Translation in Persian

Fereydoun Hoveyda Speaks His Heart and Mind on the Issues

Extracts of an Interview with Mark Dankof

Mark Dankof states: it was left to Mr. Hoveyda to willingly remain in Iran to defend his own personal honor and legacy on behalf of the Iranian nation before the legal and moral equivalent of a lynch mob. History will record that he did so successfully, as chronicled in Dr. Abbas Milani’s blockbuster of a book, The Persian Sphinx.

On Iran
“I will repeat what has already been said by others about Iran. And that is that no one, not even Iranians themselves, understands Iran

. . . . At one level, the 1979 Islamic Revolution was the outcome of a personal struggle between two men, Shah Muhammed Reza Pahlavi and Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

Each of them partially represented one of the key, basic, contradictory trends that agitated the nation since the early years of the twentieth century—secularist modernization on the one hand, in juxtaposition with religious orthodoxy and traditionalism on the other.

In my new book coming out this fall, The Shah and the Ayatollah: Iranian Mythology and Islamic Revolution, I discuss many of the angles and the pieces of this complex puzzle that are largely unknown to the Western world and mind. These include the fact that the Iranian mindset has not changed over the centuries. Its identity has survived the Greek hordes under Alexander the Great, along with the Arab and Mongol invasions. This sense of permanence might appear to provide some semblance of stability, yet in another way, Iranians are prisoners of this permanence and its accompanying world view. The book will cover key areas for Western education and discernment in these matters. These include the influence of Zoroastrianism and its concept of ‘savior’; the historical pattern of change of leadership set by the legend of ‘Jamshid and Zahak’; the ‘Rostam Syndrome’ in dichotomous relationship to the Western ‘Oedipal complex’ mythology; the resemblance of the ‘Hidden Imam’ in Iranian Shiite doctrine to the ‘Shayoans’ in the Zoroastrian belief system; the ‘Tripartite ideology’ of Indo-Europeans and the ‘caste system’ as a model of social organization; the Modernization movements in Iran and their 20th century failures; the ‘repetition-compulsion’ character of Iranian history; the influence of Sigmund Freud’s ‘Fate Neurosis’ as a possible influence on the character of Iranian society; the influence of Shiite Islamic mythology on Iranians; the mainstream Shiite concept of Government as belonging to the ‘Hidden Imam’; Khomeini’s special interpretation of the Shiite concept of Government; the differences between Shiite and Sunni Islam; the significance of the rumors that Khomeini was the ‘Hidden Imam’; the legends and myths about the 12 Shiite Imams and their resemblance to ancient mythology; and the whole notion of whether or not there is a ‘curse’ on Iran’s history.

“At this point, there are two points I wish to emphasize for your readers. One is that the Iranian revolution was, in fact, started by ‘secular liberals.’ It was ‘hijacked’ by Khomeini and the Islamic mullahs. The revolution should be considered in the context of the fight between secular, reformist elements in Iranian society on the one hand, and Islamic radicals seeking an iron grip on the Iranian people and nation. What happened in 1978-79 was a unique combination of historical and political circumstances with mythical and religious beliefs.

Second, I do look at the future of Iran. I believe there is a bright future for Iran, based on showing Iranians how, with the help of their ancient mythology, they can replace Islamic theocracy with a truly democratic government rooted in tolerance and dialogue.”

One must remember that it was the Americans who put pressure on the Shah to leave Iran.

“For example, the place and role of the ‘father’ in Iranian society is very different from that of other Middle Eastern patriarchs and tribal chieftains, as it is a divergence from the Western model as well. Iran’s ‘father myth’ is the exact opposite of the Oedipus legend. You will recall that Dr. Abbas Milani discussed this in the book about my brother, The Persian Sphinx. He mentions that in the Western Oedipus myth, the son kills the father. But in the Iranian Shahnameh, the father, Rostam, kills his son, Sohrab. It is a metaphor for the victory of the patriarch.

The Iranian ‘father’ is an omnipotent autocratic figure whose authority cannot be questioned by his offspring. His absolute power is ingrained in Iranian mythology and is a major key in understanding what has happened in that nation.”

In the 1970s, he was training Iranians in his terrorist camps in Lebanon and helped Khomeini gain power in Iran. He lent his PLO representative in Paris to Khomeini. Ghotbzadeh became the Ayatollah’s spokesman in exile and later, his foreign minister in Tehran. Arafat’s Palestinian fighters participated in demonstrations against the Shah’s regime. In 1979, they were around the mullahs, in charge of security in the ministries and other public buildings. Arafat became the first foreign dignitary to visit and kiss the hand of the Ayatollah before joining forces with Saddam Hussein in the war against Iran! This is the caliber of man and human being we are talking about here, who brings misery and bloodbath to Palestinian, Lebanese, Iranian, American, and Israeli victims alike.”

