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Shapour Bakhtiar

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Shapour Bakhtiar

Shapour Bakhtiar
74th Prime Minister of Iran
In office
4 January 1979 – 11 February 1979
Monarch Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi
Preceded by Gholam Reza Azhari
Succeeded by Mehdi Bazargan
Deputy Minister of Labor
In office
1 July 1952 – 9 April 1953
Monarch Mohammad-Reza Shah
Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh
Leader of National Resistance
In office
1 October 1979 – 6 August 1991
Preceded by Party created
Succeeded by Goudarz Bakhtiar
Personal details
Born 26 June 1914
Shahrekord, Iran
Died 6 August 1991(1991-08-06) (aged 77)
Paris, France
Nationality Iranian
Political party National Front
Spouse(s) Mowjgan Vahedi
Children 4
Alma mater American University of Beirut
Institute of Political Studies

Shapour Bakhtiar (   ) (also Shapur Bakhtiar, Luri/Persian:شاپور بختیار and Chapour Bakhtiar French: Chapour Bakhtiar) (Shāpoūr Bakhtīār) (26 June 1914 – 6 August 1991) was an Iranian political scientist, writer and the last Prime Minister of Iran under Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. On 6 August 1991 Bakhtiar, and his secretary, were murdered in his home in Suresnes, Paris, France.


  • Early life 1
  • Education 2
  • Political career 3
  • French exile and series of assassination attempts 4
  • Assassination 5
  • Writings 6
  • Notes 7
  • See also 8
  • External links 9
  • Published works 10

Early life

Bakhtiar was born on 26 June 1914 in southwestern Iran into a family of Iranian tribal nobility: the family of the paramount chieftains of the then powerful Bakthiari tribe. His father was Mohammad Reza Khan (Sardar-e-Fateh), his mother Naz-Baygom, both Lori and Bakhtiaris. Bakhtiar's maternal grandfather, Najaf-Gholi Khan Samsam ol-Saltaneh (a.k.a. Saad ad-Daula), was appointed prime minister twice, in 1912 and 1918. Bakhtiar's mother died when he was seven years old.[1] His father was executed by Reza Shah in 1934 while Shapour was studying in Paris.[1]


He attended elementary school in Shahr-e Kord and then secondary school, first in Isfahan and later in Beirut, Lebanon, where he received his high school diploma from a French school.[1] He attended Beirut University for two years.[2] However, then his cousin, Teymour Bakhtiar, and he went to Paris for university education.[2] There he attended the College of Political Science.[2]

Being a firm opponent of all totalitarian rule, he was active in the Spanish Civil War for the Republican side against General Francisco Franco's uprising and fascism. Later he volunteered for the French army and fought in the 30th Artillerie Regiment of Orleans and in the French Resistance against the occupation by Germany when living in Saint-Nicolas-du-Pélem.[3][4] In 1945 he received his PhD, in political science, as well as degrees in law and philosophy, from the Sorbonne.

Political career

Picture of Shapour Bakhtiar.

Bakhtiar returned to Iran in 1946. In 1951 he was appointed by the ministry of labor, first as director of the labor department in the Province of Isfahan and later the same position in Khuzestan, center of the oil industry. In 1951 Mohammad Mosaddeq had come to power in Iran. Under his premiership Bakhtiar was appointed deputy minister of labor in 1953. After the Shah was reinstated by a British-American sponsored coup d'état, Bakhtiar remained a critic of his rule.

Shapour Bakhtiar and Mosaddegh cartoon in Ettelaat newspaper 22 January 1978.

In the mid-1950s he was involved in underground activity against the Shah's regime, calling for the 1954 Fourth National Front in late 1977, when the group was reconstituted as the Union of National Front Forces with Bakhtiar as head of the Iran Party (the largest group in the Front).

Because he had been a leader in the resistance, Bakhtiar, at the end of 1978 as the Shah's power was crumbling, was chosen to help in the creation of a civilian government in place of the military one, which had existed up to this point. He was appointed to the position of Prime Minister by the Shah, as a concession to his opponents, especially the followers of the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Although this caused him to be expelled from the National Front, he accepted the appointment, as he feared a revolution, in which communists and mullahs would take over the country, which he thought would ruin Iran.

In his 36 days as premier of Iran, Bakhtiar ordered all political prisoners to be freed, lifted censorship of newspapers (whose staff had until then been on strike), relaxed martial law, ordered the dissolving of SAVAK (the regime's secret police) and requested that the opposition give him three months to hold elections for a constituent assembly that would decide the fate of the monarchy and determine the future form of government for Iran. Despite these conciliatory gestures, Ayatollah Khomeini refused to collaborate with Bakhtiar, denouncing the premier as a traitor for siding with the Shah, labeling his government "illegitimate" and "illegal" and calling for the overthrow of the Monarchy. Bakhtiar made some key mistakes during his premiership including allowing Khomeini to re-enter Iran. In the end, he failed to rally even his own former colleagues in the National Front behind him and his government was overwhelmingly rejected by the masses, except for a very small number of pro-Shah loyalists and a handful of moderate pro-democratic elements. The opposition was not willing to compromise and the Shah was forced to leave the country in January 1979; Bakhtiar left Iran again for France in April of the same year.

French exile and series of assassination attempts

Shortly after the revolution, Ayatollah Sadegh Khalkhali, a religious judge and then chairman of the Revolutionary Court, informed the press that the death sentence was passed on the members of the Pahlavi family and former Shah officials, including Bakhtiar.[5]

From his base in Paris, Bakhtiar led the Nojeh coup plot between 9 and 10 July 1980. The Islamic Republic issued a death sentence for him.[6] On 18 July 1980, he escaped an assassination attempt by a group of three attackers in his home in Neuilly-sur-Seine, a suburb of Paris, which killed a policeman and a neighbor.[6] The assassination team was captured.[6]


Tomb of Shapour Bakhtiar in France.

