Unfinished Memoirs

Note: Ezatollah Sahabi, one of the most prominent national-religious campaigners during the past six decades died last week at the age of 81. Mahmoud Fazel in the following article has briefly reviewed his memoirs' book.

When the first volume of the Engineer Sahabi's book Half a Century of Memoirs and Experience was published in 446 pages by Farhang-e Saba Publishing Company, it could compensate to a large extent part of the existing gap concerning the oral history of the recent decades through the memoirs of a political activist of the recent decades. His political and cultural life with full of ups and downs which covers various experiences such as his clandestine campaign, being tortured and imprisoned, relation with political figures and Mujehedin-e Khalq Organization, membership in the Revolutionary Council, a deputy in the Constitutional Assembly of Experts and parliament and journalism, is an important part of Iranian history. His memoirs can be considered as one of valid historical documents and resources. Sahabi had the degree of Mechanic Engineering from Tehran University and worked as editor-in-chief for the magazines of Forugh-e Elm (Light of Science) in 1948 and 1948, and Ganj-e Shaygan in 1952 and 1953. He also published Iran-e Farda magazine in 1991.
Sahabi had a strong belief in the transfer of experience. A series of sessions were held in 1995 and 1996 in the Institute of Payam-e Hajar belonging to Mrs. Taleqani where Sahabi had briefly cited the memoirs of his campaign times until 1992 as well as the story of Iran-e Farda's publication. The tapes of the sessions have been transcribed and set, and after the completion of some parts, it was paginated and prepared for publication. He started his book with the verses 137 and 138 of Al-e Omran Chapter in Quran: "Indeed there have been examples before you; therefore travel in the earth and see what the end of the rejecters was. This is a clear statement for men and a guide and an admonition of those who guard." He regarded the main goal of memoirs-writing as reminder of the events and the transfer of social individual experiences as well as his intellectual developments to younger generation. Sahabi in this narration has expressed his personal observations and addressed important historical events in simple analysis rather than reciting the history.
Sahabi's memoirs start from September 1941. He had chosen this topic due to the invasion of The Allies to Iran and then the developments affected the country. In the first parts of the book, he has cited memoirs from his childhood and the leading role of his father in the life and livelihood problems of that period. Then, he briefly wrote about the circumstance of Reza Khan's rise and fall, the transfer of monarchy to Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the formation of parties and National Association, the nature of National Front, campaign for the nationalization of oil industry and the coup of August 19, 1953.
The book covers Sahabi's memoirs from 1941 to 1979 in six historical periods. An important part of these memoirs is the fourth period (1960 to 1963) about the release of a communiqué called Movement in Nowruz 1963 which led to his detention and that of his 16 friends. They were arrested on the night of May 23, 1963 on charges of participating in the class of political movement held under Rahim Attaee in the house of Ahmad Sadr Haj Seyyed Javadi.  During his four-year imprisonment, Sahabi made got acquainted with a lot of political figures, causing him to be involved in political arena completely. He in this part has addressed the events of 1963 especially the activities of the Freedom Movement and Tudeh Party as two groups organized in this period whose leaders were in prison and did not have any effective activity.
The fifth period from 1963 to 1971 covers the memoirs of his exile period in southern city of Borazjan. Sahabi called it as "Fortress of Borazjan". Educational issues in prison and freedom after four years along with Abolfazl Hakimi and Mohammad Mehdi Jafari in May 1967 have been referred to in this part.
Elsewhere in his book, he has referred to the activities of the Freedom Movement abroad by the name of Freedom Movement or The Third National Front including the writing and publication of the books such as "Collection of Moddaress Speeches", "Mossadeq Correspondents", "The Defenses of Engineer Bazargan", "Insurgency and Anti-Insurgency", "The Highest Jihad", and so on. According to him, many Iranian campaigners who had been to Europe, had been changed after contacting with the members of Freedom Movement abroad. One of these persons was the late Martyr Rajaee who had been affected by their activity and way of living. Rajaee went to France in 1969 and were there for almost one year and brought a lot of information and news and messages to Iran. Upon his return, Rajaee had told