Iranian Oral History Project | Harvard University Center for Middle Eastern Studies
Wife of Gen. Hassan Pakravan (Chief of the State Intelligence and Cabinet Minister)Transcript 4 of 4
Narrator: Fatemeh Pakravan
Date: March 7, 1983
Place: Paris, France
Interviewer: Habib Ladjevardi
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Q. I find it amazing that such a decision could have been made without the knowledge of or consultation with these important people. Was this typical of what you had seen in Iran?
A. No, no, it wasn't. It was typical of Mansour but not of Iran. Mansour was extremely eager to become prime minister -- very, very eager. And he very cleverly, with his friends -- they called the Ccoat do chackD <jacket with two vents>, all these technocrats -- they spread the idea that the time of old-fashioned politicians, of the sage and the wise man, was over. The country must be run by technocrats on technical and economical lines. He was a specialist of economy, you know. And so he started ... he and his friends -- I wouldn't say that he did it or that he wrote a plan, black and white -- but that was the feeling before he became prime minister, that all the people like Eghbal, like Ala, like whoever, they were so ... you know, they were remains from the past, and they were too much subservient to the Shah's will. Not that they were revolutionaries, but they wanted....
You know, it's a fascinating thing to observe that everywhere in the country, somehow the less leftist people are proud to have leftist ideas. It gives them the feeling that they are very open-minded, which is a mistake. They're not open-minded, they're just victims of the good propaganda. Anyway, they spread this word: "Make the room for the young people, the young generation. Your time is over." Okay? So, it was ... it had come to the point that really, I would say, all this public opinion was shouting for Mansour to become prime minister. I would say it had come to the point that the Shah had no option except ... and the Shah apparently was with them. But again, it was ... at the time the Shah was wiser; he knew that reversing, you know, the whole thing, too fast was dangerous.
And so he.... Well, my husband agreed, everybody agreed that the price of ... the internal price of all the oil products was much, much too low. It wasn't fair, it wasn't ... they didn't dare to increase it because Mossadegh -- not Mossadegh himself, but his entourage -- had spread the word that if we nationalize oil, every Iranian will receive a can of oil for free and so much money for free. So all these products were ridiculously low in Iran. But still, you really have to choose your time. If they had done it in the middle of the summer, people wouldn't have felt it so much. But it was right in the middle of winter in Tehran.
Anyway, he had to go back, so he ... he gave decrees on this, I don't know. But that was a very, very bad impression and he put himself in terrible danger. Not so much for this oil question, but because he was too modern. And Fada'iyan-e Eslam, who had throughout the reign of our late Shah assassinated so many people, they decided they will assassinate him too.
Q. In about 1970, 1971, you were in...?
Q. You were in Paris. If I remember correctly, that's the time when some of these assassinations, which later on we found out were the works of the Mojahedin and the Cherik-hay-e Fada'iy-e Khalg, began in Iran. Now your husband had been head of SAVAK for a number of years ... did he have any lingering interest in these questions? Was he troubled by these events in Iran? Did he have any thoughts on these things?
A. Of course he had. Of course he had. First of all because he was a great patriot. And to my shame, I found this out -- to what point he was a great patriot -- quite late in life. I thought he was like anybody, like all of us, I mean, loving our country. But his love of his country went beyond that, it went with a very high ideal of service, public service, and a very high ideal of the honor,as he said, of being an officer, a soldier. I really hadn't thought that, you know, that he was....
He was a militarist; he was a soldier in the beautiful sense of the word. He was very, very worried because ... well, he knew exactly, you know, he was a great specialist in all these subversion questions. He had studied the thing from close. And also because as, representative of the Shah and the government, he was constantly asked, you know....
Q. In France?
A. ....challenged. Although in France they loved him, they respected him very, very much, as I told you. But still, he was challenged, not as General Hassan Pakravan personally, but as the representative, as the official representative, of his country in France.
And he had to ... and he used to say that, "If you use violence, you will meet violence. If these young people don't want to ... obtain whatever they want.... First of all, we never knew what they wanted. You see, they never said what they wanted. And we know very well in other countries, where people have said that they will kill, and put bombs, and go into terroristic actions, it's to obtain democracy, it's not true. We know that for a fact -- it's not true at all, it's to establish another ... a very, very bad dictatorship."
