Shapour Bakhtiar

Last updated

Shapour Bakhtiar
Shapour Bakhtiar portrait 2.jpg
45th Prime Minister of Iran
In office
4 January 1979 11 February 1979 [lower-alpha 1]
Monarch Mohammad Reza Pahlavi
Preceded by Gholam Reza Azhari
Succeeded by Mehdi Bazargan
Minister of Interior
In office
4 January 1979 11 February 1979
Prime MinisterHimself
Preceded by Abbas Gharabaghi
Succeeded by Ahmad Sayyed Javadi
Member of Regency Council
In office
13 January 1979 22 January 1979
Appointed by Mohammad Reza Pahlavi
Personal details
Born(1914-06-26)26 June 1914
Shahrekord, Persia
Died6 August 1991(1991-08-06) (aged 77)
Suresnes, France
Resting place Montparnasse Cemetery
Nationality Iranian
Political party
Other political
National Front (1949–1979)
Alma mater American University of Beirut
Institute of Political Studies
Signature Bakhtiar Signiture.png
Military service
AllegianceFlag of France.svg  France
Branch/service French Army
Years of service1940–1941
Unit30th Artillerie Regiment
Battles/wars World War II
  1. The office has been disputed between him and Mehdi Bazargan from 4 February to 11 February 1979.

Shapour Bakhtiar (Persian : شاپور بختیار Loudspeaker.svg Listen  ; 26 June 1914 6 August 1991) was an Iranian politician who served as the last Prime Minister of Iran under the Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi. He and his secretary were murdered in his home in Suresnes, near Paris by agents of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

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.

Iran Islamic Republic in Western Asia

Iran, also called Persia, and officially the Islamic Republic of Iran, is a country in Western Asia. With over 81 million inhabitants, Iran is the world's 18th most populous country. Its territory spans 1,648,195 km2 (636,372 sq mi), making it the second largest country in the Middle East and the 17th largest in the world. Iran is bordered to the northwest by Armenia and the Republic of Azerbaijan, to the north by the Caspian Sea, to the northeast by Turkmenistan, to the east by Afghanistan and Pakistan, to the south by the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, and to the west by Turkey and Iraq. Its central location in Eurasia and Western Asia, and its proximity to the Strait of Hormuz, give it geostrategic importance. Tehran is the capital, largest city, and leading economic and cultural center.


Early life

Bakhtiar was born on 26 June 1914 in southwestern Iran into a family of Iranian tribal nobility, the family of the paramount chieftains of the then powerful Bakthiari tribe. His father was Mohammad Reza Khan (Sardar-e-Fateh), his mother Naz-Baygom, both Lurs and Bakhtiaris. Bakhtiar's maternal grandfather, Najaf-Gholi Khan Samsam ol-Saltaneh, had been appointed prime minister twice, in 1912 and 1918. [1]

Bakhtiari people ancient southwestern Iranian tribe

The Bakhtiari are a southwestern Iranian tribe, and a subgroup of the Lurs. They speak the Bakhtiari dialect, a southwestern Iranian dialect, belonging to the Lurish language.

Lurs Iranian people

Lurs are an Iranian people living mainly in western and south-western Iran. Their population is estimated at around five million. They occupy Lorestan, Kohkiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad, Khuzestan and Fars, Bushehr, Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari, Hamadan, Ilam, and Isfahan provinces. The Lur people mostly speak the Lurish language, a Southwestern Iranian language related to Persian. According to the Encyclopaedia of Islam, the Lurish language is the closest living language to Archaic and Middle Persian. According to the linguist Don Still, Lori-Bakhtiari like Persian is derived directly from Old Persian. Michael M. Gunter states that Lur people are closely related to the Kurds but that they "apparently began to be distinguished from the Kurds 1,000 years ago." There is also a significant population of Iraqi Lurs in the eastern and central parts of Iraq, mainly known as Feylis.

Bakhtiar's mother died when he was seven years old. [2] His father was executed by Reza Shah in 1934 while Shapour was studying in Paris. [1] [2]

Reza Shah Shah of Iran, Founder of the Imperial state of iran

Reza Shah Pahlavi, commonly known as Reza Shah, was the Shah of Iran from 15 December 1925 until he was forced to abdicate by the Anglo-Soviet invasion of Iran on 16 September 1941.

