1958: Khosrow Roozbeh

Add comment May 11th, 2012 Headsman

On this date in 1958, Iranian communist Khosro(w) Roozbeh was shot in Qezel Qal’eh prison.

“A popular teacher at the Military Academy, Rouzbeh was the author of a number of pamphlets on chess, artillery warfare, and, together with Ovanessian, the country’s first political lexicon,” blurbs Tortured Confessions: Prisons and Public Recantations in Modern Iran.

He was also not only a communist, but a radical within the context of Iran’s communist Tudeh Party.

After the 1953 CIA-backed coup restored the Shah of Iran, his government persecuted Tudeh activists as a fifth column.

Thousands were arrested, and brutally tortured into betraying their comrades. While most weren’t put to death, Roozbeh was both a true militant — he opposed moderates’ attempt to make common cause with the liberal Mossadegh government that the Shah had deposed — and the organizer of a network of military infiltrators. The British embassy called him the “Red Pimpernel” for his uncanny talent for slipping traps and getting about in disguise. But that act never has a long shelf-life.

Roozbeh was finally winged in a 1957 shootout and taken into custody, where he was tortured into his own confessions (e.g., that he had assassinated Tudeh members who were too willing about their police collaboration). After spending his last night on this planet putting NaNoWriMo to shame by cranking out a 70-page political manifesto, he’s supposed to have met his executioners defiant to the last, refusing a blindfold and crying “Long Live the Tudeh Party of Iran! Long Live Communism! Fire!”

But the volley that silenced Roozbeh’s cry can be seen in retrospect to mark the definitive elimination of communism from Iran’s political stage, the piece de resistance for SAVAK’s campaign of suppression.

After Roozbeh, Tudeh slipped into irrelevancy (Spanish link) … leaving little but the outsized myth of its most renowned martyr.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Activists,Assassins,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,Famous,History,Iran,Martyrs,Murder,Power,Revolutionaries,Shot,Soldiers,Terrorists,Torture

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1954: Hossein Fatemi, before the blowback

11 comments November 10th, 2008 Headsman

At dawn this date in 1954, the last Foreign Minister of democratic Iran was shot in Tehran.

It was a year since the dramatic events of 1953, when a CIA-backed coup d’etat overthrew Iranian Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh (or Mosaddegh, or Mossadeq, or Mosaddeq) for contemplating oil nationalization.

Over several chaotic days of “Operation Ajax” (or TPAJAX), the Mossadegh government repulsed a first coup attempt, then succumbed to another.

After Mossadegh initially appeared to have maintained his hold on power, the autocratic Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi fled for his life to Iraq and thence to Rome. Fatemi, Mossadegh’s forceful young foreign minister, excoriated the Shah in words that themselves raised the specter of execution.

A traitor is afraid. The day when you, O traitor, heard by the voice of Teheran that your foreign plot had been defeated you made your way to the nearest country where Britain has an embassy. (Quoted in the New York Times.)

Either way, it was high stakes for all concerned in oil country. There’s been contentious debate over the extent to which the affair was also a Cold War proxy conflict — or whether the involvement of the country’s Communist party was incidental, a smokescreen, or an outright stalking-horse for the west.

The coup against Mossadegh has emerged as a major historical turning point — and after the Shah was himself dramatically overthrown in the 1979 Iranian Revolution, not necessarily so successful for American foreign policy goals as it seemed at the time.

Appropriately — in fact, with eerie prescience given the events that then lay a generation in the future — a recently declassified 1954 CIA report on the coup made the first known use of a neologism that has since grown increasingly familiar: blowback.

Possibilities of blowback against the United States should always be in the back of the minds of all CIA officers involved in this type of operation. Few, if any, operations are as explosive as this type.

Maybe those possibilities should be in the front of the mind.

Today, there’s a street named for Fatemi in Tehran, and — strange to say — still some number of Americans who anticipate the greeting due liberators should they ever manage to roll a tank down it.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Execution,Famous,History,Iran,Language,Politicians,Shot,Treason,USA

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