So he was ... we were all of us, worried because, first of all, it's not very nice to see ... they don't do it now.... I told several of my newspaper friends, I said, "Whenever there was someone arrested, after they had thrown...." First of all, they always threw bombs in public places, killing innocent people. They never tried to kill an important person, never. Because those who killed important persons were not the Mojahedin, they were the Fada'iyan-e Eslam. They were the integrists <?>, the fanatical Moslems. So that was something which really didn't appeal to me, because I said, "If they really want to do ... to go for killing, why do they kill children? Why do they kill poor women? Why do they kill people who go about their business?"
Q. It sounds like he agreed with whatever response the government was giving to these problems.
A. No. He wasn't. You know, it was ... no, no, it wasn't that at all. I don't know what kind of response the government gave ... it was to arrest them, it was to put them to death. Most of the time they were killed in fighting, you know, in street fighting. But he was ... he never agreed with violence for violence's sake. He never agreed with the madness which led people to kill in order to solve problems. He thought it never solved anything. He thought that one has to go to the root: why? Naturally, these people don't realize that they were manipulated.
You know, it's very, very.... I think it's very ... at the same time it's a very simple and very complex question, this question of terrorism. Don't forget that it was the time when Mao Tse-Tung was extremely popular among all the youths of all the world. Don't forget that from '66, starting in America, until '72, '73, the whole world had ... was experiencing this trouble with its young people and the university people. You know, it was the same in Pakistan, it was the same in....
I remember at the time, I told my husband, I said, "Isn't this funny, Hassan, that this same kind of trouble is arising in countries as different as America, Pakistan, Iran, Jordan, Lebanon -- everywhere -- India, The Philippines? It's as if somebody orchestrated the whole thing." He said, "Yes, it looks like it, doesn't it?" And when I said that to French friends of mine, "Oh," they said, "Come on, come on. You are dreaming. Who is orchestrating that?" Arnaud de Borchgrave, the head of the CNewsweekD publication in France, he started ... he was the first one to start about this information ... that the Russians had invented ... and the orchestration. You know that they have proof now that all the peace movements, for instance, are -- without their own knowledge -- financed by the East.
Q. Did he ever discuss...?
A. People didn't understand.
Q. ....his successor, General Nasiri, as the head of SAVAK? What he thought of the way he was running the organization <unclear>?
A. My husband?
A. First of all, he had no ... he didn't really dislike ... it was a surprise that he was nominated, because when Alavi-Kia was sent to Germany, they decided, the Shah said that he wanted Fardoust to become the second-in-command, but with a title of CGha'em MaghamD <Deputy>. And my husband thought it was to prepare Fardoust to replace him eventually, because the head of SAVAK never stayed more than four years in his job. So he was a bit surprised when Nasiri was nominated.
Nasiri -- my husband liked him as a colleague. You know that he was ... he had no reputation for intelligence and not at all for any kind of intellectual achievement. He wasn't a man to read, he wasn't a man to.... And he was blindly devoted to the Shah. And he was of the same construction <?>, as the Mojahedin. You know? That means that people who think that brutal methods are better than other ways. It's the kind of attitude the Iranian fathers have with their children, "Khafeh sho," "shut up, you're not big enough to say anything." You know, "You're going to be put to bread and water." A child, a Persian child, when he's small, he has no right to do anything. He must obey. Well, it was a kind of transfer, you know. He said, "I am in authority. You are young people, you don't understand anything. Shut up or else."
So, we didn't have such a great respect for ... I don't think my husband approved; but he would never criticize in that, I mean, publicly. He had either to criticize publicly <or> resign. And some people reproached him, they said, "Why didn't you resign?" He said, "If all those who could have a kind of influence on the Shah and his policy resigned, then we'd leave the whole country to those who influence him in the bad direction."
Nasiri -- I don't know. I personally, I didn't like him very much. You see, there is one thing -- Nasiri didn't have a good reputation. There was a very sad story of -- I don't remember -- of a child of his being.... There were all kinds of stories running. I don't want to repeat them because I don't believe in spreading this. But there is one thing, you know. There is a saying, to say that the wife of Caesar must be above suspicion, which means that when you are in a responsible position, like the king, the Iranian king, the Shah, is, no matter what you know to the good of the people, you must also take into account their reputation, deserved or undeserved. But still, it's sad ... if somebody has a very, very bad reputation, you don't give him public responsibility.
