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Shapour Bakhtiar

In office
4 January 1979 – 11 February 1979
Monarch Mohammad Reza Pahlavi
Preceded by Gholam Reza Azhari
Succeeded by Mehdi Bazargan

Born 1915
Tehran, Iran
Died 1991
Paris, France
Political party National Front
National Resistance Movement
Spouse(s) Mowjgan Vahedi
Religion Agnostic

Shapour Bakhtiar (About this sound Shapour Bakhtiar ) (also Shapur Bakhtiar) (Persian: شاپور بختیار Shāpūr Bakhtīār) (1915 - August 6, 1991) was an Iranian political scientist, writer and the last Prime Minister of Iran under Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. After the Iranian Revolution, he migrated to Paris, France where he was assassinated in 1991 by suspected Hezbollah sympathizers with links to the Islamic Republic.


Early life

Bakhtiar was born in 1914 in southwestern Iran into a member family of the Iranian tribal nobility: the family of the paramount chieftains of the then powerful Bakthiari tribe. His father was Mohammad Reza Khan (Sardar-e-Fateh), his mother Naz-Baygom, both Lor and from Bakhtiaris. Bakhtiar's maternal grandfather, Najaf-Gholi Khan Samsam ol-Saltaneh, was appointed prime minister twice, in 1912 and 1918. Bakhtiar's mother died when he was seven years old. He attended elementary school in Shahr-e Kord and then secondary school, first in Isfahan and later in Beirut, Lebanon, where he received his high school diploma from a French school.

Time in France

In 1936 he left for France. He received his PhD, in political science (in 1939), as well as degrees in law and philosophy, from Sorbonne. As a firm opponent of all totalitarian rule, he fought at the Spanish Civil War as an International Brigadist to fight against the sublevation of General Franco and fascism. Later, he volunteered for the French army and fought in the Orleans battalion and in the French Résistance against the occupation by Germany.[1] [2]

Political career in Iran

Bakhtiar returned to Iran in 1946. In 1951 he was appointed by the Ministry of Labor, first as director of the Labor Department in the Province of Isfahan, then he even headed up the Labor Department in Khuzestan, center of the oil industry. In 1953 Mohammad Mosaddeq was in power in Iran, before being deposed. Under his premiership Bakhtiar was deputy minister of labor. After the Shah was reinstated by a British-American sponsored coup d'etat, Bakhtiar remained a critic of his rule. In the mid-1950s, he was involved in underground activity against the Shah's despotic regime, calling for the 1954 Majlis elections to be free and fair and attempting to revive the nationalist movement. In 1960, the Second National Front was formed and Bakhtiar played a very crucial role in the new organization's activities as the head of the student activist body of the Front. He and his colleagues differed from most other oppositionists in that they were very moderate, restricting their activity to peaceful protest and calling only for the restoration of democratic rights within the framework of constitutional monarchy. Despite these moderate demands, the Shah refused to cooperate and opted to outlaw the Front and imprison the most prominent liberals. From 1964 to 1977, the imperial regime refused to permit any form of anti-state activity, even from the moderate liberals like Bakhtiar. In the following years Bakhtiar was imprisoned repeatedly, a total of six years, for his opposition to the Shah. He even rose to the position of deputy chief of the illegal National Front in late 1977 when the group was reconstituted as the Union of National Front Forces with Bakhtiar as head of the Iran Party (the largest group in the Front).

At the end of 1978, as the Shah's power was crumbling; because Bakhtiar had been a leader in the resistance, he was chosen to help in the creation of a civilian government in place of the military one, which had existed up to this point. He was appointed to the position of Prime Minister by the Shah, as a concession to his opponents, especially the followers of the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Although this caused him to be expelled from the National Front, he accepted the appointment, as he feared a revolution, in which communists and mullahs would take over the country, because he thought this would ruin Iran. In his 36 days as premier of Iran, Bakhtiar ordered all political inmates to be freed, lifted censorship of newspapers (whose staff had until then been on strike), relaxed martial law, ordered the dissolving of SAVAK (the former regime's secret police) and requested that the opposition give him three months to hold elections for a constituent assembly that would decide the fate of the monarchy and determine the future form of government for Iran. Despite these conciliatory gestures, Ayatollah Khomeini refused to collaborate with Bakhtiar, denouncing the premier as a traitor for siding with the Shah, labeling his government "illegitimate" and "illegal" and calling for the overthrow of the Monarchy. Bakhtiar made some key mistakes during his premiership including allowing Khomeini to re-enter Iran. In the end, he failed to rally even his own former colleagues in the National Front behind him and his government was overwhelmingly rejected by the masses, except for a very small number of pro-Shah loyalists and some moderate pro-democratic elements. The opposition was not willing to compromise and the Shah was forced to leave the country in January 1979; Bakhtiar left Iran again for France in April of the same year.

