Sadegh Ghotbzadeh

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Sadegh Ghotbzadeh
Sadegh Ghotbzadeh.jpg
Ghotbzadeh in 1980
Minister of Foreign Affairs
In office
29 November 1979 – 3 August 1980
PresidentAbolhassan Banisadr
Prime MinisterMohammad-Ali Rajaei
Preceded byAbolhassan Banisadr
Succeeded byKarim Khodapanahi
Head of National Radio and Television
In office
11 February 1979 – 29 November 1979
Appointed byCouncil of the Revolution
Preceded byReza Ghotbi
Succeeded byProvisional Council
Personal details
Born24 February 1936
Isfahan, Iran
Died16 September 1982(1982-09-16) (aged 46)
Evin prison, Tehran, Iran
Political party

Sadegh Ghotbzadeh (Persian: صادق قطب‌زاده‎, 24 February 1936 – 15 September 1982) was a close aide of Ayatollah Khomeini during his 1978 exile in France, and foreign minister (30 November 1979–August 1980) during the Iran hostage crisis following the Iranian Revolution. In 1982, he was executed for allegedly plotting the assassination of Ayatollah Khomeini and the overthrow of the Islamic Republic.

Early life and education[edit]

Ghotbzadeh was born in Isfahan in 1936.[2] He had a sister and a brother.[3] His father was a wealthy lumber merchant.[4]

As a student, he was active in the student branch of the National Front following the toppling of Mohammad Mosaddegh in 1953.[5] He left Iran in 1959 after being detained twice due to his opposition activities to the Shah's regime; he lived in Europe, the US and Canada.[3][2] Ghotbzadeh was a supporter of the National Front of Iran. In addition he was one of the senior members of the Freedom Movement of Iran led by Mehdi Bazargan in the 1960s.[6]

He attended Georgetown University's Walsh School of Foreign Service from 1959 to 1963. He contributed to the movement from the US.[6] He was part of the more radical wing of the movement together with Ebrahim Yazdi, Mostafa Chamran and Ali Shariati.[7] However, he was dismissed from the school before graduating due to his skipping studies and exams to lead protests against the government of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, including storming a posh party hosted by the then Iranian ambassador to the United States, the son-in-law of the Shah, Ardeshir Zahedi.[8]

Ghotbzadeh left the US when his passport was revoked and moved to Algeria, Egypt, Syria and finally to Iraq, where he met Ayatollah Khomenei in 1963.[4][2] In December of the same year Ghotbzadeh along with Chamran and Yazdi met the Egyptian authorities to establish an anti-Shah organization in the country, which was later called SAMA, special organization for unity and action.[7][9] Chamran was chosen as its military head.[7] Ghotbzadeh also developed a close relation with Musa Al Sadr, an Iranian-Lebanese Shia cleric.[10][11] During his stay in the Middle East, Ghotbzadeh was trained in Lebanon together with Iranian revolutionary militants and Palestinians.[12]

In the late 1960s, Ghotbzadeh went to Canada for higher education and graduated from now defunct Notre Dame University College in Nelson, BC, in 1969.[3] Next he settled in Paris using his Syrian passport which he obtained through the help of Musa Al Sadr.[11][13] There he worked as a correspondent for the Syrian government daily, Al Thawra.[13][14] The job, in fact, was fake and covered his opposition activity in the city.[13][14]

Career and activities[edit]

Ghotbzadeh left the Freedom Movement in 1978.[15] He became a close aide of Ayatollah Khomeini when the latter was in exile in France. Ghotbzadeh along with Mostafa Chamran was part of the faction, called "Syrian mafia", in the court of Khomeini, and there was a feud between his group and the Libya-friendly group, led by Mohammad Montazeri.[16] Ghotbzadeh was an Amal sympathizer and close to Lebanese Shii cleric Musa Al Sadr.[17] Khomeini appointed him a member of the follow-up mission to search for fate of Al Sadr following the latter's disappearance in August 1978.[17]

Ghotbzadeh accompanied Khomeini on his Air France flight back to Iran on 1 February 1979.[18] It was Ghotbzadeh, who translated the Ayatollah's infamous response "Hichi (Nothing)" to journalist John Simpson's question: "Ayatollah, would you be so kind as to tell us how you feel about being back in Iran?"[18] He was also Khomeini's translator in the press conference held in Tehran on 3 February 1979.[19]