I don't think that Nasiri was a bad man. I don't think he was a cruel man. I think he was.... You know many people are lazy, by which I mean that they prefer to settle immediately something rather than to think about it and to find other means. Do you know what I mean? And he was a military man in the not-so-good sense of the word, a disciplinarian, too strong. But I wouldn't say that he was a cruel man, I don't think he was. I think that the propaganda, again, against him was terrible.
Q. When your husband was director of SAVAK and you were in Tehran, was it difficult being married and in the public eye -- difficult in your daily life? Was it difficult being married to the person who was head of SAVAK?
A. Yes. I'll tell you in what way. Not in the way you think. It was difficult -- I'll give you a small example. I was shopping one day at CChahar Rah-e ManouchehriD <Manouchehr Junction>, and a bicycle.... And I was a customer there at these several shops. A bicycle, a cyclist, went by on the sidewalk, and he hurt me, and he wounded me, and I started to bleed. People jumped at him and caught him, and they said, "Khanom, we will send him to the police." I said, "No, please. Let him go."
Q. You had ... presumably you had guards with you?
A. No, never. Never, for heaven's sake! How awful! Never! The shopkeepers said, "Khanom, let's take him, grab him. Give him to the police." I said, "No, please don't." Then my driver said, "Khanom, we must do something." I said, "Please, don't." Anyway, I finished my job; we went home. I had a dressing on the wound. It was just a scratch, but it was bleeding freely. And the driver said, "Khanom, but why?" I said, "Look here. He was in the wrong because he was on the sidewalk. He hurt me, he wounded... But the moment the police learn who he has hurt, then I don't give much for the life of this poor fellow."
In that sense it was very bad. That wherever I went, it was the red carpet. It was ... you know I told you about this little welfare society that we wanted to establish, and in the end, I saw it was ... the whole project was stuck somewhere and they told me, stuck at the Ministry of the Interior. So I went with General Schtudach <?> there.
A. General Schtudach. He was a general, he was the chief of the air service staff, he was retired. He was of Austrian origin. So we went there, and we were very badly received by a fat, big official. And I saw that really I had to do something. I never said who I was. I said, "Well, these regulations of ours have been through all the steps, including through the security organization, whose head is my husband, General Pakravan." The man jumped, you know: "Bring some chairs! Bring some tea! Khanom, why didn't you tell me?" I said, "Why, does it make any difference? I was the same person a few minutes ago when you received me so badly." I didn't say that, of course -- I thought it. I was so mad, you know. I was so mad.
And I remember also a remark I made to somebody who said, "Yes, His Excellency, in the high position that he occupies...." I said, "Please, I stop you right here. Don't make a mistake. His Excellency ...," I made that, you know, I said, "My husband never becomes someone because of his position. His position gets some credit because my husband is at the head of it. Do you understand that?" I said, "Whether my husband is at the head of something or not, he'll still be the man he is." But unfortunately, whenever they ask him....
You know, it's funny, I realized that years later.... You know the story of Hercules and the stables of the King Augeus, that he went to clean? Whenever some organization caught for itself a very bad reputation, my husband was called to mend it. When it was mended, he was sent somewhere else. It was the same as Chief G-2; it was the same for the Organization of Security; it was the same for the Ministry of Information -- it was, less perhaps. It was the same for the ambassador to Pakistan. Because the Shah said to my husband, "You know, I'm sending you to Pakistan because the Pakistanis complain that we always send second-rate ambassadors. And this is a mission I give to you. You must reestablish our good relationship, because Pakistan is very important for us." The same in Paris. You see?
Q. You know, years later there was this event where I believe that Mr. Sabeti's wife had gone to a store....
A. Yes, I know, I know, I know. This was horrible.
Q. How did you feel when you heard about that?
A. I was absolutely mad. I was in Iran. I was the madder that the man who killed that young man had been our guard when my husband was head of the organization. We had two guards. Not at the same time -- you know, they were on shifts. And his name was Ja'fari. Well, Sabeti was the man who said, "Moghtaziyat-e zaman" <the expediency of the time>. Remember I told you?
