In an interview with ِErfan Ghanei Fard

“Was SAVAK responsible for the Iranian Revolution?”

12 Oct 2011

12th Oct 2011

Ardavan Roozbeh / Radio Koocheh

Translated by Avideh Motmaen-Far

“Erfan Ghanei Fard” is a researcher in contemporary history of Iran and a published author in various fields. The discussion today, in Radio Koocheh, is about the result of his research, a book entitled, ”Trapped in the incident”. It talks about SAVAK activities before the revolution in Iran.
In this interview with the author of ”Trapped in the incident”, we tried to investigate causes of the collapse of the Shah and SAVAK. His book is the result of extensive conversations with many experts of the SAVAK, such as “Parviz Sabeti”, “Manouchehr Hashemi”, “Ali Akbar Farazian”, “Hassan Alavi Kia” and a few more.

What follows is the interview of Ardavan Roozbeh with Erfan Ghanei Fard:

Does really SAVAK have the  black face that has been shown to us in the contemporary history books of post revolution? How SAVAK can be evaluated honestly?

SAVAK’s duty was to control turbulences and the subversion of different political or terrorist organizations. For examples, people who have been in the guerilla operations in countries like Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine and received financial aid to take action against the security in the country or try to recruit innocent young people.

SAVAK agents were able to show the real face of organizations and institutions like Nehzat Azadi (Freedom Movement), Jebheh Meli (National Front), the Mujahedin Khalgh (The People’s Mujahedin of Iran PMOI, Fadaian Khalgh (People’s Devotees), and The Students Confederation, by arrests and prosecution of fugitives and was successful in recognizing the so-called Political movements. This is why, the members of these movements tried to accuse SAVAK and show the black side of it or show themselves as heros.

SAVAK was able to transform most of sabotage and hostage taking of the terrorist groups to a failure and in 1976, all the terrorist groups came under control of SAVAK. Hamid Ashraf and Bahram Aram were executed, and Masoud Rajavi remained in prison. Or Iraq’s Ba’th Party, provocateur of  secessionist groups, like Altahrir Front of Ahvaz and ethnic groups in Kurdistan such as Iranian Kurdistan Democratic party, were completely destroyed by Mustafa Barzani, SAVAK’s agent.

SAVAK’s duty was to control turbulences and the subversion of different political or terrorist organizations. For examples, people who have been in the guerilla operations in countries like Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine and received financial aid to take action against the security in the country or try to recruit innocent young people

The Mujahedin Khalgh that came out from the freedom movement, on November 09, 1970, hijacked the Airbus of Dubai-Tehran flight and landed in Baghdad. In 1969, the Mujahedin Khalgh entered the guerrilla operations warfare, Airplane robbery, abduction of famous personalities and diplomats, assassinations and sabotage, carrying weapons and ammunition inside the country, and were in relation with guerrilla organizations, such as Palestinians, Ghazafi, Southern Yemen, Russians, and Baghdad.

Close to the 2500-year-old empire festivities, affected by Iraq and Palestine they tried to sabotage the festival in the country, but in September 1971, about 100 of them were arrested in twelve safe houses, with weapons, ammunitions, bombs and forged plates. When any arrest were taking place in Iran, the Freedom Movement and Students Confederation were organizing protests outside Iran. And lies or correct informations about these events used to reach Iraq, Lebanon, the Soviet Union etc. I am talking about the same Students Confederation that in his journal called the ”Persian Gulf” ”Arabian Gulf”.

And even they have repeatedly been to the Soviet embassy, contacted the Turkey left party for cooperation with ”Toudeh Party” who started a revolutionary fight against Iran and sent some people to China, Cuba, and Albania. They were even in cooperation with Iraq’s Ba’th and for some time they had agents such as Lashaii, Kashkooli, Parsan Nejad etc, close to Jalal Talabani. They could not do anything else except bank robbery and trying to abduct the US ambassador and had a burning fever for partisan armed resistance and relationship with Soviets. The People’s Devotees guerrillas have been the same.

The religious extremists also said that Ayatollah Sa’idi, or Ayatollah Qafari were killed by SAVAK. But Ayatollah Montazeri wrote that these people died from diseases. Extremists burned “Rex” cinema and later Bakhtiyar wrote to Ahmad Madani that Ayatollah Jami has been the main director. So you realize that these kind of labels, in the long term are not sustainable.

When the Mujahedin Khalgh intended to poison Tehran’s water supply or explode the electricity supplier, they were arrested. Of course, they made bombs that killed innocent people and sometimes the bomb exploded themselves, like Mr. Meisami. Or some of them executed people of their own. Mr. Hussein Baqerzadeh published an article in this regard.