Following the Iranian Revolution Ghotbzadeh became a member of the revolutionary council when Bazargan and others left the council to form an interim government.[4][5][20] In addition, he served as spokesperson of the Ayatollah.[21] He was also appointed managing director of National Iranian Radio and Television (NIRT) on 11 February 1979.[22] He tried to overhaul it to be in line with Islamic teachings, purging royalists, women, and leftists.[23] This was criticised by a group of Iranian intellectuals and also the interim government. On 13 March, two women, one with a gun and the other with a knife, attacked Ghotbzadeh protesting the fundamentalist policies of the Islamic regime.[21] Nearly 15,000 women also gathered outside the headquarters of the NIRT to protest his Islamist policy.[24]

He was appointed foreign minister in late November 1979[25] after Abolhassan Banisadr resigned as acting foreign minister amid heated disputes on the fate of the American hostages. In early 1980 Ghotbzadeh was involved in early Iran hostage crisis negotiations in Paris with Carter aide Hamilton Jordan, which led to "a complex multi-stepped plan"[26] which was torpedoed by Khomeini announcing the hostages' fate would be decided by the new Iranian parliament.[27]

Ghotbzadeh wrote an open letter to the Majlis in August 1980 arguing for the quick release of the hostages, and told Reuters five days later that "United States presidential candidate Ronald Reagan, supported by Kissinger and others, has no intention of solving the problem. They will do everything in their power to block it."[28] In September and October, he made several other public statements alleging that a deal to delay the release of the hostages may have taken place.[28] The French news agency Agence France Presse quoted him on 6 September as stating the "Reagan camp was trying hard to block a solution of the [hostage] problem before the elections" and that he had "information" to prove it.[28] On 11 September, the open letter was published in an Iranian newspaper with similar charges.[28] A decade later in 1991, Joseph E. Persico of The New York Times concluded a review of Gary Sick's book October Surprise stating: "Two friends of Ghotbzadeh who spoke to him frequently during this period said that he insisted repeatedly that the Republicans were in contact with elements in Iran to try to block a hostage release."[29][30] The House October Surprise Task Force investigating the October Surprise allegations interviewed close associates of Ghotbzadeh and concluded in 1993 that they "uncovered nothing to corroborate Ghotbzadeh's statements".[31]

After the failure of the rescue attempt decided upon by President Carter, he qualified this decision an "act of war" against Iran. However, Ghotbzadeh was not committed anti-American during his tenure.[17]

In January 1980, Ghotbzadeh ran for the presidency, but lost the election.[2] His tenure as foreign minister ended in August 1980[22] and he was replaced by Karim Khodapanahi in the post.[32] Following his retirement from politics Ghotbzadeh dealt with his family trade in the importing business[2] and studied Islamic law.[5]

Arrest and execution[edit]

Ghotbzadeh during trial defends self

Ghotbzadeh was first arrested on 7 November 1980 on charges of planning to kill Ayatollah Khomeini and criticising the Islamic Republic Party and put in the Evin prison.[33][34] He was released on 10 November when Ayatollah Khomeini intervened.[22][35]

On 8 April 1982, he was arrested along with a group of army officers and clerics (including a son-in-law of the religious leader Ayatollah Kazem Shariatmadari), all accused of plotting the assassination of Ayatollah Khomeini and the overthrow of the Islamic Republic.[36][37]

At an April 1982 "press conference", hujjat al-Islam Mohammad Reyshahri, the chief judge of the newly created Military Revolutionary Tribunal, explained the plot with "an elaborate chart full of boxes and arrows linking Ghotbzadeh and the royalist officers, on one side, to `the feudalists, the leftist mini-groups, and the phony clerics` and on the other side, to the `National Front, Israel, the Pahlavis and the Socialist International.` The last four were linked to the CIA."[38]

Rumors include the story that Ayatollah Khomeini initially did not want to execute Ghotbzadeh; but, he was persuaded to do so after hearing a tape of Ghotbzadeh in prison agreeing to pay money and provide the contact information of his allies in France in exchange for his freedom.[citation needed] Ghotbzadeh supposedly told this to a fellow prisoner specifically hired to entrap him.[citation needed] The veracity of these rumors is unknown.