Q. I realized that.
A. And I knew the people. I mean through other people, I knew whose ... this young man was CfianceD -- to be married. He accompanied his future mother-in-law and his future wife to the Charles Jordan <shoe shop> (which was not a real Charles Jordan anyway). And, as I was told the story, Madame Sabeti was there. I never met her -- if I had, I don't remember her. And that's ... when you asked me if I had guards wherever I went, she had guards. She chose some shoes, and when she came to pay, she realized that her purse was not there ... in her bag, I mean. Her money bag was not there. So she started to make a big to-do, and the shop-owner, knowing who she was, closed all the doors. And he said, "Nobody...." No, no, not the shopkeeper -- this guard came in and he said, "Close all the doors and we are going to search people." The lady, the future mother-in-law, said, "We have finished our business. We have not stolen anything. We are respectable people. We are going to go out." He said, "No, you cannot go out." And he stopped them at the door, which was a big glass pane. And he, the fiance, saw that from the car, so he jumped to rescue his fiancee, and the other man just took out his gun and he shot.
And there were the funerals, the ceremonies -- you know. And the woman was so sorry, she wanted to go -- to attend. Stupid woman, she wanted to attend the funerals.
Q. Madame Sabeti?
A. Yes. And they told her, "Khanom, come if you want. But if you come, you must know you will be torn to pieces." And what shocked me even more was that they arrested Ja'fari. How could...?
Q. They arrested him?
A. They arrested Ja'fari, the man who shot the young man. You see? Whereas he wasn't responsible. He was given a gun, and he said, "You guard Madame Sabeti. If anything happens to her, you shoot." That's right. It was as plain as that. Otherwise he wouldn't have shot. Why he never shot anybody when he was in my house. He didn't even have a gun, I believe.
So, I remember ... that was one of the things that you must put as one of the causes of the Iranian revolution. I was so mad. I told my husband, I said, "Go and see the Shah. Please, go and see him. Tell him that the whole truth must be told. Sabeti must be arrested, and his wife, and the shop-owner, everybody. And this man, of course, because he obeyed, he was just a pawn." I said, "You must. The whole town knows the truth. Why hide it?" I was very mad, I must say. And I was so mad, that when there was a dinner party arranged at the club -- the fantastic club made by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in Dezashib <district> -- I saw the list and I told the host, I said, "If you sit me beside Sabeti, I will never speak to you again." And I turned my back, I was never sitting beside him. I was sitting away, and whenever he addressed me I showed him my shoulder.
Q. Did your husband decide to speak to the Shah about this?
A. I don't remember. I know that he was also very, very mad. Perhaps he did. Perhaps he did. I don't know. It was a time when I.... No, no, no. He was in hospital. That's right, I didn't say that to him. It was when he had his heart attack. I don't remember exactly the dates. No, no, no.
Q. When you came back from France, then what post did your husband have?
A. Well, you know, there were many rumors when he was in France. First of all, people said, you know, that according to the Iranian regulations, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a man is nominated for four years, and he can have an extra year and funnily enough, I don't know why, in another place -- which is stupid, because you don't nominate someone one year ambassador anyway.
So we had already two years, three years, in Pakistan, and when the Shah insisted that he wanted Hassan, because Hoveida said, "You know, I keep on asking His Majesty to make Pakravan ... Hassan minister and he refuses, he says, 'I need him.' I tell His Majesty I need Pakravan. He said, 'I need him even more than you.'" Fortunately I don't know how far, how true it is.
Anyway, the Shah insisted that my husband should become ambassador in Paris. But we thought it was only for two years, according to regulations. But he told Ardeshir Zahedi -- that Ardeshir Zahedi told me himself -- "I don't know, you manage with your regulations. I want Pakravan to stay the whole four years in Paris." So we stayed the whole four years in Paris -- even a little bit more, a few days more.
But the rumors started immediately: "Ah, you know your husband is being recalled." I said, "Look here, my husband should have been two years in Paris. It's been four years." And my husband always said you had to ... I mean, to respect regulations or else what was the point of having them? So they said ... and they started to, "Ah, (you know), your husband will be recalled because he's going to be made prime minister." This sort of thing. "He's going to be recalled to be made minister of foreign affairs." And I had prepared a reply. I said, "Look here. My husband is an army man, although retired. So a general is supposed to prepare war -- or at least to prevent war. The minister of foreign affairs is supposed to make peace between us. So how can you have an army man at the head of the ministry?" Things like that to try to make people stop their stupid rumors.
Anyway, my husband thought ... he had been for years, you know, in public service, he thought he would retire and retire in Paris, because he liked France very much. Then he had to go back to Iran to settle ... I mean, he couldn't just say goodbye. He had to go and see the Shah, make his final report, and all that. And we had a piece of land there and he said, "You know, I would like to build this house."