French exile and series of assassination attempts

Out of Paris, Bakhtiar led the National Movement of Iranian Resistance, which fought the Islamic republic in his homeland. In July 1980 he escaped an assassination attempt in his home in the Parisian suburb, Suresnes, which killed a policeman and a neighbor. But on August 7, 1991, Bakhtiar was murdered along with his secretary, Soroush Katibeh, by three assassins in his home. The inquest found that he was stabbed by a knife matching a nearby blood stained bread knife. Bakhtiar's dead body was not found until at least 36 hours after his death, despite the fact that he had heavy police protection and that his killers had left ID (presumably faked) with a guard at his house.[3] Two of the assassins escaped to Iran, but the third, Ali Vakili Rad, was apprehended in Switzerland,[4] as well as an alleged accomplice, Zeyal Sarhadi, a great-nephew of former president of Iran Hasemi Rafsanjani ,[5] and both were extradited to France for trial.[6] Vakili Rad was sentenced to life in prison in December 1994, although Sarhadi was acquitted.[7]

Bakhtiar is buried in Montparnasse Cemetery, in Paris.

Hours after the assassination of Bakhtiar, a British hostage was released from Lebanon, presumably held by Hezbollah, but a French hostage was taken.[8] Although many in the Iranian exile community speculated of official French complicity in Bakhtiar's death,[9] the second kidnapping is said to cast a shadow over such theories, allegedly as the French would seem unlikely to support an operation that included the kidnapping of another French hostage in Lebanon, although there is no apparent connection between the two events.[3]


In addition to many articles, Bakhtiar´s books "Ma Fidélité" in French (Edition Albin Michel, Paris, Dec 1 1985, ISBN 2226015612, ISBN 978-2226015617) and "37 Days after 37 Years" in Persian ("Radio Iran" Publications, Paris, 1982) including his biography and political career until the Iranian Revolution as well as his beliefs are of special interest regarding society and politics in the Pahlavi Era and the period of riots and turbulence before the fall of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi.


  • If everyone is free to say whatever they want, that's called democracy. But if everyone acts whatever way they want, that's not even anarchy. No government on earth could accept such a thing. (Talking about the riots during the revolution.)[10]


  1. ^ Wolfgang Saxon: Shahpur Bakhtiar: Foe of Shah Hunted by Khomeini's Followers. New York Times; August 9, 1991
  2. ^ Chapour Bachtiar: Ma Fidélité", Edition Albin Michel, Paris 1985
  3. ^ a b Riding, Alan. "France Vows to Press for Release of Newly Taken Hostage", New York Times, 10 Aug. 1991. Retrieved 5 November 2007.
  4. ^ Rempel, William C. "Tale of Deadly Iranian Network Woven in Paris", Los Angeles Times, 3 Nov. 1994. Retrieved 5 November 2007.
  5. ^ Greenhouse, Stephen. "French Ask Swiss on Jailed Iranian", New York Times, 28 Dec. 1991. Retrieved 5 November 2007.
  6. ^ Riding, Alan. "3 Iranians Go on Trial in France in Slaying of Exiled Ex-Premier", New York Times, 3 Nov. 1994. Retrieved 5 November 2007.
  7. ^ U.S. State Department, 1994 Human Rights Report: Iran. Retrieved 5 November 2007
  8. ^ Schmidt, William E. "Pressure Mounts on Israel to Free Its Arab Hostages", New York Times, 10 Aug. 1991. Retrieved 5 November 2007.
  9. ^ Kadivar, Cyrus. "Dialogue of Murder", The Iranian, 23 Jan. 2003, noting that "Many Iranians, including the families of the victims, blamed France's diplomatic rapprochement with Tehran for the deaths. Two years earlier, in February 1989, Roland Dumas had visited Iran to discuss trade opportunities and on July 27, 1990 President Mitterrand had ordered the release of the Lebanese terrorist, Anis Naccache, who had led the first attempt on Bakhtiar's life in 1980. Relations between Tehran and Paris led to lucrative contracts and greater restrictions on the activities of the Iranian opposition." Retrieved 5 November 2007.
  10. ^ Interview with Dr. Shapour Bakhtiar

See also

External links

Published works

  • Habib Lajevardi, editor, Memoirs of Shapour Bakhtiar, in Persian (Harvard University Press, 1996). ISBN 0-932885-14-4
Preceded by
Gholam Reza Azhari
Prime Minister of Iran
Succeeded by
Mehdi Bazargan


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