On 6 August 1991, Bakhtiar was murdered along with his secretary, Soroush Katibeh, by three assassins in his home in the Parisian suburb of Suresnes.[7] Both men were killed with kitchen knives. Bakhtiar's and Katibeh's bodies were not found until at least 36 hours after death, despite the fact that Bakhtiar had heavy police protection, and that his killers had left identity documents with a guard at his house.[8] Two of the assassins escaped to Iran but the third, Ali Vakili Rad, was apprehended in Switzerland,[9] as well as an alleged accomplice, Zeyal Sarhadi, a great-nephew of former president of Iran Hashemi Rafsanjani,[10] and both were extradited to France for trial.[11] Vakili Rad was sentenced to life in prison in December 1994, but Sarhadi was acquitted.[12] Vakili Rad was paroled from jail in France, after serving 18 years of his sentence on 19 May 2010.[7] He was received as a hero by Iranian officials. This happened only two days after Tehran freed Clotilde Reiss, a French student accused of spying by the Islamic regime. Both the French and Iranian governments deny the two affairs are linked.[13][14][15]

Bakhtiar is buried in Montparnasse Cemetery in Paris.[1]

Hours after the assassination of Bakhtiar, a British hostage was released from Lebanon, presumably held by Hezbollah, but a French hostage was taken.[16] Although many in the Iranian exile community speculated of official French complicity in Bakhtiar's death, the second kidnapping is said to cast a shadow over such theories, allegedly as the French would seem unlikely to support an operation that included the kidnapping of another French hostage in Lebanon, although there is no apparent connection between the two events.[8]


In addition to many articles, Bakhtiar's books Ma Fidélité in French[4] and 37 Days after 37 Years in Persian,[17] including his biography and political career until the Iranian Revolution as well as his beliefs, are of special interest regarding society and politics in the Pahlavi Era and the period of riots and turbulence before the fall of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi.


  1. ^ a b c d Kadivar, Cyrus (4 March 2003). "37 days. A cautionary tale that must not be forgotten". The Iranian. Retrieved 30 July 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c "Bakhtiari, Teymour". Bakhtiari Family. Retrieved 4 November 2012. 
  3. ^ Wolfgang Saxon (9 August 1991) "Shahpur Bakhtiar: Foe of Shah Hunted by Khomeini's Followers" New York Times, Retrieved 6 July 2015
  4. ^ a b Chapour Bachtiar, Ma Fidélité, Edition Albin Michel, Paris 1985 ISBN 2-226-01561-2, ISBN 978-2-226-01561-7
  5. ^ "No Safe Haven: Iran's Global Assassination Campaign". Iran Human Rights. 2008. Retrieved 4 August 2013. 
  6. ^ a b c "Police thwart attempt to assassinate Bakhtiar".  
  7. ^ a b "Ali Vakili Rad: The perfect murder and an imperfect getaway". France 24. 19 May 2010. Retrieved 31 July 2013. 
  8. ^ a b Riding, Alan. "France Vows to Press for Release of Newly Taken Hostage", New York Times, 10 August 1991. Retrieved 5 November 2007.
  9. ^ Rempel, William C. "Tale of Deadly Iranian Network Woven in Paris", Los Angeles Times, 3 November 1994. Retrieved 5 November 2007.
  10. ^ Greenhouse, Stephen. "French Ask Swiss on Jailed Iranian", New York Times, 28 December 1991. Retrieved 5 November 2007.
  11. ^ Riding, Alan. "3 Iranians Go on Trial in France in Slaying of Exiled Ex-Premier", New York Times, 3 November 1994. Retrieved 5 November 2007.
  12. ^ U.S. State Department, 1994 Human Rights Report: Iran. Retrieved 5 November 2007
  13. ^ Lisa Bryant (17 May 2010). "France Sends Iranian Assassin Home".  
  14. ^ "No Operation". Press TV. Retrieved 17 September 2012. 
  15. ^ "Iran Agent Freed by France Arrives in Iran", by Aurelien Girard, The Epoch Times (English edition), 19 May 2010, Retrieved 6 July 2015
  16. ^ Schmidt, William E. "Pressure Mounts on Israel to Free Its Arab Hostages", New York Times, 10 August 1991. Retrieved 5 November 2007.
  17. ^ 37 Days after 37 Years, in Persian, Radio Iran Publications, Paris, 1982

See also

External links

  • Website dedicated to Bakhtiar: (English), (Persian).
  • Interview with Bakhtiar on Tuesday 6 March 1984 in Paris (in Persian):
    Shapour Bakhtiar, Iranian Oral History, Harvard University Center for Middle Eastern Studies:
    — Audio 1a (29 min 30 sec), Audio 2a (30 min 35 sec), Audio 1b (29 min 18 sec), Audio 2b (30 min 44 sec)
  • A Leaf from the History of Iran – Dr Shapour Bakhtiar, a video documentary in two parts (in Persian):
    – Part 1 on YouTube (9 min 30 sec), Part 2 on YouTube (8 min 47 sec).
  • Iran Chamber Society—Historic Personalities: Shapour Bakhtiar
  • Persian Iran page about Bakhtiar
  • Detail audio report about Dr. Bakhtiar's Murder by the Qods Force
  • 'A Darker Horizon': The Assassination of Shapour Bakhtiar, Dan Geist, PBS, 6 August 2011, a detailed chronology of the murder and others.

Published works

Political offices
Preceded by
Gholam Reza Azhari
Prime Minister of Iran
Succeeded by
Mehdi Bazargan
Party political offices
Preceded by
New Title
Leader of National Resistance Movement
Succeeded by
Goudarz Bakhtiar
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