And the Shah ... everybody thought that he would be made at least senator. And he was made ... he received the job of that famous Boushehri I told you about. It was 'Moshaver-e Aliy-e Darbar', high counselor of the Ministry of Court. And my husband just hated the job, you know, because it was ... he had the feeling that he could be so useful, and that it was just, you know, a job just to get a salary and nothing else. So he asked to have his office somewhere downtown because he couldn't stand these goings and comings in the Court and all this gossiping and all that. He was there.
And then he had his heart attack. And eventually, in the end, I would say at the end of this, or the end of the summer of 1978, he was.... First of all, here I must say that throughout ... when the trouble started in Iran, now and then somebody would telephone or call at the house or in his office, "Please, General, go and say this, and this, and this to the Shah." Or they came to our house, "Please, you must go to the Shah. You are the only person that he will listen to." And my husband would say, "No. No, no, no. The Shah doesn't see me. He never receives me. I am quite put aside." So one day, I told him, I said, "Now why do you say such things? First of all, it's undignified, because we live in the Persian society. If you say that you are out of favor, people will add to it and say that you've been kicked out. And secondly, you haven't tried. Ask for an audience. If he refuses, okay, then you'll resign and we'll go back to Paris."
It's funny, that in some cases he was very shy, you know.
So he went to the Shah. And the Shah.... He asked for an audience, and the Shah immediately agreed, and he stayed quite a long time. And when he came back, he was so upset, so moved, you know. And he wasn't a man to show his feelings, he had very, very good control of himself. He said, "You know, I've never been so touched in my life." He said, "You know, I've been working with the Shah closely since both of us were young men." He said, "It's the first time he asked me personal questions -- he never did. He asked about you and all the children by name. He made personal remarks -- he never did that." He said, "You know, I think he likes me quite well." I said, "Of course he likes you." So I told him. He said, "I said this and that...."
The really important thing he told him.... We had been on a trip to Kashan, and we had to cross the famous south of Tehran. I couldn't believe my eyes! I just couldn't believe my eyes. The conditions in which people lived! You know, it was incredible! They lived, some of them, in pens, completely patched up -- with pieces of nylon on it. The open-air ... canals were heaped with dirt, garbage. The water was black, smelly. You could not imagine what it was. You cannot visualize that. And that was worrying my husband so much, so the first thing he said, he said....
Q. When was the last time you had seen that? I mean, the time before that?
A. Seventies, I think. Well, I wasn't in Tehran for many years, you know.
Q. So you hadn't seen it for many years?
A. No. We had gone to...? I had predicted right. I said that it will be ... go from bad to worse. It was in '76 or '77 that we went on this trip to Tabaz -- not Tabaz, Natanz and Kashan -- I don't remember. Anyway, the important thing is that we were terribly worried, and my husband told him in that first audience. He said, "You know, this is how the people live there." He said, "If you're not going to do immediately something, from a human point of view, do it for your own safety. Because this is a powder keg. Two million people living like that in your capital city is going to explode and we'll all be swept by the explosion." And he showed photographs to the Queen the next day. It was too late, too late, too late. There is a book written by Alan Paton called Too Late the Phalarope.
Q. Too Late ... what?
A. The Phalarope. Phalarope is a South African bird. Anyway. So after that, the Shah saw my husband very often. And this is where he said ... he said, "You know, the Shah, my impression is that the Shah, whenever he sees me, is like a man who drowns and sees some safety, you know, to which to cling." Then he would come ... one day, he said, "He's completely flattened." I said, "What do you mean?" We always spoke French. "Applaque, <is> what I mean, flattened." He said, "You know, he saw the present. He said, "One day he says, 'I'm going all the way to democracy. I'm going to give total freedom. I think that we've made a terrible mistake. We'll have free elections, we'll have free press, we'll have freedom of expression, freedom of everything, criticism and everything. It's time to have it.' Next day he'll be completely crushed by the hatred, you know, because he knew about the criticism, he knew about the grudge, he knew about everything. The only thing that really killed him was the hatred. Because until a few weeks ago he was loved and people looked up to him."
So the last measure to save the house was to nominate my husband <to be> in complete charge of all the administration and finance of the Ministry of Court. And he was mad, he didn't like it. He said....
