Mehdi Bazargan and the controversial legacy of Iran's Islamic intellectual movement


Mehdi Bazargan and the controversial legacy of Iran's Islamic intellectual movement
by Darius Kadivar

Mehdi Bazargan was head of Iran's interim government, making him Iran's first prime minister after the Iranian Revolution of 1979. A well respected religious intellectual, known for his honesty and expertise in the Islamic and secular sciences, he is credited with being one of the founders of contemporary Islamic intellectual movement in Iran. Unable to predict nor resist Khomeiny's grip on power and cult status ( denounced by secular politicians such as Shapour Bakhtiar the last Prime Minister of the Shah of Iran whom Bazargan befriended in France during their Student years and in the French Resistance in which both actively participated in their common fight against the Nazi Occupation), Bazargan's political and intellectual legacy remains associated to theocracy he helped create but which ultimately ate it's own children. His ideals of an Islamic Democracy or rather compatibility between Islamic values and democratic demands (and based on the teachings of Islamic intellectual Ali Shariati ) were to inspire the reform movement that emerged with the election of Muhamed Khatami in 1997 and which reached it's limits with the last fraudulent Presidential elections of june 2009 that led to controversial re election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Here is a documentary on Mehdi Bazargan by those who knew him in Commemoration of the 10th anniversary of his death:

Part I:

Part II

Part III

Abdol Ali Bazargan ( one of Bazarghan's son's) shares his outlook on Iranian History from an Islamic Perspective:

One of Shapour Bakhtiar's last Interview's before the fall of his government:  

Pro Bakhtiar Demonstrations in support of the Secular 1906 Constitution:

About Mehdi Bazargan (September, 1907 - January 20, 1995):

Born to an Iranian Azeri family in Bazargan, West Azerbaijan. Bazargan grew up in Tehran. His father, Hajj 'Abbasqoli Tabrizi (d.1954) was a self-made merchant and a devout religious activist who was the head of the Azarbaijani mosque and community in Tehran.

Bazargan was educated in thermodynamics and engineering at the École Centrale des Arts et Manufactures in Paris. After his graduation, Bazargan voluntarily entered French army and fought against Nazi Germany in his early life.[2]. Bazargan then came back from France and became the head of the first engineering department of Tehran University in the late 1940s. In 1951 with the leadership of Dr. Mossadegh, Iranian parliament nationalized the Iranian oil industry (National Iranian Oil Company) and removed it from British control. Mr. Bazargan served as the first Iranian head of National Iranian Oil Company under command of Prime Minister Mossadegh.

After the fall of the Mossadegh government, he co-founded the Liberation Movement of Iran, a party similar in program to Mossadegh's National Front. Although he accepted the Shah as the legitimate head of state, he was jailed several times on political grounds.

On February 5, 1979, after the revolution forced the Shah to leave Iran, Bazargan was appointed prime minister of Iran by Ayatollah Khomeini. He was seen as one of the democratic and liberal figureheads of the revolution who came into conflict with the more radical religious leaders - including Ayatollah Khomeini himself - as the revolution progressed. Although pious, Bazargan initially disputed the name Islamic Republic, wanting an Islamic Democratic Republic.He had also been a supporter of the original (non-theocratic) revolutionary draft constitution, and opposed the Assembly of Experts for Constitution and the constitution they wrote that was eventually adopted as Iran's constitution.

Bazargan resigned along with his cabinet on November 4 following the US Embassy takeover and hostage-taking. His resignation was considered a protest against the hostage-taking and a recognition of his government's inability to free the hostages, but it was also clear that his hopes for liberal democracy and an accommodation with the West would not prevail.

Bazargan continued in Iranian politics as a member of the first Parliament (Majles) of the newly formed Islamic Republic. He openly opposed Iran's cultural revolution and continued to advocate civil rule and democracy. In November 1982 he expressed his frustration with the direction the Islamic Revolution had taken in an open letter to the then speaker of parliament Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.

The government has created an atmosphere of terror, fear, revenge and national disintegration. ... What has the ruling elite done in nearly four years, besides bringing death and destruction, packing the prisons and the cemeteries in every city, creating long queues, shortages, high prices, unemployment, poverty, homeless people, repetitious slogans and a dark future?

In 1985 the Council of Guardians denied Bazargan's petition to run for president. He died of a heart attack on January 20, 1995 while travelling from Tehran to Zurich, Switzerland.

Bazargan is considered to be a respected figure within the ranks of modern Muslim thinkers, well known as a representative of liberal-democratic Islamic thought and a thinker who has emphasized the necessity of constitutional and democratic policies. He opposed the continuation of Iran-Iraq war and the involvement of clerics in all aspects of politics, economy and society. Consequently, he faced harassment from militants and young revolutionaries within Iran.

