This feature-length documentary, produced by Bahman Maghsoudlou, will draw upon extensive archival material, both Iranian and foreign, numerous interviews with people with relevant knowledge and/or vivid memories, as well as the assistance of renowned academic Mosaddeq scholars. Its purpose is to provide an authoritative account of the political life, career, significance and legacy of the Iranian democratic statesman, Dr. Mohammad Mosaddeq, widely viewed by Iranians as an iconic national figure. The documentary is intended to be accessible to a wide audience and to assist in educational purposes. It will appeal to those interested in the genesis of democratic, anti-imperialist movements in the non-Western world, particularly in the Middle East, in the politics of oil, and in the role of Western powers in supporting authoritarian rulers and helping to demote democratic movements.
Born in Tehran into a prominent family of notables, Mosaddeq became an active supporter of the Constitutional Revolution of 1905-6 (the first revolution of its kind in the Muslim world); he was elected a deputy in the first parliament but was below the required minimum age to take up his seat. Pursuing higher education in France and Switzerland, he gained a doctorate in law in 1914. Mosaddeq taught at the School of Political Science in Tehran, wrote on legal, financial and political issues and engaged in
party political activity, before becoming an undersecretary in the Ministry of Finance. He strongly opposed the ill-fated Anglo-Iranian Agreement of 1919, which sought to formalize British tutelage over Iran, served in positions such as governor-general of the provinces of Fars and Azarbaijan, and held the portfolios of Finance and Foreign Affairs. From 1924 to 1928, he acted as a parliamentarian; it was in this capacity that he assumed national prominence as someone dedicated to promoting democratic constitutionalism and national sovereignty.
In October of 1925 Mosaddeq was one of the few parliamentarians to oppose the bill that paved the way for the assumption of the throne by Reza Khan (later Shah), the founder of the Pahlavi Dynasty. With the consolidation of the Pahlavi autocracy, Mosaddeq was excluded from political life, and from 1936 onwards was forced to reside in his country home some 90 miles northwest of the capital. In June 1940, on the orders of the Shah, he was summarily arrested and imprisoned in Birjand, a desolate town far from the capital, but six months later was allowed to return to his country home, where he lived under house arrest.
Following the Anglo-Soviet occupation of Iran in 1941, Mosaddeq returned to the political scene as a member of the 14th Parliament (1944-6), having received the highest number of votes in Tehran. As a parliamentarian he advocated a neutralist foreign policy, and in the wake of American-British, and more specifically Soviet, demands for oil concessions, sponsored a bill to ban the granting of oil or other concessions to foreigners. He also emphatically advocated the reform of electoral laws that would render elections
less prone to rigging. Despite the government's efforts to exclude him and his supporters, he was elected to the 16th Parliament to represent Tehran, again garnering the highest number of votes. In the course of the parliamentary elections, Mosaddeq helped form and lead the National Front - a coalition of groups, parties and individuals committed to promoting democratic governance and Iran's sovereign rights.
Mosaddeq and his supporters had long opposed and sought to revise the British oil concession, granted in 1901. The British refusal to take Iranian demands seriously eventually provoked calls for the nationalization of the oil industry, spearheaded by the National Front. This development resulted in the premiership of Mosaddeq in May 1951. The oil issue had served as a rallying cry for a movement that linked national self-determination - exemplified by the nationalization of oil - to popular sovereignty, involving greater scope for democratic constitutional arrangements at the expense of royal prerogatives. Mosaddeq and his supporters maintained that a real commitment to national interests could only be expected from a government that genuinely espoused democratic principles and relied on and enjoyed public support.