Q. This was when Hoveida was there or Ardalan?
A. No, no. Hoveida wasn't. No, no. It was Ali-Gholi Ardalan.
And he said, "I've become ... finished my career as chief accountant of this." I said, "Darling, you're not the chief accountant." They always used my husband for his good name -- in all sincerity, you know, not to camouflage.
Q. Why did he accept this?
A. It was his sense of service. I mean, he said, "Poor Ardalan, I cannot drop him, poor old man." And everybody congratulated him because they thought he was ... he's become -- people are so stupid. All these ranks and positions -- he didn't care about that. But one day he came, he was absolutely mad. He said to the king, he said, "You know, Majesty, I don't want any interference." Because there were several families, since the time of the late Shah, the other Shah, who had, you know, a strong hold over all the activities of the Shah, so much so that one day my husband said, "You know...." He came back from the office, he said, "You know, we don't have one Shah." I said, "What do you mean?" He said, "We have at least twelve of them. And the weakest is the one who wears the crown."
Q. The "weakest"?
A. The "weakest". That's what my husband said. I'll never forget it. Because all these, you know, the several families were all the time, traditionally, in the Court. They really did exactly as they wished.
Q. You mean, the sisters and brothers?
A. No, no, no -- officials.
A. Yes, like the Behbehanis, people like that. They would never give up. And my husband had to fight, which he hated, because the order was that no expense in the Court, no kind of project or anything could go directly to the Shah, but go through my husband. And he had to agree to something fantastic. He said, "You know, they are renovating, I don't know what, for 30 million tomans." I said, "But why?" He said, "How can I refuse it now, it's almost finished and the man must be paid." But sheer madness in this situation that we had.
But the Behbehanis still went over his head to the minister of Court to have ... approve some projects. And my husband was very, very mad. And in the end, when I told him over the phone, I said, "Darling, you know Khomeini is coming back. Please, please leave! Leave, leave!" He said, "How can I leave? All these people of the Court, they have nobody but Ardalan and me." And by this he meant the drivers, the gardeners, the cooks, the bakers, all this small population of the Court who were left high and dry without a pension, without any future -- in danger perhaps. So he stayed.
Q. You were here?
A. No, I was still in Tehran. Yes, when I telephoned him, I was still here. He took me to Paris. I told you, he insisted that I should come to Paris to be with the children, and I refused. I said, "No, I will never leave you." And he pretended that he had to see his heart specialist because he was having fifteen of these heart pills, you know. So he brought me and, in order to really not be suspicious, he brought me a return ticket. So we came to Paris, and stayed ten days, and then he went. That was the last time I saw him.
Q. This was when, in November?
A. November of '78 -- 21st of November of '78. We arrived here on the 12th, on the 21st he went back and....
Q. Had Hoveida been arrested then?
A. Oh, Hoveida had been arrested long before that. Hoveida was arrested under the Shah.
Q. What did he say about that?
A. Well, he was.... One day I was in Tehran. That is something historical. One day, there was a man who telephoned all the time from France Inter. I didn't know he was telephoning from Paris. And he kept on ringing, "I want to speak to His Excellency." I said, "Well, he's not here." My husband had left in the morning, and then his driver, his official driver came home, had a snack, and I said "Where is Teamsar?" He said, "He's at the Court. I have to go back there." And it lasted and went on and on and on and on. He came back at eight o'clock.
And the man telephoned again. And my husband -- we were having dinner -- he laughed, he said, "No, no, no, Monsieur Paul E. Vincent <?>, I am nothing, I'm nothing at all. You ask the prime minister. You ask the minister of foreign affairs. I am just the accountant of the Court." And he laughed and laughed. I said, "Why do you say that?" He said, "Because I don't like this job. I will ... after I settle everything, I will resign. It's ridiculous. I am an officer. I am a soldier." He said -- and that was when he surprised me -- he said, "You know, of all the positions I held in my life, the only one of which I am proud is to be a soldier." I said, "Really? But you were not ... you didn't become an officer out of conviction, you had become <one> because your father wanted you to." He said, "Yes, but I think it's a very, very ... there is a great honor in being a soldier."
So I said, "What's the matter? What happened?" He said, "Oh, you don't know. We had a meeting with several people and with the Queen -- and she's a lioness, that woman -- she wants to see all kinds of measures and do this and that and that to stop this nonsense of the subversion." And he said one of the measures that was taken was to arrest Hoveida. I said, "And so?" He said, "I was against it."
