Mossadegh — A Character Study
“In terms of honesty, integrity, and purity he had no equal.”
Translated by Ebrahim Norouzi
The Mossadegh Project | April 21, 2010
New introduction by Arash Norouzi — June 16, 2012
Today is the 130th anniversary of the birth of Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh, an Iranian statesman who, at great personal sacrifice, dedicated his life in the pursuit of freedom and justice for his country. Though he left this world in 1967, he remains to many a symbol of virtue in a political arena which — now as in the past — overflows with despotism.
This week also marks the third anniversary of a pivotal moment in the Iranian people’s continuous struggle with the fundamentalist regime which has ruled over it for more than three decades. The post-election protests in Iran on June 15, 2009 marked the birth of the Green Movement, the most vital anti-government uprising in the history of the Islamic regime. Though its monstrousness, crystallized by the slain figure of Neda, was deeply upsetting to witness, the energy of the movement generated newfound hope — that out of the darkness, light could come.
The day following Mossadegh’s birthday is fittingly, Father’s Day, June 17th. Like the ‘Founding Fathers’ in America, Mossadegh has often been referred to as a father figure in Iran — the “Father of the Nation”. So this ‘parental’ theme for influential statesmen has a universal resonance.
Ideally, parents protect, nurture and guide their children, passing on values that serve them throught their lifetime. When you think about it, this, in essence, is also the role of a great leader. Conversely, an abusive parent, like an authoritarian and unaccountable government, can do untold damage — indeed, entire generations can suffer as a result. Although known for their words, political figures, like mothers and fathers, lead best by example.
Mr. Nosratollah Khazeni served Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh as his office chief during the entire 28 months of his premiership. Years later in an interview, he reminisced about his experience of working for him. Khazeni died on December 28, 2008 at the age of 90.
The following translated portions of his interview, published in the Persian book Mossadegh in the Presence of History by Mahmoud Tolouee, demonstrate examples of Mossadegh’s character. Perhaps these stories will recall memories of a kind elder relative, teacher or mentor.
“Mossadegh would refuse to accept the smallest gift even from people closest to him. He would not even allow the diplomatic gifts to come to his house. He had arranged for the gifts to be delivered directly to Golestan Palace for safekeeping with the office of royal effects.
One day Mossadegh asked me to pay 200 toomans to his son Gholam-Hossein who was a medical doctor. I asked what is it for? He said it’s for a shot he had given him. I responded, “Why pay him. He is your son!” He replied, “Anyone who is in politics should avoid receiving a favor financially or otherwise from anyone else, since later on one may be asked to play favoritism in return. The indebtedness places one in a weaker position and that is why I never want to be indebted to anyone, even if that person is my son!”
“I remember once Mr. A. T. Kalali, a large land owner and a friend of Dr. Mossadegh from Mashhad had sent him a small truck loaded with kharbozeh [famous melon from Mashhad, and a favorite of Mossadegh’s]. Mossadegh was not pleased and thought it would set a bad precedent, and besides it’s unnecessary since those melons are available in Tehran. Mossadegh said the truck should return to the sender as is. I told him that by the time it reaches Mashhad all of the melons would be damaged or spoiled. Mossadegh was adamant and said he would not allow even one of the melons to be brought into his house. I then suggested the melons be taken to the mental asylum where they could be consumed by the patients, to which Mossadegh had no objection.
When, after delivering the melons, the men returned from the asylum, they reported to Mossadegh that the patients in the asylum were receiving inadequate food, nursing care, and are short of medications and there is a need to have their daily allocation of only 3 toomans per patient increased. Mossadegh immediately contacted Mr. Narieman, the Mayor of Tehran, and asked him to look into the matter and find a source of additional funding as soon as possible. Soon after, the mayor reported that the budget allocation has been increased to 10 toomans per patient.”
Mossadegh’s Support for Domestic Products
“Everything Mossadegh had was domestically made—clothes, shoes and everything else! He made an exception when he decided to go to the United States [to attend the UN Security Council]. I remember that a suit was tailored for him using Sportex fabric for the occasion. This material would not easily get wrinkled and required no ironing, a good choice for his long trip. Otherwise Mossadegh’s usual clothing was generally made of barak [a thick cloth made of camel or goat hair, used mainly by shepherds and ascetics] and for the summer his clothes were made with a thin fabric woven in Osco.”
