A recent episode in Iran once again exposed the hostile attitude of the Islamic government toward Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh (1882-1967) and what he symbolizes for many Iranians.
It happened following an announcement that a scientific panel discussion on Premier Mossadegh’s economic policies would be held at Allameh Tabatabai University on June 17, 2015. Moreover, it gave notice of the premiere screening of a new documentary film Mossadegh, Another Viewpoint (مصدق از نگاهی دیگر).
Unhappily, the program was cancelled at the last minute, due to what organizers euphemistically referred to as “external pressures”. The fact that the filmmaker, Hoda Saber هدی صابر, was an opposition figure could not have been a coincidence. An economist, journalist and human rights and pro-democracy activist, Saber had been cruelly imprisoned four times by the regime since 2000. In 2011, at age 52, he was on hunger strike in Evin Prison when he tragically died of a heart attack, leaving behind a wife and two children.
I.R.I. officials were probably not pleased by the subject of the film, either, especially since Saber had regarded Dr. Mossadegh as “history’s great man of good will and benevolence”.Mossadegh, Another Viewpoint brings together nearly a dozen interviews, personally conducted by Saber in 2009-2010. Most of the interviewees were closely associated with Mossadegh during the last decade of his life, while he was living under house arrest in his ancestral village of Ahmadabad.
According to Firouzeh Saber, her brother worked very hard on the project, knocking on every door in Ahmadabad in search of participants. One interview subject, reluctant to participate for fear of retribution, was particularly elusive. Saber had to travel to his home 25 times to convince him.
Among the interviewees were Mossadegh’s cook, three members of his working staff and two residents of Ahmadabad. Also interviewed were Captain Mousa Fesharaki, one of the officers in charge of security at Mossadegh’s house at the time of the 1953 coup; Nosratollah Khazeni, Mossadegh’s office chief; Dr. Esmail Yazdi, the physician who diagnosed Mossadegh’s cancer of maxillary sinus; Hossein Shah Hosseini, a member of Ahmadabad’s Board of Trustees, and Dr. Mahmoud Mossadegh, Mossadegh’s grandson.
From these interview subjects, we hear firsthand accounts of Mossadegh’s altruistic nature, generosity, strong sense of justice and his sincere concern for the welfare of others.
Mossadegh managed his village of Ahmadabad like a non-profit cooperative with half the crop harvest given to the farmers, and the rest invested in the operating budget and lives of its population. If a villager needed financial assistance, he or she was only required to request it in writing, no questions asked. Mossadegh frequently met the medical needs of the village residents at Najmieh Hospital, a charity founded by his mother in Tehran.
We also learn of Mossadegh’s intolerance of improper conduct, dealing firmly with those who engaged in lying, stealing, and polygamy. In one instance, he admonished a farm worker for stealing from the grain storage supply, telling him that he was not fit to be a member of the community and should leave Ahmadabad at once. He then directed his staff to assist the man in his move to the place of his choosing while giving him money to support his family until he found new employment.
Another time, when Mossadegh learned that a villager had broken several branches of a tree from the communal area, he chided the man for his act and fined him fifty toomans. When the man objected, saying that it was only branches and not a tree, Mossadegh responded that today it is a branch and tomorrow the whole tree.
Mr. Abolfathi Takrousta, Mossadegh’s cook and aide, recalled the time when he and the village truck driver were assigned to deliver a load of hay to a location in Tehran. During the trip the driver took a short cut, entering a street clearly marked DO NOT ENTER. A policeman stopped the truck and asked the driver to pay five toomans for the violation. However, Takrousta convinced the cop to accept two toomans as hush money instead. After returning to Ahmadabad, Takrousta submitted his list of expenses which included the “bribe”, assuming Mossadegh would be pleased that he had saved three toomans. When Mossadegh learned of it, however, he reprimanded Takrousta and fined him ten toomans!
Two days later, Mossadegh called Takrousta, telling him that he was still perturbed by the incident as his action had turned the policeman, who represents the law of the country, into a thief. To undo the harm done, he instructed Takrousta to return to Tehran, locate the policeman and tell him that he has changed his mind and to please issue a ticket for the violation as required by law. It took Takrousta two days to actually find him, settle up, and return with a receipt in hand for Mossadegh.
According to Takrousta, Mossadegh’s influence on the culture of Ahmadabad continues to this day, as the people’s behavior and conduct are still guided by the conscientious example he had set for the community.