Q. This was a meeting with the Queen, without the Shah?
A. Yes. The Shah was in his office. Whenever they had ... one of the men who was there was Seyyed Mehdi Pirasteh. He told me, he came to see me before he left for -- I don't know where.
A. Canada, I think. He said, "Whenever we used to go to the office of the Shah, we stood ... I stood on the threshold and I said, 'Majesty, we don't enter your office because we are afraid of your ire, so we want to have a way to rush back.'" And the Shah was very, very upset.
I don't know who decided on that, my husband was very upset. He said, "All right, do you think it's necessary?"
Q. Who said this, the Shah?
A. The Shah. Who was there? There was an army officer -- I must remember his name -- who said, "Majesty, it is more necessary than the bread for tonight." You know there is an expression in Persian: "as nan-e shab vajebtar ast".
Q. Could it have been <Nasser> Moghaddam?
A. No, I think it was Oveisi. And the Shah said, "All right." Because Hoveida was universally hated, you know. He was hated -- it was fantastic. So my husband and Hoveida knew each other since they were children. And the Shah said, "All right, but then let General Pakravan tell him that, that he's arrested." My husband said, "Never! I will never do that. I am against it. I will never do it." So the Shah was very courageous, and he took the phone and he telephoned himself to Hoveida.
A. "It has been decided by a committee here in the palace that you have to be arrested." He said, "All right. Arrest me." And later on, I learned by the senator who was in prison with my husband, that Hoveida ... Hoveida was very fond of my husband. I think he was the only person he trusted, really, because he said many, many things to my husband he wouldn't say to anybody else. He, the senator, said, "You know, Hoveida used to send books in French to your husband." Very often they spoke, when they were ... when nobody was there, they spoke in French. "And then when the books stopped coming, we guessed that he must have been liquidated."
So it was ... he was arrested under the Shah. And when they emptied the prisons, he was left all alone, but that is ... everybody knows that. And he telephoned to the responsible people: "Here I am." He never thought of.... He was ... you know he was a very interesting personality. My daughter worked for him for three years as <his> personal secretary. He was a very ... my sister knew him very well. I think in a way he was a great man, because he didn't pay any attention to anything, you know. He said why should he have the humiliation of hiding himself or running away? My husband had the same mentality.
They came to see me, some people who worked in the Ministry of Information. Ershad Melli <Ministry of National Guidance> had seen the list with my husband's name, and they came and begged him to come to their house or to go somewhere. He said, "No." Alavi-Kia, must have told you. He told Alavi-Kia, "Take your wife and children and go away from here." He said, "Teamsar, what about you?" He said, "I must stay here even though I am killed, even to the price of my life." He would never flee. Never, never, never.
Q. When did they seize him? Your....
A. Well, I have told you, I think, before ... when we started, that Khomeini is an unforgivable <unforgiving> man -- the more he owes someone, the more he hates him, and he owed everything to my husband: his title of Ayatollah, his life, everything -- his good treatment when he was arrested.
Now of course, the rumor ... but I don't want, I want to say exactly what we know, what my son tells me, what my son-in-law, Naderzad.... Young people were very fond of my husband, and he understood them very well. So he took some friends that Friday, the 16th of February, 1979, to our house -- my son was not there -- for lunch. And they had a wonderful time. Then my husband -- after his heart attack, <he> tired easily -- at 3:30 he told them, "I want to rest, please." So they went.
At five o'clock he got up to go the kitchen to get a glass of water and he said... There was lots of noises outside, shouting and all that -- he said to our servant, "What's the matter?" So he came back, this young man, pale. He said, "Teamsar, they've come to take you away." And he told me, he said, "You know, His Excellency took the glass, he never took the trouble to put on shoes, walked out with his slippers. And when they saw him, they were so full of respect." He wanted to console me, poor man: "They were so respectful. They bowed to him, they opened the door." And he said, "I ran after the car because it was the end of winter, very cold, and he had gone without a coat or anything." I said, "And then what happened?" ""Well, they stopped the car and took his coat to him. And I was crying."
He didn't say a word. They took him to a committee at Kashanak and from there to Madreseh-e Alavi.
