TEHRAN, Iran (AP) – Abolhassan Banisadar, Iran’s first president since the country’s 1979 Islamic revolution, fled Tehran on Saturday after being impeached for challenging the growing power of clerics to become a nation. He was 88 years old.
In a sea of black-painted Shia clerics, Banisadar was so French for his Western-style suits and background that the philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre believed he would become Iran’s first president 15 years ago.
These differences only alienated him because the nationalist tried to implement a socialist-style economy in Iran because he had a deep Shia belief in him by his learned father.
Banisadar will never be able to consolidate his grip on the government he led as an out-of-control event – including the hostage crisis at the US embassy and the invasion of Iran by Iraq – adding to the post-revolutionary turmoil.
True power was firmly entrenched by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, whose Banisadar worked in exile in France and returned to Tehran during the Revolution. But Khomeini sent Banisadar to Paris, where he had lived for decades, just one month after he resigned.
“I was like a child who watched my father slowly turn into an alcoholic,” Banisader later said of Khomeini. “This time the medicine was energy.”
Banisadar’s family said in a statement online on Saturday that he had died at a hospital in Paris after a long illness. Iran’s state television gave them its own bulletin after his death. Banisadar also did not describe in detail the illness he faced.
Earlier, when Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was deported from Iraq, Khomeini had to move to France in 1978 under new pressure from the Iranian king. Arriving in Paris and speaking no French, Banisadar initially gave Alem a place to stay to keep his own family away from his apartment.
Khomeini will end up in Neofle-le-Chatu, a village outside the French capital. There, as Banisadar once told the Associated Press, he and a group of friends wanted to hear what Khomeini had sent or verified – based on what the Iranians had been told.
A tape recording of Khomeini’s speech was sold in Europe and delivered to Iran. Other messages have been leaked to supporters in various cities across Iran. Banisadar once said that these messages laid the groundwork for Khomeini’s return after the Shah, who was seriously ill and fled Iran at the beginning of 1 Messages, although the scholar was unsure whether he had support, Banisadar once said.
“For me, it was absolutely certain, but not for Khomeini and for many inside Iran,” Banisader told the AP in 2019.
That return Khomeini and his Islamic revolution swept the country. Banisadar became a member of the Revolutionary Council of Scholars and became head of the country’s foreign ministry just days after the US embassy in Tehran was occupied by hardline students.
Echoing what was to come, Banisadar served only 1 day in the role that Khomeini removed for a hard-liner after seeking an end to the hostage crisis.
The hostages were “dictators who created government within the government,” Banisadar would later complain.
But he was on Khomeini’s council and would move forward through the nationalization of major industries and the Shah’s private business holdings. And in the early 1980s, Khomeini had previously ordered that a cleric should not be appointed as Iran’s new president, with Banisadar winning three-quarters of the vote and taking office.
“Our revolutionaries will not win unless it is exported,” he said in his inaugural address. “We are going to create a new order where the deprived will not always be deprived.”
Amid the inaction of Iran’s armed forces, Iraq will invade the country, sparking an eight-year bloody conflict between the two countries. Banisadar served as the country’s commander-in-chief under a Khomeini decree. But the failure on the battlefield and the allegations of Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guards became a political responsibility for the president, who himself would have survived two helicopter crashes up front.
A parliament, controlled by radical clerics under Khomeini’s rule, indicted Benisdar in June 1 for opposing the presence of clerics in the country’s political system, part of a long-running feud between them. A month later, Banisadar fled to France in an Iranian Air Force Boeing 707 with Masoud Rajvi, the leader of the left-wing militant group Mujahideen-e-Khalaq.
He shaved his trademark mustache and got off the flight. According to Iranian media, he fled after wearing a woman’s dress.
Khomeini bears the brunt of the catastrophe that befell the country, Banisadar said after fleeing. “For the most part, he has imposed this course on our people.”
Born on March 22, 1933 in Hamadan, Iran, Banisadar grew up in a religious family. His father, Nasrullah Banisadar, was Ayatollah, a high-ranking Shia cleric who opposed the policies of Shah’s father, Reza Shah.
“Even in the womb, I was a revolutionary,” Banisadar once boasted.
As a young man, he protested against the Shah and was imprisoned twice. He backed Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh, who nationalized Iran’s oil industry and was ousted during a 1953 CIA-backed coup. During the unrest of 13, Banisadar was wounded and fled to France.
Banisadar studied economics and economics at the Sorbonne University in Paris and later taught there. He authored books and tracts on socialism and Islam, an idea that would guide Khomeini once he entered the inner circle.
After leaving Iran, Banisadar and Razavi formed the Resistance Council of Iran. As the war against Iran continues, Mujahideen-e-Khalaq will step down from the Banisadar Council in 1919 after partnering with Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
He will remain out of Paris for life under police guard after being targeted by suspected Iranian assassins.
Banisadar gained notoriety again after he complained in a book without evidence that Ronald Reagan’s campaign had mixed with Iranian leaders for the release of hostages, leading to the re-election of then-President Jimmy Carter. This gave rise to the notion of the “October Surprise” in American politics – a deliberate deadline and a powerful event affecting elections.
U.S. Senate investigators later said in 1992 that “the weight of the evidence is that no such agreement has been reached.” However, after Reagan’s inauguration in 1981, U.S. weapons began to flow into Iran through Israel in what would become known as the Iran-Contra scandal.
“The clergy used you as a tool to free themselves from democratic forces,” Banisader told a former hostage during a 1991 visit to the United States. “The night you were taken hostage, I went to Khomeini and told him that he had acted against Islam, against democracy.”
Gambler reports from Dubai, United Arab Emirates.