Paris Capital city of France

Paris is the capital and most populous city of France, with an area of 105 square kilometres and an official estimated population of 2,140,526 residents as of 1 January 2019. Since the 17th century, Paris has been one of Europe's major centres of finance, diplomacy, commerce, fashion, science, as well as the arts. The City of Paris is the centre and seat of government of the Île-de-France, or Paris Region, which has an estimated official 2019 population of 12,213,364, or about 18 percent of the population of France. The Paris Region had a GDP of €709 billion in 2017. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit Worldwide Cost of Living Survey in 2018, Paris was the second most expensive city in the world, after Singapore, and ahead of Zurich, Hong Kong, Oslo and Geneva. Another source ranked Paris as most expensive, on a par with Singapore and Hong Kong, in 2018. The city is a major railway, highway, and air-transport hub served by two international airports: Paris-Charles de Gaulle and Paris-Orly. Opened in 1900, the city's subway system, the Paris Métro, serves 5.23 million passengers daily, and is the second busiest metro system in Europe after Moscow Metro. Gare du Nord is the 24th busiest railway station in the world, but the first located outside Japan, with 262 million passengers in 2015.


He attended elementary school in Shahr-e Kord and then secondary school, first in Isfahan and later in Beirut, where he received his high school diploma from a French school. [2] He attended Beirut University for two years. [3] He and his cousin, Teymour Bakhtiar, then went to Paris for additional university education. [3] There, he attended the College of Political Science. [3]

Beirut City in Lebanon

Beirut is the capital and largest city of Lebanon. No recent population census has been conducted, but 2007 estimates ranged from slightly more than 1 million to 2.2 million as part of Greater Beirut. Located on a peninsula at the midpoint of Lebanon's Mediterranean coast, Beirut is the country's largest and main seaport.

Being a firm opponent of totalitarian rule, he was active in the Spanish Civil War for the Second Spanish Republic against General Francisco Franco's fascism. In 1940, he volunteered for the French army –rather than the French Foreign Legion– and fought in the 30th Artillerie Regiment of Orleans. According to MEED , Bakhtiar did 18 months' military service. [4] While living in Saint-Nicolas-du-Pélem, he fought with the French Resistance against the German occupation. [5] [6] [1] In 1945, he received his PhD in political science as well as degrees in law and philosophy from the Sorbonne.

Spanish Civil War War between the Republicans and the Nationalists in Spain from 1936 to 1939

The Spanish Civil War took place from 1936 to 1939. Republicans loyal to the left-leaning Second Spanish Republic, in alliance with the Anarchists and Communists, fought against the Nationalists, an alliance of Falangists, Monarchists, Carlists, and Catholics, led by a military clique among whom General Francisco Franco soon achieved a preponderant role. Due to the international political climate at the time, the war had many facets, and different views saw it as class struggle, a war of religion, a struggle between dictatorship and republican democracy, between revolution and counterrevolution, between fascism and communism. The Nationalists won the war in early 1939 and ruled Spain until Franco's death in November 1975.

Second Spanish Republic the regime that existed in Spain, 1931 to 1939

The Spanish Republic, commonly known as the Second Spanish Republic, was the democratic government that existed in Spain from 1931 to 1939. The Republic was proclaimed on 14 April 1931, after the deposition of Alfonso XIII, and it lost the Spanish Civil War on 1 April 1939 to the rebel faction, that would establish a military dictatorship under the rule of Francisco Franco.

Francisco Franco Spanish general and dictator

Francisco Franco Bahamonde was a Spanish general and politician who ruled over Spain as Head of State and dictator under the title Caudillo from 1939, after the nationalist victory in the Spanish Civil War, until his death in 1975. This period in Spanish history is commonly known as Francoist Spain.

