Ebrahim Norouzi, MD
Former National Front spokesman Asghar Parsa's life and career closely paralleled the ups and downs of his country. His 207 page memoir, written in a conversational style, is rich with anecdotes and observations from his unique vantage point.
Parsa graduated Tehran School of Law and Political Science in 1941, and began his career in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with a mission to China during the Sino-Japanese War of 1937-1945. By the time he returned to Iran, oil nationalization had become a hot topic. Soon after, he was assigned to represent his ministry in the Oil Committee that had been set up by the Majles and headed by Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh. Later, during Mossadegh's premiership, he joined the delegation which traveled to the International Court of Justice to defend Iran against the British complaint. In 1952, he was elected to the Majles representing his hometown of Khoy and later joined the Iran Party and served as the National Front spokesman.
When, in July 1952, Mossadegh resigned as Prime Minister following a dispute with Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, Parsa was one of several progressives who signed a petition in Mossadegh's support. According to Parsa, the following day the Shah met with some of Mossadegh’s supporters and said “You tell the people [demonstrating in favor of Mossadegh] that if they persevere, I'll send the army to confront them”. Parsa writes that he told the Shah, “These people, men and women, do not pay taxes to buy bullets with which to kill people...and if his Highness insists on this, as a people’s messenger, I'll tell them to defend themselves.” The Shah responded “I have nothing more to say to you”, and got up and left. Three days later, the people's revolt in the 30 Tir uprising resulted in the return of Dr. Mossadegh as Prime Minister.
Following the 1953 coup, Parsa spent about six months in jail. Later, in 1960, when the political atmosphere was somewhat relaxed, he resumed his political activism. One day he participated in a sit-in at the Senate building, demanding a free election. For him and many others, this was punished by detention lasting about two months.
Another period of incarceration followed, this time lasting nearly eight months. Among his many cell mates, besides the National Front members, were Mehdi Bazargan and Ayatollah Taleghani. While there he learned that some prisoners were offered positions in the cabinet on the condition that they not question the Shah’s authority or oppose his policies. None took the offer, though they did manage to plant a tree in the prison yard in honor of Dr. Mossadegh, who was still under house arrest at the time.
During Amir-Abbas Hoveyda's premiership, Parsa was asked to meet with Hoveyda, whom he had worked with during his years in the Foreign Ministry. Hoveyda confessed to him, “I have nothing to do with any of the country’s affairs. The Shah, himself, is running everything.” However, he believed the Shah's future, along with his own, was secure. “I know the system will survive, and I have learned not to say anything in opposition and never to disagree with any of the Shah’s policies”, he explained. “Whatever he wishes I obey, there is no risk to me.” After 13 years of serving the Shah, Hoveyda was imprisoned by him in response to the mounting criticism of his regime. He remained in prison until the revolution, and shortly after the establishment of the Islamic government, he was executed.
After the 1979 Iranian revolution, the National Front resumed activity. However, two years later, Ayatollah Khomeini declared the party to be “morted” (apostate) in a radio address, causing it to essentially fold and its newspaper, which Parsa edited, to cease publication. Parsa was forced to go into hiding, and after two years, he was discovered and imprisoned. Mr. Parsa's memoir ends abruptly at this juncture. The introduction to the book, written by his son, Ali Parsa, explains that “...the publication of the portion of his memoirs related to the years following the revolution and his period of imprisonment was not possible.” This, of course, was due to government censorship in Iran. Parsa passed away in 2007.
Mr. Asghar Parsa's book adds a useful perspective to a complicated and a very important period in Iran’s political history.
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