Posted by: Lister | April 30, 2007

Behzad Yaghmaian after the CIA led coup

Behzad Yaghmaian was born in 1953, the same year the democratic government of Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh was overthrown with the help of the CIA. That’s how his account begins at ZNet. Of course later, Iran went from being America’s ally to enemy…

The hostage crisis opened a new chapter in the Iranian-American relationship, evoking anger among some of my fellow students at Fordham. A long banner, for instance, hanging from a wall of one of the dormitories read: “Save Oil, Burn Iranians.” Hoping to offer a sense of the Iranian grievances against the U.S. that lay behind these events, I agreed to be interviewed by the student paper. I explained the way the effects of the CIA’s covert action in the 1953 coup had rippled down to our moment, how Iranian democracy had been a victim of American support for the Shah.

A few days after the interview was published, in a letter to the paper’s editor, a group of students wrote, “The Iranian student must watch his back when he walks home alone late at night.” Similar threats continued, along with occasional physical harassment. Meanwhile, Iranian students in southern states were reportedly denied service at restaurants and gas stations — “No Gas for Iranians,” was a gas-station sign of the times; some were even beaten up.

Back in Iran, those imprisoned by the Shah are released (prisoners of conscience — free at last!), then some of those same people are imprisoned again (friends of the great Satan!). Meet the new boss…. Same as the old boss.

Yaghmaian himself spends a night in an Iranian prison after he returns as a visiting lecturer. His cellmates talk with enthusiasm about America and wonder how they can emigrate. Soon after he’s released, he is warned by a friend to leave “quietly and soon.”

It’s worth reading the whole article, but here’s the ending:

The specter of war is haunting me now. Recurring nightmares interrupt my sleep. I see those last houses in my old neighborhood reduced to rubble and dust, bridges destroyed, homes burned to the ground. In my solitude, I wonder how my neighbors in New York will treat me if a war breaks out. Will they display American flag decals on their windows? Will they tie yellow ribbons to trees? I think of my students, and wonder whether they will see me as an enemy the day the United States begins bombing Iran or will they think to consol me, to ask how my family is coping with the war? Will they sooner or later be dispatched to Iran to aim their guns at my loved ones?

I wish to tell my students and neighbors of the dream I have been carrying with me for years. I dream, someday, of returning to the place I’ve kept so close to my heart, of breathing the fresh air in the mountains surrounding Tehran, of drinking tea in the humble teahouses on the bank of the narrow stream that gives life to those barren hills. I dream of buying fresh parsley and tomatoes from the old man on the street corner next to my mother’s home, greeting the baker with a smile.

Will American bombs kill my dream?



  1. “the same year the democratic government of Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh was overthrown”
    This is an interesting start. Could you please explain how he was elected as I do not recall any elections under the Imperial constitution where a prime minister is elected by the people. Last time I looked the Shah chose the PM. The PM ousted the King that chose him which was against the Iranian constitution. Under this premiss what do you mean by ‘democratic government’?
    please answer the question after reading the Imperial constitution of Iran.

  2. Mossadegh was elected by the Iranian Majlis.

    And, no, I’m not reading the Imperial Constitution of Iran. Every authority I’ve read refers to Mossadegh as democratically elected and his removal as a coup. I can’t believe that so many experts could all have it wrong for so long.

    If you want to split hairs about whether or not the Iranian people directly elected Mossadegh, then split them. While you do that, please compare it with the situation in Britain.

    In Britain, technically, we don’t vote for a Prime Minister. We vote for a party. Doesn’t change the way people talk about it.

    Is Gordon Brown democratically elected? The people didn’t vote for him. Not directly, anyway.

    The Queen of England stills accepts him as her Prime Minister. It’s expected of her. Link:

    In appointing a Prime Minister, the Sovereign is guided by constitutional conventions. The main requirement is to find someone who can command the confidence of the House of Commons.

    This is normally secured by appointing the leader of the party with an overall majority of seats in the Commons, but there could still be exceptional circumstances when The Queen might need to exercise discretion to ensure that her Government is carried on.

    Such as when no-one has an overall majority.

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