As 20th century anti-colonialist leaders in Asia, both Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh
are regarded by their countrymen in India and Iran as the "Father of the Nation".
Mossadegh admired Gandhi, who had become famous for his struggle for independence from the British in the
first half of the 20th century. Both men were lawyers who risked their lives and endured repeated imprisonment
defending their beliefs, and both were named TIME
magazine’s Man of the Year.
Comparisons of Mossadegh with Gandhi have been made throughout the years. “He is characterized as being a good bit like India’s Ghandi...
a born leader, the hero of his country”,
commented one columnist in October 1951 as Mossadegh visited America. Writing in a
September 5, 1953 article in The Nation, Andrew Roth described Mossadegh as "a nationalist with the qualities of a Gandhi
and a Machiavelli". Nobel Prize winning lawyer Shirin Ebadi said in her
2006 memoirs that Dr. Mossadegh’s nationalization of Iran’s oil “earned Mossadegh the eternal adoration of
Iranians... much as Mahatma Gandhi was revered in India for freeing his nation from the British Empire.”
In 2001, the Governor of Illinois declared May 2nd 'Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh Day' in his state. The official
“WHEREAS, Mohammad Mossadegh, Mahatma Gandhi, and
are national heroes for Iran, India, and South Africa, as well as international symbols of perseverance and civility and advocates
of justice and democracy; and
WHEREAS, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson in the United States and Mahatma Gandhi in India led the
fight for independence from Britain, and Mohammad Mossadegh led the Iranian movement against the British
colonialism in achieving the nationalization of Iranian oil...”
Excerpt from Mossadegh: A Political Biography by Farhad Diba:
...Mossadegh’s approach has often been compared to the doctrine of Mahatma Gandhi. Ambassador [Henry] Grady, who
knew them both, said of Mossadegh:
[Above: Mossadegh’s home in Ahmadabad after his exile, with a small Gandhi statue on the mantle]
"He reminds me of the late Mahatma Gandhi. He is a little old man with a frail body, but with a will of iron
and a passion for what he regards as the best interests of his people."
[Henry F. Grady, "What Went Wrong in Iran?" - Saturday Evening Post, January 5, 1952]
In further discussing their similarities, another [Indian] writer has said:
[Mussadiq] suffered from the same difficulties in practical day-to-day life in an imperfect world. Again, as in
the case of his Indian counterpart, no, one doubted Mussadiq’s patriotism. His popular appeal during the late forties
and early fifties was also unmatched.
[Sheel K. Asopa, Military Alliance and Regional Cooperation
West Asia (Meenakshi Prakashon, New Delhi, 1971), p. 39]
Mossadegh’s tactics were very similar to Gandhi, if we substitute oil for the Gandhian spinning wheel, as a symbol
of national defiance. Inasmuch as the spinning wheel became associated with Gandhi and infuriated the British, so
did oil with Mossadegh. Also, Gandhi’s opponents ridiculed him for wearing loin-cloth as much as Mossadegh’s did
for wearing pyjamas of coarse material. Yet both of them saw this part of their life as nothing but an example of
a simple and humble life, in keeping with the condition of the mass of their countrymen. Fighting the British with
such seemingly ridiculous tools, each with his frail natural disposition, could not but project to the world a David
and Goliath image.
Dr. Mossadegh is quoted in a 1952 edition
of the national Indian newspaper The Hindu, hailing Gandhi and his legacy. He also mentions another Indian admirer, then Prime Minister
Nehru, the Indian nationalist whom Mossadegh was personally friendly with:
The Hindu — February 1, 1952:
Mossadeq Hails Mahatma Gandhi
The Indian Embassy and the Indo-Iranian Association in Teheran observed Mahatma Gandhi Remembrance Day on the 30th. Among the highlights was this message by Dr. Mohammed Mossadeq, Persian Prime Minister: "Mahatma Gandhi was a rare human being who, with a miraculous technique, brought India up to the heights on which she stands today. In Gandhiji’s dictionary, religious differences and sectarian prejudices had no place whatever. In fact, he was the greatest supporter of Indian Muslims. Gandhiji not only stabilised the greatness of his country in his own life-time, but also left behind men like Jawaharlal Nehru who is a finished product of the Gandhi school."
Abol Ghasem Kashani, the influential Muslim divine considered to rank next only to Dr. Mossadeq in Persia’s public life, declared that Gandhiji’s creed of non-violence was in complete conformity with the teachings of Islam, and recalled the sage’s great sacrifices to promote fraternal unity between Hindus and Muslims everywhere.
Asian nationalists: Dr. Mossadegh receives Gandhi compatriot Abul Kalam Azad, a major figure in the Indian independence movement, politician, journalist, and the first Minister of Education in post-colonial India in Nehru’s government. Maulana Azad, a secular Muslim who understood Persian, was portrayed in Richard Attenborough’s Academy award winning movie Gandhi (1982).