Abolhassan Bani-Sadr, Former Iranian President, Dies at 88

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He tried to oppose the currents of Islamic fundamentalism, but he was removed from office after losing the support of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

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Abolhassan Bani-Sadr, who as the first president of the Islamic Republic of Iran tried and failed to resist currents of religious fundamentalism, died on Saturday at the Pieté-Salpetriere Hospital in Paris. He was 88 years old.


He died after a prolonged illness, his family said on the official website of Mr. Bani-Sadar.

Mr. Bani-Sadr was president at a time when the born Islamic Republic had gone through two of its greatest setbacks. On November 4, 1979, terrorists stormed the United States embassy in Tehran. Ten months later, Saddam Hussein’s forces invaded Iran, triggering the dreadful Iran–Iraq War.

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The supreme leader of the revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, used these two episodes to purge secularists, nationalists and other moderates from the government of Iran. Shri Bani-Sadar was the foremost victim.

Soon after American diplomats were taken hostage at the US embassy, ​​Mr. Bani-Sadar met with the occupants and urged them to take them back.

“You think you’ve taken America hostage,” he told them. “What an illusion! Indeed, you have taken Iran hostage to the Americans.

Several months later, Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations Mansour Farhang resigned in protest of his government’s failure to end the crisis and wrote a lengthy article condemning the takeover. A newspaper associated with Sri Bani-Sadr was the only newspaper in Iran to publish it.

Mr. Farhang, who became a professor of political science at Bennington College, remembered Mr. Bani-Sadar as a “truly liberal Muslim”.

“In a position of nominal power for a year and a half, he was more of a preacher and teacher than a manager of power,” Mr Farhang said in an interview for this obituary in 2013. “Intellectually and by nature, he could not act as a statesman in an autocratic state.”

Who was a fan of Mr. Bani-Sadar? Mohamed Mosadeghi, who was Iran’s nationalist prime minister in the early 1950s until he was ousted in a CIA-directed coup, sought to revive Mr. Mossadegh’s political bloc, the National Front, and replace it with liberal Islam. inspired the creation of a new form of government with Iran.

The Iranian American historian said, “Bani-Sadr was active in the rise of the Second National Front in the early 1960s and played a leading role in its student body.” fakhreddin azimi Said in the interview for this obituary. “After the revolution, as president under the most adversity, he attempted to halt or slow the rise of clerical supremacy, relying on Khomeini’s support and goodwill, as well as on his own popularity.”

“Their efforts, largely given the disarray of secular forces or were potentially favorable to them and the ability of the clerics to win over Khomeini, were doomed to failure. With the loss of Khomeini’s support, their fortunes But it got stamped,” he said.

Mr. Bani-Sadr was born on March 22, 1933, in Hamadan, Iran, into a family of pious landowners, which is said to be one of the oldest cities in the world. After studying law, theology and sociology at the University of Tehran, he moved to Paris, where he spent several years studying at the Sorbonne in the 1960s. He became involved in the student movement and led protests against the rule of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.

There was no immediate information available about Mr Bani-Sadar’s survivors.

In the 1970s, Mr. Bani-Sadar met Ayatollah Khomeini, a friend of his late father, who was also a cleric. They met again in Paris in 1978 after Ayatollah Khomeini was exiled.

In one of the most spectacular political collapses of the 20th century, Shah fled Iran on January 16, 1979. Ayatollah Khomeini, who directed the revolution from exile, returned home two weeks later. In the broad-based government established by the Ayatollah, Mr. Bani-Sadr served as Deputy Minister of Finance, then Minister of Finance, and finally Minister of Foreign Affairs.

With the blessings of the Ayatollah, Mr. Bani-Sadar easily won the presidential election of January 25, 1980. However, the Ayatollah had secured the ratification of a constitution, which gave him the power to dismiss presidents at will. Over the next 18 months, he directed the rise and fall of Shri Bani-Sadar.

In his first weeks in power, Mr. Bani-Sadar worked to repair the dislocations left by the fall of the Shah’s government. However, he was quickly distracted by the hostage crisis.

He later wrote, “The takeover of the US embassy was fully consistent with Khomeini’s strategy to focus hostilities abroad.” “It was at this time that the idea of ​​a religious state became viable. He also realized that he could now silence people of his own free will by threatening to accuse him of being pro-American.

In the toxic political climate of post-revolution Tehran, enemies turned against Mr. Bani-Sadar. Several of his associates were convicted on false charges and executed. After the war with Iraq broke out, militants criticized him for relying more on the Regular Army than the Revolutionary Guards and other political forces, which they linked to the Shah’s monarchy. In the summer and fall of 1980, he survived two helicopter crashes.

The combination of the hostage crisis and war created an ultra-radical environment in which tweedy, mustache intellectuals like Mr. Bani-Sadar could hardly hope to survive. On 10 June 1981, Ayatollah Khomeini removed him as Commander-in-Chief. On 21 June, Parliament declared him “politically incompetent” and voted to impeach him as president. Ayatollah Khomeini signed the bill the next day.

It accused Mr. Bani-Sadr of “opposing the Islamic Republic”; forming alliances with counterrevolutionary forces from the East and West to dismantle the Islamic order; Relentless opposition to the Islamic Consultative Assembly since its inception and before its inauguration; Open interference in the judiciary, misunderstood the most basic principles of the Constitution and mistrust in the separation of powers.”

Mr. Bani-Sadar was in hiding for several days till the time of his impeachment. Six weeks later, he left the country aboard an Air Force jet manned by a sympathetic officer.

For most of his later life, Mr. Bani-Sadr lived in or near Paris with his wife and three children, including a heavily guarded house at Versailles. He wrote and talked about his homeland. When signing copies of his memoir, he often added the line “Elected President of the People of Iran”.

In 1997, Mr. Bani-Sadr testified at a court hearing in Berlin about the murder of an Iranian dissident. The court later concluded that senior Iranian leaders had sanctioned the killing.

After protests were crushed by Iranian security forces in the wake of the controversial 2009 presidential election, Mr Bani-Sadr accused the religious regime of “taking power only through violence and terror”. He said it has lost both political and religious legitimacy.

“No matter how committed he was to Islam, he was opposed to a clerical state,” historian Ervand Abrahamian said in an interview for this obituary. “His tragedy is the essence of the tragedy of ordinary intellectuals who thought they could use religion for nationalism.”

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