Sadegh Ghotbzadeh

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Sadegh Ghotbzadeh
Sadegh Ghotbzadeh.jpg
Ghotbzadeh in 1980
Minister of Foreign Affairs
In office
29 November 1979 3 August 1980
President Abolhassan Banisadr
Prime Minister Mohammad-Ali Rajaei
Preceded by Abolhassan Banisadr
Succeeded by Karim Khodapanahi
Head of National Radio and Television
In office
11 February 1979 29 November 1979
Appointed by Council of the Revolution
Preceded by Reza Ghotbi
Succeeded byProvisional Council
Personal details
Born24 February 1936
Isfahan, Iran
Died16 September 1982(1982-09-16) (aged 46)
Evin prison, Tehran, Iran
Nationality Iranian
Political party

Sadegh Ghotbzadeh (Persian : صادق قطب‌زاده, 24 February 1936 – 15 September 1982) was a close aide of Ayatollah Khomeini during his 1978 exile in France, and foreign minister (30 November 1979August 1980) during the Iran hostage crisis following the Iranian Revolution. In 1982, he was executed for allegedly plotting the assassination of Ayatollah Khomeini and the overthrow of the Islamic Republic.

Persian language Western Iranian language

Persian, also known by its endonym Farsi, is a Western Iranian language within the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European language family. It is a pluricentric language primarily spoken in Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and some other regions which historically were Persianate societies and considered part of Greater Iran. It is written right to left in the Persian alphabet, a modified variant of the Arabic script.

France Republic with mainland in Europe and numerous oversea territories

France, officially the French Republic, is a country whose territory consists of metropolitan France in Western Europe and several overseas regions and territories. The metropolitan area of France extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and the North Sea, and from the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean. It is bordered by Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany to the northeast, Switzerland and Italy to the east, and Andorra and Spain to the south. The overseas territories include French Guiana in South America and several islands in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans. The country's 18 integral regions span a combined area of 643,801 square kilometres (248,573 sq mi) and a total population of 67.0 million. France, a sovereign state, is a unitary semi-presidential republic with its capital in Paris, the country's largest city and main cultural and commercial centre. Other major urban areas include Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Lille and Nice.

Iran hostage crisis diplomatic standoff between Iran and the United States, 1979–81

The Iran hostage crisis was a diplomatic standoff between the United States and Iran. Fifty-two American diplomats and citizens were held hostage for 444 days from November 4, 1979, to January 20, 1981, after a group of Iranian college students belonging to the Muslim Student Followers of the Imam's Line, who supported the Iranian Revolution, took over the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. It stands as the longest hostage crisis in recorded history.


Early life and education

Ghotbzadeh was born in Isfahan in 1936. [2] He had a sister and a brother. [3] His father was a wealthy lumber merchant. [4]

Isfahan City in Iran

Isfahan is a city in Iran. It is located 406 kilometres south of Tehran, and is the capital of Isfahan Province.

As a student, he was active in the student branch of the National Front following the toppling of Mohammad Mosaddegh in 1953. [5] He left Iran in 1959 after being detained twice due to his opposition activities to the Shah's regime; he lived in Europe, the US and Canada. [3] [2] Ghotbzadeh was a supporter of the National Front of Iran. In addition he was one of the senior members of the Freedom Movement of Iran led by Mehdi Bazargan in the 1960s. [6]

National Front (Iran) political opposition party in Iran

The National Front of Iran is an opposition political organization in Iran, founded by Mohammad Mosaddegh in 1949. It is the oldest and arguably the largest pro-democracy group operating inside Iran despite having never been able to recover the prominence it had in the early 1950s.

Mohammad Mosaddegh Prime Minister of Iran in the 1950s

Mohammad Mosaddegh was the 35th prime minister of Iran, holding office from 1951 until 1953, when his government was overthrown in the 1953 Iranian coup d'état orchestrated by the United States' Central Intelligence Agency and the United Kingdom's MI6.

Freedom Movement of Iran

The Freedom Movement of Iran (FMI) or Liberation Movement of Iran is an Iranian pro-democracy political organization founded in 1961, by members describing themselves as "Muslims, Iranians, Constitutionalists and Mossadeghists". It is the oldest party still active in Iran and has been described as a "semi-opposition" or "loyal opposition" party. It has also been described as a "religious nationalist party".