When my son came back, he was told that his father was arrested. He immediately rushed to his brother-in-law, and they tried every place. They said, "We don't know. Go to Madreseh-e Alavi." They went there; they took some clothes and his medicine, and the man in charge refused it, and said, "No, no, we have everything for him. And besides, he's not arrested at all. Who said he was arrested? He is the guest of Ayatollah. We want to ask him a few questions about the Court, not about...." You see how clever: "....not about the time when he was head of security or ambassador or anything, or minister of information -- the Court. It's a matter of a few days."
But then, I told you, this cousin of Hoveida saw him. They blindfolded him and took him on the steps. And then all the lies started.
My son told me there is a very nice guard there. He says that, "I see sometimes ... he brings me little notes from my father. He says that Daddy is not in prison, but in the infirmary. That he looks after him, he's on a nice bed. He brings the barber every other day. He washes his clothes, he gives him very good food, and the doctor is always there in attendance."
My husband used to write little notes and this fellow would bring <them to> my son and give them <to him>. Rendezvous in very, very complicated places -- at such-and-such place, you know. And he would insist that he tears <up> the little notes, so we don't have anything from my husband. Every time, my husband would say, "Give him 500 tomans, give him ... he's very nice to me."
But actually, I heard from the senator who was with him, he said, "It wasn't at all like that. He wasn't at all. He was straightaway, after a few days, put into prison, with no mattress, no bedding, nothing." You remember seeing images, photos, of Hoveida, but he was at least on a mattress. My husband was on the floor. It was the Red Cross, International Red Cross, after a month bribed them to give bedding to the prisoners.
I said, "But who was this nice man?" He said, "Oh well, there was ... there was a man whom we used to give money. He was a little better than the others. We used to give him money to buy books for us. And he refused. He brought us religious books. But your husband wanted Masnavi." It's funny -- funny because my husband had never ... was never interested in poetry, even in French poetry.
Then the senator told me that he asked him to teach him Turkish, because the senator was from Azarbaijan, and also to read poetry to him, Masnavi especially. And he said, "He told me, 'Read me a part and at nine o'clock every night, ask me to recite it to you.'" And he said, "He recited it perfectly."
Then he did something which I never told anybody. He went on a hunger strike. He said ... he told this senator who was showing him the photos of his wife and his children, "Are you very fond of them?" He said, "Yes." He said, "Are you going to swear to keep secret what I'm going to tell you? I have to tell you something." And the senator told me, he said, "You know, I had never met your husband. I said, 'My God, it's true. He has a very, very good reputation, but still he was head of SAVAK. Perhaps he did something he wants to confess to me.'" He said, "Okay." He said, "I'm going to go on hunger strike, but I don't want it to be known. It's not as a protest. It's as a discipline. I know the world championship was 49 days (I think) or 45 days. I want to see if I can break it."
So, he said he went on for 35 days, drinking nothing but water and tea without sugar. He said, "One day I put sugar in his tea -- he would refuse it." And it surprises me, because my husband liked tea and coffee very, very sweet. He said, "And you know, he was fantastic. He was a hero. He was a saint. He's a martyr. But he is a saint." I said, "How come?" He said, "He was so detached, he had reached such high, such a high spiritual level, I was amazed." He said, "You know, one day he smiled, he said, 'It's funny. I've never lived in such ... even in the army, in such complete CdenuementD <how do you say? -- 'nothing'>. No kind of material comfort at all, the worst possible material conditions. I know what's going to happen to me -- it will be the machine gun. But I've never felt so well.' He said, 'I've not been eating for 35 days and I feel perfectly well.'" But one thing -- he started to smoke, which was that he knew that he was going to be condemned.
Because my son told me -- because, you know, somehow all the secrets come out -- that the interrogator told somebody, who told my son, that when they opened his file, his so-called file ... they never allowed my son to see him, because they said the instructions were going ... the inquiries were going on. It wasn't true, because when they opened his file, there was only one piece of paper. And that was the testimony of a young man, who had been arrested under my husband and who gave a testimony to the human<e> treatment that he had and how General Pakravan released him very soon -- had him released very soon.
So he knew. And he said, he said <the senator>: "Three days ... for what I understood later was his execution, then he was taken from my cell and I never heard of him."
Now, any other questions?
Copyright © 2003 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College (Harvard University)
Dr. Habib Ladjevardi
Iranian Oral History Project
Center for Middle Eastern Studies
1430 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138