“One day Mr. Arbab Mehdi Yazdi, a tea importer and head of the tea importers union, requested to meet with Dr. Mossadegh. I told Dr. Mossadegh that Yazdi, with several business people, are coming to meet with him to discuss their business. Mossadegh said, in that case brew Laheejan Tea for the guests [Laheejan is a city by the Caspian Sea and used to be a major quality tea producer in the country].
Once the group finished drinking their tea, Mossadegh asked the visiting guests how did they like their tea? Mehdi Yazdi responded that the tea was excellent. Mossadegh pointed out that tea is produced in Iran. After this exchange the businessmen did not bring up the issue of more importation of tea and departed. Mossadegh this way made Yazdi to confess that the Iranian tea is the best and there was no need to import more tea!”
“During his 28 months as premier Mossadegh personally paid for all his expenses [Mossadegh never drew a salary as minister, Majles deputy or as Prime Minister]. Not a penny from government allocated money to the Prime Minister was used. He provided three meals a day for 50 soldiers and non-commissioned officers who were stationed in and around his house. He ate the same food the soldiers received. One day he saw that the soldiers’ food tray contained only a quarter of a cantaloupe, to which he objected. He said these are young soldiers and should receive half a cantaloupe.
When he travelled to the U.S. he paid all the expenses for himself, his son [who was also his personal physician] and daughter [Zia-ashraf as personal nurse and secretary] as well as the advisers. He paid for all the gifts he gave during his trip including to President Truman.
While Prime Minister his wife was raising two orphans in their house. She would use their Land Rover jeep to bring patients from Ahmadabad [Mossadegh’s ancestral village] to Najmieh hospital [a charity hospital named after his mother and funded by Mossadegh himself]. After receiving free care the patients would be taken back to their village. Mossadegh always appreciated people’s good work and would reward them with bonuses, etc. One day he became upset because I refused to accept his bonus. He said nobody has the right to return my checks! I told him that at times I worked until midnight, and I do it to serve my country. Please don’t convert my dedication into money. Mossadegh said, alright you win!”
“Mossadegh never rode in the Prime Minister’s vehicle and used his own green Plymouth to get around. One day his private accountant Mr. Sharafatian who had been with him for 46 years had gotten a ride in a government car. Mossadegh scolded him for riding in a government car while not being a government employee! Mossadegh never spent a penny from his "secret funds" which he could have spent for anything he wanted without reporting. He said I have no secret work to use it for! The money then would return to the treasury. It was calculated that he spent 2.6 Million toomans [of his own funds] by the end of his 28 months as Prime Minister.”
Mossadegh’s Respect for Women
“Mossadegh had great respect for his wife and was very loyal to her. He despised men who would take a second wife. One evening near midnight, he received a call from a woman whose husband worked for him. She told Mossadegh that her husband had not come home for several nights and has told her that he is staying in Dr. Mossadegh’s house because of heavy work. In the morning Mossadegh asked me to investigate and find out where the employee goes. I learned that he has taken another wife and is spending nights in her place.
When Mossadegh heard about this he said that not only has he lied, he has also left his wife who has lived with him through difficulties for a younger wife. Mossadegh asked me to fire him unless he agrees to let his first wife receive his salary. To make it legal I summoned the man and told him that he has two options: being fired from his job, or signing this power of attorney to allow his wife to receive his monthly salary. He chose to sign the document rather than being fired!”
Mossadegh’s Honesty and Dedication
“His oath was always "be Hagh-e-Khoda" [What is due to God, In God I trust]. He was always very attentive. In terms of honesty, integrity, and purity he had no equal. He never uttered a lie. He never said anything unlawful. If there was a dispute between two people, even between a servant and a minister, he would first investigate and would then offer a judgment without prejudice.
He lived very simply and there was not a single luxury piece of furniture in his house. He had a number of inexpensive chairs, very few furniture pieces and carpets. When his house was looted during the coup, all his belongings were worth not more than 30,000 toomans. He worked from 6:00 AM until late at night and often past midnight. In one word, what I learned by working for Dr. Mossadegh is how one truly can love his country and offer his life and possessions wholeheartedly in its service.”
Interviews With Mossadegh Associates in Ahmadabad | (VIDEO)
Iranian Students in U.S. Honor Late Leader, Dr. Mossadegh (March 1967)
State of Health of Former Prime Minister Mossadeq (1967 memo)
MOSSADEGH...My Childhood Memory - by Ebrahim Norouzi, MD
MOSSADEGH t-shirts — “If I sit silently, I have sinned”