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Taking a bow
Who said individuals do not make history?

By Abbas F. Saffari
April 19, 2002
The Iranian

Today I write about a man considered a national hero, an Iranian treasure, who undoubtedly belongs to front page for his unending resistance to and tireless effort against injustice.

There have been very few people in contemporary Iranian history who have earned the title "hero", namely Mohammad Mossadegh, Mehdi Bazargan, and Ayatollah Mahmoud Taleghani. Yadollah Sahabi was also one.

Sahabi, one of the most respected nationalist figures of Iran, died on Friday, April 12 at age 96. He was the last of a generation that supported and fought alongside the late Prime Minister Mossadegh. Sahabi lived a life of struggle, first against the Shah's dictatorship and later in opposition to the mollas of the Islamic Republic.

Sahabi was born in 1905 in Tehran's GozarVazir Daftar neighborhood. As a teacher, he was making 68 tomans a month working in four famous schools -- Darolfonoon, Elmieh, Sharaf, and Iran. In 1932 he entered and won a scientific competition for an opportunity to study in France. That summer he traveled from Bandar Anzali to Russia, Poland, Germany, Belgium, and finally reached Paris. While in France, he studied at Lail University for four years majoring in geology.

A year later on his way back for a summer visit to Iran, Sahabi met future Prime Minister Mehdi Bazargan and another nationalist leader, Mohammad Gharib.

After completion of his Ph.D. in 1936, Sahabi returned to Iran and served in the army for a year. He taught at the University of Tehran as an associate professor for five years and as a professor for the next 25 years until 1962 when he was arrested for his resistance to the Shah's dictatorial rule. He was imprisoned for four years.

When Mossadegh died in 1945, Sahabi was the first person to perform the religious ritual at his deathbed. Ironically, he was also the same man who in 1994 in Hosseiniyeh Ershad performed the very same religious rituals on his lifelong friend, Mehdi Bazargan.

In 1967 Sahabi's first books were published: "Study of Rocks" and "Creation of Man". Meanwhile, he established the Kamal and Kosar high schools in Tehran.

This great figure of the opposition was a writer, founder of the Department of Geology at the University of Tehran, cofounder of the Iran Freedom Movement (Nehzate Azadiye Iran). He played a major role in the 1951 oil nationalization movement led by then Prime Minister Mossadegh.

A widely respected political leader who helped topple the U.S.-backed monarchy in 1979, Sahabi then turned against the ruling clerics for their refusal to share power.

The day after Sahabi's death, some 30,000 people attended the procession from Tehran University mosque. Mohsen Kadivar, a progressive cleric recently jailed for questioning the preeminence of supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, made a speech at the funeral. "Combatant Sahabi, your path will be followed,'' mourners chanted

Also in the procession were members of university Islamic associations and a host of pro-reform journalists, most of whose publications have been banned by the conservative Judiciary over the past two years.

Among those who praised Sahabi were President Mohammad Khatami, Ayatollah Hosseinali Montazeri, the disgraced ex-successor to Ayatollah Rouhollah Khomeini, Majlis Speaker Mehdi Karrubi, and the Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei. Sahabi's burial ceremony created a sense of national unity. Ironically, he was loved by friend and foe.

"When I was on a two-day leave from prison to visit my family last year, my father, the late Dr. Sahabi, told prison guards who accompanied me home, 'give my regards to the supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, and tell him my son and I are not traitors'," Ezatollah Sahabi, who was recently imprisoned for criticizing the Islamic Republic, said in his father's eulogy.

Who said individuals do not make history? Yadollah Sahabi, his son and grandson at different times have been jailed for their political beliefs. The torch has been passed. For your untiring struggle for peace and justices, for all the hardship and pain that was inflicted onto you, for your devotion to Iranians, I bow to you and say thank you from the bottom of my heart.

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Abbas F. Saffari


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