Many of these extremist groups were exterminated or completely denounced by SAVAK. But many of the example of murders and terrors by SAVAK, are only delusions. For example, Takhti committed suicide in a hotel because of sexual failure and even a day before his suicide, he went to the office of registry of documents to design his son to act on his behalf. Samad Behrangi drained because he could not swim. In June ’77, Ali Shariati had a cardiac arrest because of Alcohol abuse, and Mr. Ebrahim Yazdi goes to ask Mr. Khomeini to say that SAVAK has killed him. Khomeini does not accept then because he considered Shariati as a anti clerics and Saudi Wahhabi agent. Khanssari and Shariatmadari considered Hosseinieh Ershad as an anti clerics institution.

And again, a series of illusions made up the cause of death of Ayatollah Khomeini’s son to be SAVAK’s responsibility. But the reality is not so. And of course, these facts are not there to wash off SAVAK clean but at least we can see the truth.

Was the King indifferent about SAVAK? Could SAVAK succeed in his plans? What was the role of Sabeti as the General Manager of interior security?

In response to your question, I have to say that the significant germ of protests hatched at the funeral of Ayatollah Khomeini’s son. In November 1977, Parviz Sabeti was against this gathering. But the King said that people are free to gather. Then Ayatollah Khomeini wrote three letters to thank the people and Yasser Arafat etc. But in fact, those were  notification letters against the King. So the King ordered Nasirri to write a letter to Ayatollah Khomeini but Mr. Sabeti believed that if supporters of Mr. Khomeini are not arrested, writing a letter is not recommended. But The King asked Hoveyda to write a letter and finally a person named Nikkhah wrote that letter that was known as Rashidi Motlagh’s letter.

When in 1976, the Red Cross came to Iran, about seven hundred political prisoners were released. Many of them were related to the terrorist guerrillas of Mujahedin Khalq, People’s devotees and pro-Arafat terrorists

In May ’78, the ceremony of 40 days of mourning for Khomeini’s son was held. In this regard, a dispute started between Sabeti and Amouzegar in presence of Darius Homayoun. Sabeti believed that arresting 1500 people were going to calm everyone. The situation was reported to the King by Hoveyda but the King only accepted the arrest of 300 people and then Nasser Moghadam released them. So for two months everything was quiet and in his book, ”Answer to history”, the King has talked about the status of those two months. But the King, for strategic relations with America, that he did not want to create any conflict with Carter, showed flexibility and lost the control.

When in 1976, the Red Cross came to Iran, about seven hundred political prisoners were released. Many of them were related to the terrorist guerrillas of Mujahedin Khalq, People’s devotees and pro-Arafat terrorists. They created the disaster of September 8, 1978. The same Arafat who accepted  Shah’s $300,000 cheques. A few days later, Mr. Bani Sadr told the newspaper “Le Monde” that three thousand were killed by the King and SAVAK but never no one referred to the statistics in those days, nor to the causes.

So as Mr. Parviz Sabeti said, causes of the revolution started in 1976 and in the last six months became more evident. By the way, gentlemen like Chamran, Yazdi, Ghotbzadeh and Moghadam were in contact with Carter Administration and supposed to increase the pressure in Iran. When the King agreed that the Red Cross come to Iran, opponents found that the king is under pressure and a sign of the revolution in ’76 existed. On the other hand, the King was sick and his strategic relationship with the US faced a leadership crisis, so he was somehow paralyzed and let go the country.

So SAVAK was destroyed and the counter-espionage part were dismissed. When revolutionaries settled in the country, Chamran and Yazdi were in contact with the Americans, the Soviet Union and Eastern bloc were still important, so they invited in some employees like Assefi, Alavi and a few more. They almost re-employed the two third of the employees of SAVAK and counter-espionage and retired them after two years. Britain and the United States had some common interests with Iran because of the Russian Communist bloc and SAVAK consulting experts were useful to them. General Kaveh and  General Farazian came back to Iran according to Mr. Ebrahim Yazdi’s recommendation.

You mentioned SAVAK’s role in the ministry of information; it could have been my question but you answered it. But with regards to your writings in a collection of  books that have recently been published and security views, do you think it can be said that in Iran’s revolution SAVAK was not guilty, neither any external factors but the King just gave up the situation and the people themselves conducted the Revolution?

Yes, I think that Iranian people themselves must take responsibility instead of blaming others. The illusion of blaming others is a kind of clearing the issue. If we accept that Iran’s Revolution has been conducted by others and people were not responsible and involved, it looks like the story of mourning  on August 19 and the coup. In general, people of Iran should accept the responsibility for what they do.

It can be said that in those days, SAVAK has not been successful but was not guilty neither. Because by controlling the terrorist forces that brought the society into turmoil they wanted to raise awareness in the young generation by the same poems of Akhavan Saless :  “They deceit you, it is not what they promise.” But in those days, people were fed by passion and revolutionary excitement and the King  just left the country because he was ill.

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