Dr. Saeid Fatemi — a scholar, writer, and Iranian historical figure — died in Atlanta, Georgia, Wed. January 4, 2017, at age 90.
I met Dr. Fatemi in August 2006 at a conference held in Northern Virginia marking the 100th anniversary of Iran’s Constitutional Revolution. I had a selection of Mossadegh shirts displayed there and he approached me to buy one. He was complimentary and asked if I had done it myself. I remember thinking it rather remarkable that a personal associate of Dr. Mossadegh would converge with me in this way, all these years later.
I did not realize it at the time, but he had a subtle connection to Mossadegh’s words on the shirt, “If I sit silently, I have sinned.” That quote happened to be borne out of a very pivotal moment in Iranian history, following a massive 1949 demonstration against election rigging by the royal court. Saeid Fatemi was there beside Dr. Mossadegh during this dramatic street protest and palace sit-in, which led shortly to Mossadegh’s statement confirming his renewed dedication to the cause of fighting for democracy in Iran.
The newly formed National Front, under the leadership of Mossadegh, would consolidate their influence in 1951, when Mossadegh became Prime Minister. In 1952, when Mossadegh went to the International Court of Justice at the Hague in the Netherlands, Saeid Fatemi acted as his personal secretary and translator during the entire trip.
World Court: Premier Mossadegh, son Gholam-Hossein and Saeid Fatemi at the Hague (1952).
Saeid Fatemi and Premier Mohammad Mossadegh (1952).
Fatemi was also an up close witness to the seismic military coup of August 19, 1953. As army gunfire sprayed Mossadegh’s home, Saeid happened to be in the building, and helped Foreign Minister Hossein Fatemi to evacuate safely, firing off a few shots in the air as they escaped.
After the coup, Dr. Hossein Fatemi, who was his uncle, was arrested, beaten, brutally stabbed and then later executed by the Shah’s firing squad. Saeid himself was imprisoned for nearly 10 years. Upon release, he began teaching at Tehran University. In 1965, he married Minoo Varzegar (who became a distinguished professor and author), and they had two daughters.
When Mr. Fatemi learned my name he said, “Ahhh, Arash”, leaning back dramatically to pantomime a bow shooting an arrow into the sky.1 He invited me to visit him in New Jersey some time, wrote down his address and phone number on a section of folded paper and walked off with his shirt, smiling.
I still remember his cheerful, light hearted, friendly demeanor. There was no trace of all the personal hardship and tragedy he went through.
Dr. Saeid Fatemi’s passing marks the end of an era. He was the youngest, and therefore last member of Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh’s inner circle.
We wish to extend our sincere condolences to his family and friends.
January 7, 2017
Saeid Fatemi speaking before a crowd gathered in front of the Majles (Parliament).
1 The name Arash derives from the legend of Arash Kamangir, a mythical Persian hero who saved Iran with his archery prowess, and died in the process.