He attended Georgetown University's Walsh School of Foreign Service from 1959 to 1963. He contributed to the movement from the US. [6] He was part of the more radical wing of the movement together with Ebrahim Yazdi, Mostafa Chamran and Ali Shariati. [7] However, he was dismissed from the school before graduating due to his skipping studies and exams to lead protests against the government of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, including storming a posh party hosted by the then Iranian ambassador to the United States, the son-in-law of the Shah, Ardeshir Zahedi. [8]

Georgetown University Private university in Washington, D.C., United States

Georgetown University is a private research university in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C. Founded in 1789 as Georgetown College, the university has grown to comprise nine undergraduate and graduate schools, among which are the School of Foreign Service, School of Business, Medical School, and Law School. Located on a hill above the Potomac River, the school's main campus is identifiable by its flagship Healy Hall, a National Historic Landmark. Georgetown offers degree programs in forty-eight disciplines, enrolling an average of 7,500 undergraduate and 10,000 post-graduate students from more than 135 countries.

Ebrahim Yazdi Iranian politician and activist

Ebrahim Yazdi was an Iranian politician, pharmacist, and diplomat who served as deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs in the interim government of Mehdi Bazargan, until his resignation in November 1979, in protest at the Iran hostage crisis. From 1995 until 2017, he headed the Freedom Movement of Iran. Yazdi was also a trained cancer researcher.

Mostafa Chamran Iranian politician

Mostafa Chamran Save'ei was an Iranian physicist, politician, commander and guerrilla who served as the first defense minister of post-revolutionary Iran and as member of parliament, as well as the commander of paramilitary volunteers in Iran–Iraq War, known as "Irregular Warfare Headquarters". He was killed during the Iran–Iraq War. In Iran, he is known as a martyr and a symbol of an ideological and revolutionary Muslim who left academic careers and prestigious positions as a scientist and professor in the US, University of California, Berkeley and migrated in order to help the Islamic movements in Palestine, Lebanon, Egypt as a chief revolutionary guerilla, as well as in the Islamic revolution of Iran. He helped to found the Amal Movement in southern Lebanon.

Ghotbzadeh left the US when his passport was revoked and moved to Algeria, Egypt, Syria and finally to Iraq, where he met Ayatollah Khomenei in 1963. [4] [2] In December of the same year Ghotbzadeh along with Chamran and Yazdi met the Egyptian authorities to establish an anti-Shah organization in the country, which was later called SAMA, special organization for unity and action. [7] [9] Chamran was chosen as its military head. [7] Ghotbzadeh also developed a close relation with Musa Al Sadr, an Iranian-Lebanese Shia cleric. [10] [11] During his stay in the Middle East, Ghotbzadeh was trained in Lebanon together with Iranian revolutionary militants and Palestinians. [12]

Algeria Country in North Africa

Algeria, officially the People's Democratic Republic of Algeria, is a country in the Maghreb region of North Africa. The capital and most populous city is Algiers, located in the far north of the country on the Mediterranean coast. With an area of 2,381,741 square kilometres (919,595 sq mi), Algeria is the tenth-largest country in the world, the world's largest Arab country, and the largest in Africa. Algeria is bordered to the northeast by Tunisia, to the east by Libya, to the west by Morocco, to the southwest by the Western Saharan territory, Mauritania, and Mali, to the southeast by Niger, and to the north by the Mediterranean Sea. The country is a semi-presidential republic consisting of 48 provinces and 1,541 communes (counties). It has the highest human development index of all non-island African countries.

Egypt Country spanning North Africa and Southwest Asia

Egypt, officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, is a country spanning the northeast corner of Africa and southwest corner of Asia by a land bridge formed by the Sinai Peninsula. Egypt is a Mediterranean country bordered by the Gaza Strip and Israel to the northeast, the Gulf of Aqaba and the Red Sea to the east, Sudan to the south, and Libya to the west. Across the Gulf of Aqaba lies Jordan, across the Red Sea lies Saudi Arabia, and across the Mediterranean lie Greece, Turkey and Cyprus, although none share a land border with Egypt.

Syria Country in Western Asia

Syria, officially the Syrian Arab Republic, is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon to the southwest, the Mediterranean Sea to the west, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest. A country of fertile plains, high mountains, and deserts, Syria is home to diverse ethnic and religious groups, including Syrian Arabs, Greeks, Armenians, Assyrians, Kurds, Circassians, Mandeans and Turkemens. Religious groups include Sunnis, Christians, Alawites, Druze, Isma'ilis, Mandeans, Shiites, Salafis, Yazidis, and Jews. Sunnis make up the largest religious group in Syria.

