Scottish Students Honor Mossadegh

University of Edinburgh — October 1951

Arash Norouzi

The Mossadegh Project | September 19, 2014                    

Scottish nationalism has ascended. On September 18, 2014, the people of Scotland finally got the opportunity to vote on whether to remain in the United Kingdom or declare independence as a sovereign country. The majority of Scots chose to stick with the UK.

Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh (1882-1967) In 1951, it was Iranian nationalism that dominated the headlines. British oil concerns had been nationalized in April, leading the two nations to lock horns in an international showdown, with Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh, a national hero, facing down Sir Gladwyn Jebb at the United Nations.

Oil and gas reserves in Scottish waters (the adjacent North Sea), wouldn’t be discovered until 1970, and not long after, “It’s Scotland’s oil” became a political rallying point connected with the burgeoning independence movement.

Iran’s mid-century quarrel was, of course, with England—not Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales. So it’s conceivable that, despite its connection to the United Kingdom, some Scots might have identified with the Iranian struggle for self-determination.

Scottish Students Honor Mossadegh — University of Edinburgh, October 1951

Mossadeq For Scottish Post? On October 30, 1951, Prime Minister Mossadegh accepted “with great pleasure” the nomination to bid for the post of Rector of the University of Edinburgh. Members of the Students’ Representative Council chose him as a candidate for the honorary position, elected by the student body every three years.

Rector of Edinburgh University — Dr. Mossadeq’s Bid — Many Candidates The candidates, to be elected November 9, 1951, included Sir Andrew Murray, Scottish political and military figure, famed British author Evelyn Waugh, Scottish poet Sydney Goodsir Smith, Scottish stage and film actor Alastair Sim (then seeking re-election), Lord John Cameron of Scotland, British conductor Sir Thomas Beecham, Scottish performer Jimmy Logan, Lord Nuffield, the British industrialist and philanthropist, film star Groucho Marx, and the Aga Khan III, world wide leader of Ismaili sect, a branch of Shia Islam.

Rectorship Offer To Mossadeq Withdrawn Ultimately, a university committee barred Mossadegh from consideration solely on a technicality—he had, while in Washington DC, accepted by telegram, rather than in writing as was the custom. His supporters were unable to obtain the required signature before the November 2nd deadline, and so Sir Alexander Fleming, the Scottish biologist who discovered penicillin, would earn the rectorship with 1,096 votes.

“I admire his political astuteness and hoped that his nomination would improve relation between East and West.” — student supporter on Mossadegh
Scotch Students Honor Mossadegh Naturally, Dr. Mossadegh had far bigger concerns at this point, already overwhelmed with his responsibilities as Premier, but the nomination was a nice gesture toward a man who had a great regard for higher education and was European educated himself. To this day, "Student Day" in Iran marks the anniversary of the December 1953 pro-Mossadegh, anti-Shah university demonstrations after the coup.

Mohamed Mossadeq, Prime Minister of Persia, could not be set up as a candidate for Rector’s election on November 8 by the University of Edinburgh (UK), because he had just telegraphed his nomination. However, the statutes of the university request a written commitment in this case.

After Mossadegh died in 1967, his will pledged a sum of money to be used toward land purchase for the building or renovation of a student club at Tehran University.

Decades later, in October 2013, the Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh Leadership Fund and student hall named after him was unveiled in Chicago’s Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU).

And so, Mossadegh has been honored by academic institutions in America and the United Kingdom— the two powers who helped overthrow him—yet never in his native land, not even at Tehran University.

Sources: Associated Press (AP), Australian Associated Press (A.A.P.), The Daily Mail

The Advertiser newspaper of Adelaide, Australia thought it would be a cute idea to devote an entire editorial to the trivial news item in their November 1, 1951 edition:

The Advertiser (Adelaide, Australia), November 1, 1951


One would have given a good deal to have seen the faces of the eminent authorities of Edinburgh University on learning that Dr. Mossadeq had agreed “with great pleasure” to allow himself to be nominated by the Students’ Representative Council for the position of Rector of the University. The nomination of Groucho Marx may have been difficult enough, in all conscience, to swallow, but Dr. Mossadeq!

However, the joke is to go no further. By one of those technical dodges that are as well known in Edinburgh as they are in Tehran, the tearful doctor’s acceptance has been found to be out of order. So, though he may be able to push the British out of Persia and calmly confiscate their property, he is denied the final triumph of being elected, bed and all, to the rectorship of one of their most illustrious universities.

In a way it is rather a pity that Scottish dignity has proved too much for Scottish humor. Still, there is always Groucho Marx.

On the same day, The Advertiser fitted the subject in their news round-up column "Good Morning!", with an extra spoonful of sarcasm:


On technical grounds, the University of Edinburgh has turned down the application of Persian Premier Mossadeq to wear the silk and satin robes of its Rector.

So there’ll be no ‘Auld Weepie’ for ‘Aul Reekie,’ but even Persian cats know it’s no use crying over spilt silk. . . ?


Related links:

Texas Oil Men Cite MossadeghAssociated Press, December 16, 1951

Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh Servant Leaders Hall at Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU)

U.S. State Department Spokesman Honors Mossadegh on 1953 Coup Anniversary

MOSSADEGH t-shirts — “If I sit silently, I have sinned”

Facebook  Twitter  YouTube  Tumblr   Instagram