Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

A Party in Exile: Is It a Realistic Hope?

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

A Party in Exile: Is It a Realistic Hope?

Article excerpt

A Party in Exile: Is It a Realistic Hope?

By Nazie Isfahani

With the recent worsening of relations between the United States and Iran, and given Iran's current economic situation, some observers predict an exile force may take power there. This is the hope of one political exile, Hassan Nazih, who served as director general of the National Iranian Oil Company in the first post-revolutionary government under Prime Minister Mehdi Bazargan.

Born in 1920 in Tabriz, capital of the northern province of Azerbaijan, Nazih studied law and obtained his degree from the University of Tehran at age 24. After three years as a judge, he returned to Europe to further his studies.

In 1953, he interrupted his doctoral studies at the University of Geneva to return to Iran. There he created a political movement opposed to the removal from office by Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi of Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadeq. Although he had been appointed by the Shah, Mossadeq was an outspoken nationalist who expropriated the British-owned Iran Oil Company and often condemned the Shah's inability to free himself from Western influence.

Although he was politically active and already had joined the nationalist party, "Iran," as a young student, Nazih formally entered the political scene by working within the Iranian Bar Association (IBA), eventually becoming its president.

Continued Defiance of the Shah

Mossadeq died in 1967, but Nazih continued his defiance of the Shah until the Islamic revolution by working with opposition forces such as the National Front, which was banned by the SAVAK, the Shah's secret police. Nazih founded several organizations including the Association of Iranian Jurists, which he directed from 1966 until 1978.

He also created the IBA's Human Rights Commission, which was banned in 1980, a year after the Islamic Revolution, by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini for its outspoken opposition to the Islamic regime. Many of its members were jailed and seven were executed.

Ironically, it was that same Islamic Revolution that thrust Nazih to the forefront of the national political scene. In 1979, after considering Nazih's record of opposition to the Shah's rule--by then he had been jailed three times by the SAVAK--Mehdi Bazargan appointed Nazih to head the National Iranian Oil Company.

As the revolutionary government began implementing the shariah or Islamic law, Nazih began his opposition to the Khomeini regime. Seven months later, Nazih was ousted from his position for opposing the clergy's decision to fire 40,000 oil workers accused of participating in anti-regime activities.

When he was summoned to appear for trial by the late Khomeini on charges of treason and violation of Islamic law--for which he might have been sentenced to death--Nazih escaped from Iran and took refuge in France. There, like most Iranian political exiles, he has remained active in the Iranian community.

Internal Reform Precluded

Nazih believes that the fear of harsh sentences precludes effective internal reform from within Iran or its government bodies. …

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