Trial of Ghotbzadeh began in August 1982 and in the court he denied the accusations, but confirmed the existence of a plot to topple the Islamic government and to form a "real republic".[2] His forced confessions, which were aired, are said to have come only after severe torture on the part of the Iranian Police.[36] On late 15 September 1982 in Evin prison of Tehran, Ghotbzadeh was shot by a firing squad following a 26-day trial and after the Military Revolutionary Tribunal found him guilty and sentenced him to death.[39][40] He was 46.[2]


Abolhassan Banisadr, who had been in exile in Paris, stated that Ghotbzadeh's execution was "settling of accounts".[3]

Personal life[edit]

Ghotbzadeh never married.[2] He was fluent in French and English, in addition to his native Persian.[3]


In 1987, Canadian journalist Carole Jerome published a book, The man in the mirror: A story of love, revolution and treachery in Iran detailing both her romantic relationship with Ghotbzadeh and her journalistic account of the revolution.[41] In his 1991 book, Inside the KGB: Myth and Reality, Vladimir Kuzichkin claimed that Ghotbzadeh had been an agent of the Soviet military intelligence service during his studies in the United States, adding that he had later detached himself from it.[25] The book also alleged that the KGB had fabricated and placed a false CIA cable to an unnamed American agent in Iran in his residence, which was used as evidence to arrest and try him.[25]

Ben Affleck's 2012 movie, Argo, used a real clip of Ghotbzadeh, showing him accusing Canada of "flagrantly violating international law."[42] Ghotbzadeh's great niece, Sanaz Ghajarrahimi, wrote and directed a play, named Red Wednesday, which was presented at the New Ohio Theatre in New York from 26 July to 3 August 2013.[43][44] It was inspired by Ghotbzadeh's controversial life.[43][45]

In 2017 Ali Sajjadi, a Persian journalist based in Washington DC, published a collection of Sadegh Ghotbzadeh manuscripts. Sajjadi also interviewed many friends and colleagues of Ghotbzadeh for the book.[46]