Political career

Shapour Bakhtiar Shapourbakhtiar.gif
Shapour Bakhtiar

Bakhtiar returned to Iran in 1946 and joined the social democratic Iran Party in 1949 and led its youth organization. [1] In 1951 he was appointed director of the labor department in the Province of Isfahan by the ministry of labor. He later held the same position in Khuzestan, center of the oil industry. In 1951 Mohammad Mosaddeq had come to power in Iran. Under his premiership Bakhtiar was appointed deputy minister of labor in 1953. After the Shah was reinstated by a British-American sponsored coup d'état, Bakhtiar remained a critic of his rule.

Iran Party

The Iran Party is a socialist and nationalist party in Iran, founded in 1941. It is described as the "backbone of the National Front", the leading umbrella organization of Iranian nationalists established in 1949. The party's total membership has never exceeded the several hundred figure.

1953 Iranian coup détat overthrow of the democratically elected government of Iran

The 1953 Iranian coup d'état, known in Iran as the 28 Mordad coup d'état, was the overthrow of the democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh in favour of strengthening the monarchical rule of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi on 19 August 1953, orchestrated by the United States and the United Kingdom, and the first United States covert action to overthrow a foreign government during peacetime.

Shapour Bakhtiar and Mosaddegh cartoon in Ettelaat newspaper 22 January 1978 Bakhtiar and mosaddegh cartoon.jpg
Shapour Bakhtiar and Mosaddegh cartoon in Ettelaat newspaper 22 January 1978

In the mid-1950s he was involved in underground activity against the Shah's regime, calling for the 1954 Majlis elections to be free and fair and attempting to revive the nationalist movement. In 1960, the Second National Front was formed and Bakhtiar played a crucial role in the new organization's activities as the head of the student activist body of the Front. He and his colleagues differed from most other government opponents in that they were very moderate, restricting their activity to peaceful protest and calling only for the restoration of democratic rights within the framework of a constitutional monarchy. The Shah refused to co-operate and outlawed the Front and imprisoned the most prominent liberals. From 1964 to 1977, the imperial regime refused to permit any form of opposition activity, even from moderate liberals like Bakhtiar. In the following years Bakhtiar was imprisoned repeatedly, a total of six years, for his opposition to the Shah. He was also one of the prominent members of central council of the illegal Fourth National Front in late 1977, when the group was reconstituted as the Union of National Front Forces with Bakhtiar as head of the Iran Party (the largest group in the Front).

At the end of 1978 (as the Shah's power was crumbling), Bakhtiar was chosen to help in the creation of a civilian government to replace the existing military one. He was appointed to the position of Prime Minister by the Shah, as a concession to his opponents, especially the followers of the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Although that caused him to be expelled from the National Front, he accepted the appointment, as he feared a revolution in which communists and mullahs would take over the country, which he thought would ruin Iran.

In his 36 days as premier of Iran, Bakhtiar ordered all political prisoners to be freed, lifted censorship of newspapers (whose staff had until then been on strike), relaxed martial law, ordered the dissolving of SAVAK (the regime's secret police) and requested for the opposition to give him three months to hold elections for a constituent assembly that would decide the fate of the monarchy and determine the future form of government for Iran. Despite the conciliatory gestures, Khomeini refused to collaborate with Bakhtiar, denouncing the premier as a traitor for siding with the Shah, labeling his government "illegitimate" and "illegal" and calling for the overthrow of the monarchy. Bakhtiar was accused by some of making mistakes during his premiership such as allowing Khomeini to re-enter Iran. In the end, he failed to rally even his own former colleagues of the National Front.

His government was overwhelmingly rejected by the masses except for a very small number of pro-Shah loyalists and a handful of moderate pro-democratic elements. The opposition was not willing to compromise. The Shah was forced to leave the country in January 1979; Bakhtiar left Iran again for France in April of the same year.

French exile and series of assassination attempts

IRTV's Ali Limonadi interviews Shapour Bakhtiar in Paris 1984. IRTV Ali Limonadi interviews Shapour Bakhtiar Paris 1984.jpg
IRTV's Ali Limonadi interviews Shapour Bakhtiar in Paris 1984.