Sahabi that he had been affected very much by the members of the Freedom Movement in Europe especially their simple life. In this part, Sahabi has concluded that "the Freedom Movement can be considered as the pioneer of Islamic modernity movement in Iran the co-founders of which were Engineer Bazargan, the late Taleqani and Dr. Sahabi. The Freedom Movement for the first time raised the idea that religion is not separate from politics, and the political activity needs a religious ideological basis. The Freedom Movement was a clear association and at the same radical in terms of political activity and campaign." Ezatollah was the son of Yadollah Sahabi and his father was a prominent religious national figure and one of the main friends of Engineer Bazargan. Yadollah Sahabi was the author of "Human Creation" which along with the works of the late Bazargan had special status in the scientific interpretation of religion. But Ezatollah who was younger and more active in terms of campaign since 1960 to the victory of Islamic revolution, was more radical inside the Freedom Movement and his views were different from those of Bazargan.
Sahabi in this section refers to the weaknesses of the Freedom Movement including weakness in educational, organizational issues, presenting a few examples. The movement was a family establishment and there were no partisan relations inside it at all. Then, he mentions the circumstances of the setting up of the terrorist outfit Mujahedin Khalq Organization (MKO) and cites memoirs in this regard. He talks about his meeting with three founders of the MKO in his house and describes about the organization's plans, the quality of recruitment, and way of working with these persons. Sahabi who was fully satisfied with the setting up of the terrorist outfit at this time, has mentioned some existing criticisms in Mujahedin's studies. Sahabi also cites briefly memoirs about this organization including the relation between the clergies and the detention of MKO members. In another part, Sahabi in addition to raising two hypotheses about the reasons behind MKO Chief Masoud Rajavi's not being executed for several times and the legal efforts of Masoud's brother Kazem Rajavi in Europe as well as Rajavi's cooperation with SAVAK (Shah's secret police), has brought new hypothesis on the role of the Soviet Union in sending a message to Shah for Rajavi's amnesty. In the footnote, Sahabi writes, "Of course, after being released from prison in 1978, I heard from one of my old friends that Mr. Mirfenderesky the then Iranian ambassador to Soviet Union has said in his memoirs that after the end of Masoud Rajavi's trial, I was summoned by the head of Soviet government (Leonid Brezhnev) and in an immediate message to Shah, he announced clearly that Rajavi should not be executed, and I came to Tehran and gave the message to the Shah and consequently, he was amnestied by the Shah."
He also recalls the concerns of Mohammad Hanifnezhad due to the weakness of ideological issues among the MKO members around 1970 and before his arrest, writing, and "Mohammad had found out that he had built and launched a car which worked very well but regularly turned to the left." Following the detention of the MKO members, Sahabi once again was arrested in his office. Few memoirs have been cited in this part that can be due to the gradual forgetfulness of the memoirs. Sahabi's transfer to Qizil Qaleh Prison, the differences of MKO members, Shariati and MKO, the clergy and MKO are among the final topics of this part. The sixth part of the memoirs from 1971 to 1978 has addressed the coup inside MKO, and in one part says, "When I was informed of the coup inside the organization and the death of Majid Sharif Vaghefi and two other religious members of the MKO which had happened following these development, I became very sad. I never forget that after being informed of the incident, suddenly my feet loosened and I might have been fallen down there".
The final section of the book is the text of the his defenses before the Military Appeals Court in March 1964, some images from his childhood, prisonment, SAVAK's documents, images from the dailies of that period, and images from the family members and close friends. In his first volume of his book, Sahabi has tried to remove dust from his memoirs and portray the grief and joy of his life and his 60-year ideals. But the passage of time has influenced on Shanbi's memory and the transparency of some of the effectual issues.
The memoirs which are written years after the incidents have been rebuilt in the mind and have shaped different forms of what has happened at that time. However, it is interesting to be referred to some incidents. With Sahabi's eternal journey to the other world, this question is raised whether his memoirs has a second volume or not?

Mahmoud Fazeli
Translated by: Mohammad Baqer Khoshnevisan.

Number of Visits: 4223