Mosaddeq's advent as Prime Minister inevitably involved not only challenging entrenched British imperialism in Iran, but also forcing the Shah to comply with what Mosaddeq held be to a primary aim of the Constitutional Revolution, i.e. that the monarch should reign, not rule. Despite the willingness of Mosaddeq's government to pay just compensation for the nationalized oil industry, the British refused to accept what had happened. They attempted through various moves, including an embargo on the
export and sale of Iranian oil, to destabilize Mosaddeq's government. They also resorted to extensive overt and covert measures to engineer his downfall by manipulating the Iranian parliamentary arrangements. It was, however, active Anglo-American collaboration, invoking the danger of a communist takeover and involving intense destabilization measures by the CIA, MI6 and their Iranian agents and collaborators, which eventually brought Mosaddeq's government down (August 1953).
Following the coup, which established royal authoritarianism, firmly committed Iran to the West and revoked the substance of oil nationalization, Mosaddeq and many of his supporters were arrested. He was tried by a military tribunal, which he in turn skillfully utilized not only to defend himself and his record, but also to vilify the perpetrators of the coup. He was condemned to three years' imprisonment and subsequently confined to his country home until his death in March 1967 at the age of 84.
In the aftermath of the coup of August 1953 repressive measures did not allow supporters of Mosaddeq to organize themselves adequately and play a formal role in the political process, but Mosaddeq's charisma and presence, and the appeal of the ideals and sentiments associated with his name, persisted in the collective memory of large numbers of Iranians. He remained a potent source of inspiration for opponents of authoritarian rule and advocates of decent governance.
Mosaddeq was a leading figure in the anti-imperialist struggles of the post-World War II era, a precursor of statesmen such as President Nasser of Egypt. He understood
and underlined the significance of oil as a strategic commodity that the West would do its utmost to control, which also meant controlling, and if necessary subjugating, the oil rich areas of the non-Western world. Oil remained a crucial and determining factor in the West's relations with oil producing countries in the region. Western oil companies ensured that rulers in the Middle East remained unable to make any drastic move detrimental to the interest of oil companies and the Western block. The significance of oil, so presciently grasped by Mosaddeq, has meant that Middle East will be an area of continued strategic interest to the West. Without oil it would have inspired little Western attention. If Iraq did not possess oil it would have escaped the current occupation.
Mosaddeq's legacy and significance - both in the context of Iranian history and more broadly - which this documentary seeks to highlight, include the following:
- A commitment to the rule of law and democratic governance.
- A commitment to inclusive liberal nationalism.
- Opposition to imperialism and neo-colonialism.
- A commitment to the sovereign rights of nations, particularly regarding their natural resources, which should be exploited for their own public benefit.
- Insistence that public servants, particularly in societies where legal norms and procedures are not sufficiently institutionalized, must display the highest standards of integrity. They must genuinely adhere to accountability and transparency, promote and exemplify socially valued civic virtues, and be exemplary exponents of the principles and moral norms that they claim to advocate.
- Maintaining that modern or universal norms are indispensable for a viable democratic polity, but that they must be attentive to the specificities of local culture and identity.
Drafted by Professor Fakhreddin Azimi (D.Phil, Oxon)
Department of History
University of Connecticut.
* Mosaddeq himself spelt his name "Mossadegh".
Digital DVcam, Pal, Final 35mm negative.
Production enjoys help/assistance from handful of prominent Historians and writer/researchers, who will be announced later.
With the participation of almost one hundred prominent political, historical,
and public figures from Iran, Europe, Asia, the USA and Africa.
Footage and Documents:
The rights to more than 30 minutes of footage of Mohammad Mosaddeq will be acquired exclusively for this unique documentary. With comprehensive research of documents, stills, family films and videos, excerpts of media, newspapers, TV, magazines and all necessary materials.
More than 115 interviews have already been done.
This film aims to be a thoroughly comprehensive look at this important historical figure, and does not harbor any political agenda.
also see :
The Political Life and Legacy of Mossadegh
Fakhreddin Azimi: Writer
Cosroe Chaqueri: Writer
Bahman Maghsoudlou: Director/Producer/Writer
List of People who have been interviewed
Production Gallery of The Political Life and Legacy of Mosaddeq