Shortly after the revolution, Ayatollah Sadegh Khalkhali, a religious judge and later chairman of the Revolutionary Court, announced to the press that the death sentence had been passed on members of the Pahlavi family and former Shah officials, including Bakhtiar. [7]

In July 1979, Bakhtiar emerged in Paris. [1] He was given political asylum there. [8] From his base in Paris, he led the National Movement of Iranian Resistance, which fought the Islamic Republic from within the country. Between 9 and 10 July 1980, Bakhtiar helped organize a coup attempt known as the Nojeh coup plot, prompting the Islamic Republic to issue a death sentence on him. [9]

On 18 July 1980, he escaped an assassination attempt by a group of three attackers in his home in Neuilly-sur-Seine, a suburb of Paris, in which a policeman and a neighbor were killed. [1] [9] The five-man assassination team led by Anis Naccache, a Lebanese, was captured. [9] They were given life sentences, but the then French President François Mitterrand pardoned them in July 1990. [10] They were sent to Tehran. [10]


Tomb of Shapour Bakhtiar in France Bakhtiar D8.jpg
Tomb of Shapour Bakhtiar in France

On 6 August 1991, Bakhtiar was murdered along with his secretary, Soroush Katibeh, by three assassins in his home in the Parisian suburb of Suresnes. [11] Both men were killed with kitchen knives. Their bodies were not found until at least 36 hours after death, despite the facts that Bakhtiar had heavy police protection and his killers had left identity documents with a guard at his house. [12] Two of the assassins escaped to Iran. A third, Ali Vakili Rad, was apprehended in Switzerland, [13] along with an alleged accomplice, Zeynalabedine Sarhadi, a great-nephew of the president of Iran at the time, Hashemi Rafsanjani. [14] [15] Both were extradited to France for trial. [16] Vakili Rad was sentenced to life in prison in December 1994, but Sarhadi was acquitted. [17] Rad was paroled from jail in France on 19 May 2010, after serving 18 years of his sentence. [11] He was received as a hero by Iranian officials. [18] [19]


The release of Rad had happened only two days after Tehran freed Clotilde Reiss, a French student accused of spying by the Islamic regime. Both the French and Iranian governments deny the two affairs are linked. [20] [21] [22]

Hours after the assassination of Bakhtiar, a British hostage was released from Lebanon, presumably held by Hezbollah, but a French hostage was taken. [23] Although many in the Iranian exile community speculated of official French complicity in Bakhtiar's death, the second kidnapping is said to cast a shadow over such theories. The French would seem unlikely to support an operation that included the kidnapping of another French hostage in Lebanon, but there is no apparent connection between the two events. [12]

Published works

He published a memoir [24] in addition to many articles. Bakhtiar's books include Ma Fidélité (in French) [6] and 37 Days after 37 Years (in Persian), [25] his biography (highlighting his political career and his beliefs, up to the Iranian Revolution. His writings are of special interest regarding society and politics in the Pahlavi Era and the period of riots and turbulence just before the fall of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi.

Personal life

Bakhtiar was first married to a French woman with whom he had three children, a son Guy and two daughters, Viviane and France. [26] Viviane died of a heart attack at the age of 49 in Cannes in August 1991. [27] His second wife was Shahintaj, an Iranian, and they had a son, Goudard. [28]

Bakhtiar is buried in Montparnasse Cemetery in Paris. [2]


