchy of the Pahlavi dynasty.

Iran didn't burn with out the Shah. Iran moved on.

Iran is an ever evolving republic.

The secularists in Iran today don't accept any type of monarchy in Iran. The next step is a democratic republic.

That being said, even a democratic republic in Iran will ask for every Rial to be returned that the Pahlavis stole in January 1979.

They will have to return every Rial with interest.



by ali1348 (not verified) on

I hate to tell you but these are all wasted lives...this type of ideology has no place in iran or anywhere else for that matter.
and you should know that this group had a hand in ruining iran into the crapfest that you see today....are we any better off today than we where 30 years ago???? I think not, millions have died for nothing...and for what??? you think the shah was that bad that you had to burn up iran into ashes just to get rid of hiM????
this is my opinion, of course, but 'pseudo-intellectuals' who think they know what is best for iran are dead wrong- there is only one system that is fair, just and truly for the people- and that's a secular democracy
javid iran


A very historical piece about Iranian History

by Jamshid Niavarani (not verified) on

This piece was very interesting. I do not agree with the left. Communism, Socialism, Maoism, Trotskyism, Stalinism is just one big mumbo-jumbo. The only positive thing the left did was that they helped rid Iran of the cancer called the monarchy. For 2500 years the Iranian people were ruled by an alien government known as the Monarchy. And Iran never really had an official religion. The Sassanid dynasty and the Safavid dynasty were the dynasty's that forced Iranians to accept their religion. The Achmanids really didn't have a religion. Xerxes, who was gay according to the movie "300", went to Athens and requested the advice of the oracle before invading Sparta. And Shia Islam was the state religion that the Safavids forced on the masses of Iranians. Zoroastrainism and all other faiths in Iran were artificially forced on the masses of Iranians.
One leaves finished reading this essay thinking that, thank goodness the monarchy was abolished in 1979. The question remains, how can we abolish religion in Iran, all types of religion.