On the Legacy of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi
“The legend of Jamshid in the Shahnameh provides a fundamental explanation to the tragedy of this man. Jamshid’s reported advances on behalf of the Iranian nation were followed by his conceit and his ultimate decision to demand the literal worship of the people. Jamshid’s actions cause the blessings of Ahura Mazda (Zoroastrian god of Light) to be withdrawn, followed by the judgments of Ahriman (Zoroastrian embodiment of evil). The Shah’s 1971 festival at Persepolis followed the pattern of Jamshid, including the cult of self-deification. He took credit for any and all of the advances made in Iran. He stopped acknowledging the obvious help and contribution of the United States in this historical process. He forgot the group of liberal reformers within his country, which included Amir Abbas, in their collective contribution to the attempt to bring Iran into the modern, scientific, technological era. The Shah, like Jamshid, became a despotic autocrat, with identical, tragic results. He was abandoned by God (Ahura Mazda in the analogy), and Khomeini came. All of this shows that there must be a complete break with the circular past. There must be a political and cultural alternative in Iran that is neither Achaemenid kingship nor Islamic theocracy, but the development of an honest Republic. If this change does not occur, Iran is doomed. The economic downturn and the well publicized brain drain from Iran to the West will be accelerated if there is not a third alternative to these elements of a failed, tragic past. But it must not be an attempted copy of European or American constitutional models, but a constitutional republican model that takes account of the unique role and influence of Iranian mythologies. But the entire Islamic world has a problem with autocratic kings. This must be changed. And without saying that the United States is perfect, for we are only too aware of the defects, it must be said to the Islamic world that the American commitment to freedom of speech, and the removal of religious influence from its Constitution, are two of the key principles that must govern any political and economic renaissance in the Islamic world . Despite the corruption of the American Congress and Wall Street, the fundamental concepts in the American Constitution still hold, and make the United States the most unique place in the world. The Iranian expatriate community in the United States must grasp this reality, and not make the mistake of searching for solutions for Iran in antiquated, nostalgic notions from Iran’s distant past.
“Now, in terms of this man [the Shah], I remember my last conversation with my brother on the telephone after the Shah’s departure. My brother was appalled that this man would run away from his historic responsibilities to defend the interests of his nation during a crisis, and to argue the merits of his own motives and legacy. A captain of a ship must be willing to go down with it, if he must. This is his responsibility. Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, in history, will always be tainted because he abdicated his responsibilities at a most crucial juncture in the history of the Iranian nation. He will never escape this historical evaluation–ever. Iran had 4 kings in the 20th century, two were Qajar dynasty and two were Pahlavi dynasty. When things got difficult, all 4 failed to die in their boots. They all died in their beds. So who needs these types of kings again, or kingship? Iran needs a different way.”

On Crown Prince Reza Pahlavi
“He will suffer from two deficiencies. I think he is probably a nice man, but his father’s legacy of avoiding responsibility and fleeing his own country will follow the Prince as well, even if that is ultimately unfair. This is the way it is. He has the legacy of the last name. Second, I must confess that I find this young fellow to be somewhat superficial in the things he says about Iran’s future and his own role in it. Talking about democracy and economic reform are fine, but I can’t say that I truly believe that this man has any constructive, deep ideas about how to achieve this, or how to spearhead such a movement through his personal leadership. These are ultimately fatal flaws in any analysis of Reza Pahlavi’s chances of leading Iran into a new way, a new era. That is my verdict.”

On the Legacy of Amir Abbas Hoveyda
“Amir, like many of us of the same generation in Iran with Western educations, believed that the development of an economic infrastructure in Iran was the necessary ingredient and prelude to the development of a political superstructure that would sustain political reform and the development of a Constitutional model along the lines of the European ones, with special deference of course to Iranian culture and mythologies. Despite his, and our best efforts, the subsequent failures in this regard made me aware of what I had begun to see in the early 1960s–that ultimately Iran was a prisoner of its own mythologies.

Now in terms of my brother’s death, he understood that he must remain in Iran, to defend his record and to continue there as a positive presence for reform for the people of that country. He also believed, mistakenly, that there would be a fair trial in which he would demonstrate that he had nothing to hide, and plenty to testify about in terms of his role and motives in history. It is this legacy of remaining, and testifying, at the ultimate cost of his life, that will forever distinguish my brother from Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi and the others in his Court who fled for themselves and gave up the Ship.”

On being both an Iranian, a Citizen of the World generally and an American specifically
“I, of course, will always be an Iranian. Yet in another sense, I have also developed a better understanding of this country (America) and its particular history, heritage, and unique role in the larger world. In a most profound sense, I am now an American as well.”