In the late 1960s, Ghotbzadeh went to Canada for higher education and graduated from now defunct Notre Dame University College in Nelson, BC, in 1969. [3] Next he settled in Paris using his Syrian passport which he obtained through the help of Musa Al Sadr. [11] [13] There he worked as a correspondent for the Syrian government daily, Al Thawra . [13] [14] The job, in fact, was fake and covered his opposition activity in the city. [13] [14]

Canada Country in North America

Canada is a country in the northern part of North America. Its ten provinces and three territories extend from the Atlantic to the Pacific and northward into the Arctic Ocean, covering 9.98 million square kilometres, making it the world's second-largest country by total area. Canada's southern border with the United States, stretching some 8,891 kilometres (5,525 mi), is the world's longest bi-national land border. Its capital is Ottawa, and its three largest metropolitan areas are Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver. As a whole, Canada is sparsely populated, the majority of its land area being dominated by forest and tundra. Consequently, its population is highly urbanized, with over 80 percent of its inhabitants concentrated in large and medium-sized cities, with 70% of citizens residing within 100 kilometres (62 mi) of the southern border. Canada's climate varies widely across its vast area, ranging from arctic weather in the north, to hot summers in the southern regions, with four distinct seasons.

Notre Dame University College was a private university in Nelson, British Columbia, Canada. It was established in 1950 by the Roman Catholic diocese of Nelson and opened with twelve students. In 1951 Notre Dame became affiliated as a junior college with Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington, United States, and in 1961 it became affiliated with St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. In 1963, it was chartered as a private four-year university by the Province of British Columbia. Shortly thereafter, it adopted the name Notre Dame University of Nelson (NDU).

Nelson, British Columbia City in British Columbia, Canada

Nelson is a city located in the Selkirk Mountains on the extreme West Arm of Kootenay Lake in the Southern Interior of British Columbia, Canada. Known as "The Queen City", and acknowledged for its impressive collection of restored heritage buildings from its glory days in a regional silver rush, Nelson is one of the three cities forming the commercial and population core of the West Kootenay region, the others being Castlegar and Trail. The city is the seat of the Regional District of Central Kootenay. It is represented in the provincial legislature by the riding of Nelson-Creston, and in the Parliament of Canada by the riding of Kootenay—Columbia.

Career and activities

Ghotbzadeh left the Freedom Movement in 1978. [15] He became a close aide of Ayatollah Khomeini when the latter was in exile in France. Ghotbzadeh along with Mostafa Chamran was part of the faction, called "Syrian mafia", in the court of Khomeini, and there was a feud between his group and the Libya-friendly group, led by Mohammad Montazeri. [16] Ghotbzadeh was an Amal sympathizer and close to Lebanese Shii cleric Musa Al Sadr. [17] Khomeini appointed him a member of the follow-up mission to search for fate of Al Sadr following the latter's disappearance in August 1978. [17]

Ghotbzadeh accompanied Khomeini on his Air France flight back to Iran on 1 February 1979. [18] It was Ghotbzadeh, who translated the Ayatollah's infamous response "Hichi (Nothing)" to journalist John Simpson's question: "Ayatollah, would you be so kind as to tell us how you feel about being back in Iran?" [18] He was also Khomeini's translator in the press conference held in Tehran on 3 February 1979. [19]

Following the Iranian Revolution Ghotbzadeh became a member of the revolutionary council when Bazargan and others left the council to form an interim government. [4] [5] [20] In addition, he served as spokesperson of the Ayatollah. [21] He was also appointed managing director of National Iranian Radio and Television (NIRT) on 11 February 1979. [22] He tried to overhaul it to be in line with Islamic teachings, purging royalists, women, and leftists. [23] This was criticised by a group of Iranian intellectuals and also the interim government. On 13 March, two women, one with a gun and the other with a knife, attacked Ghotbzadeh protesting the fundamentalist policies of the Islamic regime. [21] Nearly 15,000 women also gathered outside the headquarters of the NIRT to protest his Islamist policy. [24]

He was appointed foreign minister in late November 1979 [25] after Abolhassan Banisadr resigned as acting foreign minister amid heated disputes on the fate of the American hostages. In early 1980 Ghotbzadeh was involved in early Iran hostage crisis negotiations in Paris with Carter aide Hamilton Jordan, which led to "a complex multi-stepped plan" [26] which was torpedoed by Khomeini announcing the hostages' fate would be decided by the new Iranian parliament. [27]

Ghotbzadeh wrote an open letter to the Majlis in August 1980 arguing for the quick release of the hostages, and told Reuters five days later that "United States presidential candidate Ronald Reagan, supported by Kissinger and others, has no intention of solving the problem. They will do everything in their power to block it." [28] In September and October, he made several other public statements alleging that a deal to delay the release of the hostages may have taken place. [28] The French news agency Agence France Presse quoted him on 6 September as stating the "Reagan camp was trying hard to block a solution of the [hostage] problem before the elections" and that he had "information" to prove it. [28] On 11 September, the open letter was published in an Iranian newspaper with similar charges. [28] A decade later in 1991, Joseph E. Persico of The New York Times concluded a review of Gary Sick's book October Surprise stating: "Two friends of Ghotbzadeh who spoke to him frequently during this period said that he insisted repeatedly that the Republicans were in contact with elements in Iran to try to block a hostage release." [29] [30] The House October Surprise Task Force investigating the October Surprise allegations interviewed close associates of Ghotbzadeh and concluded in 1993 that they "uncovered nothing to corroborate Ghotbzadeh's statements". [31]