Related Blog:

HISTORY OF VIOLENCE: Amir Abbas Entezam Chained to Hospital Bed (1990's)


more from Darius Kadivar

What is insulting to Iranian

by benross on

What is insulting to Iranian people Mr. Abdolali Baazargaan, is the thoughts that brought Khomeini in power. Did he ever misled anybody? Was there any confusion about what he wanted to do?

Do you see Iranians talk about Mongol invasion day in and day out? or other historical calamities? Even for more recent events which are part of the history of contemporary Iran, WWl and WWll, colonialism, cold war and so on, do people talk about them day in and day out?

Yet, an issue that you want to dismiss as an insult to Iranians, an event some 1400 years ago, is still in the mind of each and every Iranian, day in and day out. Dismissing the potency of this historic disaster is an insult to Iranians not its existence which was painfully felt throughout our history.

A long lasting collective memory as the invasion of Islam is dismissed as an insult, for people who didn't see true Zoroastrianism respected by those in power, and this, this 'true' Islamic regime was brought by you and likes of you as a justification for that?

If the Islamic revolution didn't have anything, it had one thing. This 1400 years of denial is over... for good.

gitdoun ver.2.0

Bazargan was a GOOD MAN !!! Never Joined I.R.I.

by gitdoun ver.2.0 on

Bazargan was the PROVISIONAL GOVERNMENT 1st Prime Minister. HE HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH I.R.I. !!!!!! Infact Khomeini was against him because he stood for Democracy !!! Bazargan wanted to create a government of competence, institute rule of law, and establish international responsibility. In accepting his office, Bazargan stated explicitly " All of you know that i am a man of democracy, consultation, tolerance of other viewpoints, thus avoiding radicalism and hate, looking for prudence and gradualism." (1)  Bazargan, like many other iranians, bought into Khomeini's bullshit "Campaign Promises" and thought Khomeini would not get involved in Government. However as it turned out Bazargan's judicious path was subverted by KHOMEINI; who was determined to impose his model of governance. Bazargan complained "In theory the Provisional Government is in charge; but in reality, it is KHOMEINI who is in charge -- he with his Revolutionary Council , his Revolutionary KOMITEHS...." (2)  Later Khomeini would boast of how he got rid of Bazargan "We reaped all the fruit of our undertaking--we defeated attempts by the liberals to take control of the machinery of state. WE FORCED BAZARGAN'S GOVERNMENT TO RESIGN. The tree of the Revolution has grown and garnered strength." (3)

1- Mehdi Bazargan,Shoray-enqelab va dowlat-e movaqat (tehran,1982) pg:27

2-New York Times (Oct.21,1979)

3-New York Times (Nov.21. 1980) "An Interview with Muhammad Musavi Khu'iniha", Oct.31,2005

*Citation for this post taken from Guardians of the Revolution by Ray Takeyh*

Ali P.

Bakhtiar's interview

by Ali P. on

Watch it, watch it, watch it, watch it, watch it, watch it dammit!


Bazargan and his likes,

by Arthimis on

Destroyed Iran and true Iranian lives to present time!

Islamists of any shape and form were and still are NOT correctable!

When they put their vicious and criminal ideaologies before Iran and Iranians, one could not expect a better result than the past 31 years to present time!!!

Screw him and his likes for bringing a Psycho-path, serial killer (Khomeini) to Iran. I hope they all burn in hell... For love of GOD, They were (are) not even true Iranians to begin with!!!What were Iranians thinking in those days??? Shame........

maziar 58

Mr. D.K

by maziar 58 on

For as much I hate anything/one associated with that diabolique regime IR......

I watched 2 parts for now; how ever I must admit you are unbiased and a true GENTLEMAN.             



His mistake - mix religion and politics

by MM on

Baazargaan should have known that history has seen many governments that mixed religion and politics and paid dearly when the fanatics took over the helm.  For that reason alone, I am not too sympathetic to his legacy.  Furthermore, he was silent while the atrocities went on, and like a fool, hoped that his utopia will materialize. 

Darius Kadivar

FYI/The divide in Iran's green movement (The Guardian)

by Darius Kadivar on

Pro-Islamic faction vs Secular reformists:



weak character

by MRX1 on

He was not in a same league as Bakhtiar, let's face it.  He should be blamed for treasonous act of joining khomeini and backstabing the country,shah, and the constituion no matter how imperfect it may have sounded to him. The rest is history and histroy is the best judge of character......