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Dan Geist (6 August 2011). "'A Darker Horizon': The Assassination of Shapour Bakhtiar". PBS. Retrieved 19 May 2016.
  2. 1 2 3 4 Kadivar, Cyrus (4 March 2003). "37 days. A cautionary tale that must not be forgotten". The Iranian. Retrieved 30 July 2013.
  3. 1 2 3 "Bakhtiari, Teymour". Bakhtiari Family. Retrieved 4 November 2012.
  4. Elizabeth Collard (1979), "IRAN", MEED , Economic East Economic Digest Ltd, 23 (1–13): 18
  5. Wolfgang Saxon (9 August 1991) "Shahpur Bakhtiar: Foe of Shah Hunted by Khomeini's Followers" New York Times, retrieved 6 July 2015
  6. 1 2 Chapour Bachtiar, Ma Fidélité, Edition Albin Michel, Paris 1985 ISBN   2-226-01561-2, ISBN   978-2-226-01561-7
  7. "No Safe Haven: Iran's Global Assassination Campaign". Iran Human Rights. 2008. Retrieved 4 August 2013.
  8. Kaveh Basmenji (25 January 2013). Tehran Blues: Youth Culture in Iran. Saqi. p. 119. ISBN   978-0-86356-515-1 . Retrieved 19 May 2016.
  9. 1 2 3 "Police thwart attempt to assassinate Bakhtiar". The Pittsburgh Press . Vol. 97, №. 25. UPI. 18 July 1980. p. A8. Retrieved 4 November 2012 via
  10. 1 2 Hooman Bakhtiar (9 August 2015). "Obama's Sanctions Gift to an Assassin for Iran". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 19 May 2016.
  11. 1 2 "Ali Vakili Rad: The Perfect Murder and An Imperfect Getaway". France 24. 19 May 2010. Retrieved 31 July 2013.
  12. 1 2 Riding, Alan. "France Vows to Press for Release of Newly Taken Hostage", New York Times, 10 August 1991. Retrieved 5 November 2007.
  13. Rempel, William C. "Tale of Deadly Iranian Network Woven in Paris" Archived 27 December 2007 at the Wayback Machine , Los Angeles Times, 3 November 1994. Retrieved 5 November 2007.
  14. Kenneth Pollack (2 November 2004). The Persian Puzzle: Deciphering the Twenty-five-Year Conflict Between the United States and Iran. Random House Publishing Group. p. 264. ISBN   978-1-58836-434-0 . Retrieved 19 May 2016.
  15. Greenhouse, Stephen. "French Ask Swiss on Jailed Iranian", New York Times, 28 December 1991. Retrieved 5 November 2007.
  16. Riding, Alan; 3 Iranians Go on Trial in France in Slaying of Exiled Ex-Premier, New York Times; 3 November 1994; retrieved 5 November 2007.
  17. U.S. State Department, 1994 Human Rights Report: Iran. Retrieved 5 November 2007
  18. "Iran Gives Hero's Welcome to Killer of Former Prime Minister Shapour Bakhtiar Print Comment Share:". Voice of America. 18 May 2010. Retrieved 19 May 2016.
  19. "Bakhtiar's Murderer Turned into a Hero and Role Model". Rooz Online. 20 May 2010. Retrieved 19 May 2016.
  20. Lisa Bryant (17 May 2010). "France Sends Iranian Assassin Home". Voice of America. Retrieved 17 May 2012.
  21. "No Operation". Press TV. Retrieved 17 September 2012.
  22. "Iran Agent Freed by France Arrives in Iran", Aurelien Girard, The Epoch Times (English edition), 19 May 2010, Retrieved 6 July 2015
  23. Schmidt, William E. "Pressure Mounts on Israel to Free Its Arab Hostages", New York Times, 10 August 1991. Retrieved 5 November 2007.
  24. Habib Lajevardi, editor, Memoirs of Shapour Bakhtiar, in Persian (Harvard University Press, 1996). ISBN   0-932885-14-4
  25. 37 Days after 37 Years, in Persian, Radio Iran Publications, Paris, 1982 [ ISBN missing ]
  26. "An interview of Shapour Bakhtiar's Only Living Daughter". Iranian. 7 August 2010. Retrieved 19 May 2016.
  27. "Bakhtiar's daughter dies of heart attack". UPI. Cannes. 24 August 1991. Retrieved 19 May 2016.
  28. David Rosenzweig (8 August 2001). "Family of Slain Prime Minister Files Suit Against Iranian Government". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 19 May 2016.

See also

Political offices
Preceded by
Gholam Reza Azhari
Prime Minister of Iran
Succeeded by
Mehdi Bazargan
Party political offices
Preceded by
New Title
Leader of the National Resistance Movement of Iran
Succeeded by
Goudarz Bakhtiar
Preceded by
Secretary-General of Iran Party
Succeeded by
Abolfazl Qassemi

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