After the failure of the rescue attempt decided upon by President Carter, he qualified this decision an "act of war" against Iran. However, Ghotbzadeh was not committed anti-American during his tenure. [17]

In January 1980, Ghotbzadeh ran for the presidency, but lost the election. [2] His tenure as foreign minister ended in August 1980 [22] and he was replaced by Karim Khodapanahi in the post. [32] Following his retirement from politics Ghotbzadeh dealt with his family trade in the importing business [2] and studied Islamic law. [5]

Arrest and execution

Ghotbzadeh during trial defends self Sadegh Ghotbzadeh in court (03).jpg
Ghotbzadeh during trial defends self

Ghotbzadeh was first arrested on 7 November 1980 on charges of planning to kill Ayatollah Khomeini and criticising the Islamic Republic Party and put in the Evin prison. [33] [34] He was released on 10 November when Ayatollah Khomeini intervened. [22] [35]

On 8 April 1982, he was arrested along with a group of army officers and clerics (including a son-in-law of the religious leader Ayatollah Kazem Shariatmadari), all accused of plotting the assassination of Ayatollah Khomeini and the overthrow of the Islamic Republic. [36] [37]

At an April 1982 "press conference", hujjat al-Islam Mohammad Reyshahri, the chief judge of the newly created Military Revolutionary Tribunal, explained the plot with "an elaborate chart full of boxes and arrows linking Ghotbzadeh and the royalist officers, on one side, to `the feudalists, the leftist mini-groups, and the phony clerics` and on the other side, to the `National Front, Israel, the Pahlavis and the Socialist International.` The last four were linked to the CIA." [38]

Rumors include the story that Ayatollah Khomeini initially did not want to execute Ghotbzadeh; but, he was persuaded to do so after hearing a tape of Ghotbzadeh in prison agreeing to pay money and provide the contact information of his allies in France in exchange for his freedom.[ citation needed ] Ghotbzadeh supposedly told this to a fellow prisoner specifically hired to entrap him.[ citation needed ] The veracity of these rumors is unknown.

Trial of Ghotbzadeh began in August 1982 and in the court he denied the accusations, but confirmed the existence of a plot to topple the Islamic government and to form a "real republic". [2] His forced confessions, which were aired, are said to have come only after severe torture on the part of the Iranian Police. [36] On late 15 September 1982 in Evin prison of Tehran, Ghotbzadeh was shot by a firing squad following a 26-day trial and after the Military Revolutionary Tribunal found him guilty and sentenced him to death. [39] [40] He was 46. [2]


Abolhassan Banisadr, who had been in exile in Paris, stated that Ghotbzadeh's execution was "settling of accounts". [3]

Personal life

Ghotbzadeh never married. [2] He was fluent in French and English, other than his native Persian. [3]


In 1987, Canadian journalist Carole Jerome published a book, The man in the mirror: A story of love, revolution and treachery in Iran detailing both her romantic relationship with Ghotbzadeh and her journalistic account of the revolution. [41] In his 1991 book, Inside the KGB: Myth and Reality, Vladimir Kuzichkin claimed that Ghotbzadeh had been an agent of the Soviet military intelligence service during his studies in the United States, adding that he had later detached himself from it. [25] The book also alleged that the KGB had fabricated and placed a false CIA cable to an unnamed American agent in Iran in his residence, which was used as evidence to arrest and try him. [25]

Ben Affleck's 2012 movie, Argo , used a real clip of Ghotbzadeh, showing him accusing Canada of "flagrantly violating international law." [42] Ghotbzadeh's great niece, Sanaz Ghajarrahimi, wrote and directed a play, named Red Wednesday, which was presented at the New Ohio Theatre in New York from 26 July to 3 August 2013. [43] [44] It was inspired by Ghotbzadeh's controversial life. [43] [45]

In 2017 Ali Sajjadi, a Persian journalist based in Washington DC, published a collection of Sadegh Ghotbzadeh manuscripts. Sajjadi also interviewed many friends and colleagues of Ghotbzadeh for the book. [46]

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Political offices
Preceded by
Abolhassan Banisadr
Foreign minister of Iran
Succeeded by
Karim Khodapanahi