  1. ^ Houchang E. Chehabi (1990). Iranian Politics and Religious Modernism: The Liberation Movement of Iran Under the Shah and Khomeini. I.B.Tauris. p. 87. ISBN 978-1850431985.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h "Ghotbzadeh, Iran hostage crisis figure, executed". The New York Times. 17 September 1982. Retrieved 3 August 2013.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Western background lay behind clergy's fury at Ghotbzadeh". The Montreal Gazette. 17 September 1982. Retrieved 4 August 2013.
  4. ^ a b c Barry Rubin (1980). Paved with Good Intentions (PDF). New York: Penguin Books. p. 283.
  5. ^ a b c Gargan, Edward A. (16 September 1982). "A Man of Ambiguity". The New York Times. London. Retrieved 4 August 2013.
  6. ^ a b "Mehdi Bazargan's biography". Bazargan website. Retrieved 3 August 2013.
  7. ^ a b c Houchang Chehabi; Rula Jurdi Abisaab; Centre for Lebanese Studies (Great Britain) (2 April 2006). Distant Relations: Iran and Lebanon in the Last 500 Years. I.B.Tauris. p. 182. ISBN 978-1-86064-561-7. Retrieved 8 August 2013.
  8. ^ Jerome, Carole, The Man In The Mirror. A True Inside Story of Revolution, Love And Treachery In Iran, (Unwin Hyman, 1989)
  9. ^ Samii, Abbas William (1997). "The Shah's Lebanon policy: the role of SAVAK". Middle Eastern Studies. 33 (1): 66–91. doi:10.1080/00263209708701142.
  10. ^ Saud Al Zadeh; Elia Jazaeri (23 February 2011). "Mousa al-Sadr alive in Libyan prison: sources". Al Arabiya. Dubai and Beirut. Retrieved 3 August 2013.
  11. ^ a b Nadia von Maltzahn (30 July 2013). The Syria-Iran Axis: Cultural Diplomacy and International Relations in the Middle East. I.B.Tauris. p. 24. ISBN 978-1-78076-537-2. Retrieved 25 August 2013.
  12. ^ John Cooley (20 June 2002). "Recruiters, Trainers, Trainees". Unholy Wars: Afghanistan, America and International Terrorism. Pluto Press. p. 83. ISBN 978-0-7453-1917-9.
  13. ^ a b c Tony Badran (22 June 2010). "Syriana". Tablet. Retrieved 4 August 2013.
  14. ^ a b Tariq Alhomayed (11 June 2011). "An Iranian minister pretending to be a Syrian reporter!". Asharq Alawsat. Retrieved 25 August 2013.
  15. ^ Houchang E. Chehabi (1990). Iranian Politics and Religious Modernism: The Liberation Movement of Iran Under the Shah and Khomeini. I.B.Tauris. p. 228. ISBN 978-1-85043-198-5. Retrieved 27 August 2013.
  16. ^ Mark Gayn (20 December 1979). "Into the depths of a boiling caldron". Edmonton Journal. Retrieved 27 July 2013.
  17. ^ a b c Mohammad Ataie (Summer 2013). "Revolutionary Iran's 1979 endeavor in Lebanon". Middle East Policy. XX (2): 137–157. doi:10.1111/mepo.12026.
  18. ^ a b "12 Bahman: Khomeini Returns". PBS. 1 February 2009. Retrieved 4 August 2013.
  19. ^ Mohammad Sahimi (3 February 2010). "The Ten Days that Changed Iran". PBS. Los Angeles. Retrieved 30 July 2013.
  20. ^ Helen Chapin Metz. "The Revolution" (PDF). Phobos. Retrieved 10 August 2013.
  21. ^ a b Robin Morgan (1984). Sisterhood is Global: The International Women's Movement Anthology. Feminist Press at CUNY. p. 329. ISBN 978-1-55861-160-3. Retrieved 4 August 2013.
  22. ^ a b c "Index Ge-Gj". Rulers. Retrieved 3 August 2013.
  23. ^ Abrahamian, Ervand, Tortured Confessions, (University of California Press, 1999), p. 156
  24. ^ Hamid Naficy (6 April 2012). A Social History of Iranian Cinema, Volume 3: The Islamicate Period, 1978–1984. Duke University Press. p. 108. ISBN 978-0-8223-4877-1. Retrieved 4 August 2013.
  25. ^ a b c Maxim Kniazkov (1 April 1991). "Inside the KGB: Myth and Reality". Washington Monthly. Retrieved 20 June 2013.
  26. ^ Mark Bowden, Guests of the Ayatollah: the first battle in America's war with militant Islam, Atlantic Monthly Press, (2006), pp. 359-61
  27. ^ Bowden, (2006), pp. 363, 365
  28. ^ a b c d Task Force to Investigate Certain Allegations Concerning the Holding of American Hostages by Iran in 1980 (3 January 1993). Joint report of the Task Force to Investigate Certain Allegations Concerning the Holding of American Hostages by Iran in 1980 ("October Surprise Task Force"). Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office. p. 81. hdl:2027/mdp.39015060776773. OCLC 27492534. H. Rept. No. 102-1102.
  29. ^ "October Surprise Task Force" 1993, p. 81.
  30. ^ Joseph E. Persico (22 December 1991). "The Case for a Conspiracy". The New York Times. p. 7.
  31. ^ "October Surprise Task Force" 1993, p. 82.
  32. ^ "Foreign Ministers". Peymanmeli. Retrieved 29 November 2013.
  33. ^ "Iran jails Ghotbzadeh". The Milwaukee Journal. Beirut. AP. 8 November 1980. Retrieved 4 August 2013.
  34. ^ "Iran arrests Ghotbzadeh for death plot". Lawrence Journal. Beirut. AP. 10 November 1980. Retrieved 4 August 2013.
  35. ^ "Iran aide defends action on Banisadr". The New York Times. Beirut. AP. 20 March 1981. Retrieved 4 August 2013.
  36. ^ a b Semira N. Nikou. "Timeline of Iran's Political Events". United States Institute of Peace. Retrieved 27 July 2013.
  37. ^ "Love bloomed during Iranian revolution". Ottawa Citizen. Ottawa. CP. 12 August 1986. Retrieved 3 August 2013.
  38. ^ Abrahamian, Ervand, Tortured Confessions, (University of California Press, 1999), p.156. Quotes from "Plots are Revealed," Ettela'at, 20 April 1982
  39. ^ "Revolution Devouring Its Own" Time, George Russell, 27 September 1982
  40. ^ Shireen T. Hunter (Spring 1987). "After the Ayatollah". Foreign Policy. 66 (66): 77–97. JSTOR 1148665.
  41. ^ Joan McGrath (November 1988). "Book Review". CM. 16 (6). Retrieved 3 August 2013.
  42. ^ Bowden, Mark (16 October 2012). "Ben Affleck's "Argo" Is Brilliant". New Republic. Retrieved 3 August 2013.
  43. ^ a b "Ice Factory 2013: Red Wednesday". The New York Times. Retrieved 3 August 2013.
  44. ^ "Now Playing". New Ohio Theatre. Retrieved 3 August 2013.
  45. ^ Zachary Steward (24 July 2013). "Global Revolution Takes Center Stage in Red Wednesday at Ice Factory 2013". Theater Mania. New York City. Retrieved 3 August 2013.
  46. ^ "Publication of 1970 Memories of Sadegh Ghotbzadeh in the United States". Payvand News. California. 15 February 2017. Retrieved 21 January 2018.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Abolhassan Banisadr
Foreign minister of Iran
Succeeded by
Karim Khodapanahi