The Case of Mehdi Hashemi
Overlooked in the glare of publicity surrounding the Iran-contragate affair and the ensuing lurch towards Iraq and its allies is the trial of the leader of the militant Islamic movement who in a sense set it all in motion. Sayyed Mehdi Hashemi, son-in-law of Ayatollah Khomeini's heir-apparent, Ayatollah Sayyed Hosein-`Ali Montazeri, was executed on seven charges, including murder, cooperation with SAVAK, and hoarding weapons and munitions.
The Eternal Martyr
His story begins in the seventies, when the clergy was faced with the challenge of a growing fascination with Marxism and Third World revolution on the part of a dynamic student movement. The Vietnamese and Chinese revolutionaries and guerilla fighters like Che Guevera had fired the imagination of Iranian students, just as it had students around the world. Young Muslims were stretching their faith beyond the bounds of clerical Islam, increasingly adopting Marxizing jargon and ideas; prominent among them were the founders of the Organization of People's Mojahedin (formed in the mid-sixties) and Dr. `Ali Shari`ati (who had begun his political lectures in the late sixties). Under the pressure of these new ideas, even children of clerical families re-examined some fundamental ideas of their faith.
One of the central events which would define Shi`ism was the martyrdom of the family of `Ali, the nephew of Mohammad, the prophet of Islam, in 680 AD. Just as the death and apparent failure of Jesus’s was explained as a soteriological victory by his disciples, the earthly failure of the revolt of `Ali's son Hosein against the leadership of the Islamic community had to be given a positive occult meaning by his followers, the Shi`a. They understood Imam Hosein, his father, and their other ten Imams to have had `isma , "protection" from error, including error about the future. And just as Jesus was mocked on the cross for not being able to save himself, so the Shi`a were faced with the problem of why, if Imam Hosein was endowed with `isma, he led himself, his family and his followers to a death whose horror is commemorated to this day with bitter lamentations.
In March 1971, Sheikh Ne`matollah Salehi Najafabadi, said to have been a supporter of Khomeini Ettela`at, Ordabehesht 25, . See also the paper. and to have been an friend of Mehdi Hashemi's The son of one of Hashemi's victims claims that Hashemi "repeatedly invited [Salehi] to Qahdarijan so that in his conspiratorial speeches,
... he could denounce pilgrimages to the blessed Shi`ite shrines and the recital of the Prophet's family's suffering". Resalat August 31, 1986 wrote a book, Shahid-e Javid [The Eternal Martyr], which both addressed these religious problems and underlined the relevance of Hosein's revolt for his younger compatriots. As one admirer said of it, "it is a delight for those dissatisfied with worthless mourning rituals, an instrument for those for whom Islam is hidden...to see the brilliance of true Islam and return to Islam," and as another, an ayatollah, said of it, it is especially for the young generation of intellectuals. Documents reproduced in Shahid-e Javid. Rather than having gone to his death on a conscious mission of redemption "to revive Islam" with his own spilled blood and disgrace the ruling Ommayid caliphate (the commonly accepted tradition), Imam Hosein was to have revolted as a "seasoned politician." p. ix "He didn't welcome oppression and didn't make suffering the greatest means to achieve his ends, but went forth to fight against a dictatorship to eliminate oppression and suffering." pp. 320-21 He explained the quiescence of his father, Imam `Ali, as being a matter of political common sense. For his part, when it was politically opportune, Imam Hosein rebelled. pp 24-40 He heaps ridicule upon the idea that Imam Hosein made all his elaborate political preparations simply to get himself martyred pp. 101, 319-20 or to disgrace the ruling caliphate, pp. 110-11, 327-29 particularly since he asked to be pardoned after his revolt appeared doomed. pp. 142-43, 270 Thus, like much of the political clergy, next to the Imam Hosein as the model sufferer for people to suffer with, he set up the Imam Hosein as the model rebel for justice for a people to rebel with.
Although this has some similarities with the way the mainstream Shi`ite revolutionaries saw Imam Hosein's defeat, they still saw his defeat as merely "apparent." The regime's popular slogan proclaims, "the blood triumphs over the sword which shed it," and, if the issue of forsight is not dwelled upon, we haven't seen it contradicted. For Salehi, Imam Hosein's death was a defeat. He simply went down fighting like a good revolutionary. He didn't he go into battle knowing he would die, to revive Islam with his blood. Moreover, the Khomeinist clergy, though politicizing the mourning ceremonies for the Karbala martyrs, don't explicitly deny the benefits of weeping for them, as Salehi's followers did. For a further discussion of this issue, see Mary Hegland, "Two Images of Husain" in Religion and Politics in Iran (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1983). For an interesting view by a Lebanese author, see Mahmoud Ayoub, Redemptive Suffering in Islam, esp. pp.159- 60 and 233. (The Hague: Mouton Publishers, 1978). Unlike the People's Mojahedin's labored Marxizing or Shari`ati's jumble of existentialism, Marxism, and Islam, Salehi's book drew on a broad knowledge of Shi`ite scholarship, particularly on the views of the earliest Shi`ite scholars, before, as he tells it, Shi`ism became encrusted with three centuries of legend and mystification, pp. 368-464 much as modern Catholic theologians have developed an interest in older theologies such as that of the third century theologian Arius, who pointed to scriptural references underlining early Christiandom's recognition of Jesus of Nazareth's human weakness to expose orthodoxy's theological embellishments.
And just as Arius was accused of "blastheming against the Son" and these Catholics scholars are being hounded by the Vatican for "humanizing" Jesus, the Najafabadi sheikh was accused of "denying the Imams’ `isma" and making Imam Hosein a common rebel. And just as theological radicals who emphasize Jesus' human side are accused of ignoring its spiritual side, Salehi's leading apostle, the subject of this article, later "confessed" to "an overemphasis on politics" which "emptied the spirit" of his disciples "of spirituality and sanctity"."Indictment", p. , col Ten volumes of polemics were published against him, many from the two most sacred centers of Shi`ite learning, Qom and Najaf, According to Ayatollah Hajj Sayyed Hosein Khademi, the leading cleric in Esfahan. Ettela'at, Khordad 5, 1976. including one by Khomeini's son-in-law, Shahab od-Din Eshraqi. Ettela`at 25 Ord. 1976. A SAVAK memo of October 1971, released after the revolution, reported, "Most clerics are upset over this book's publication." It also appears that SAVAK was quick to manipulate this shock. As Ayatollah Khomeini said, "Before Ramadan, they would mention Shahid-e Javid, and almost all Ramadan, ... each side would curse the other and [the Shah's agents] would look on and snicker over what toys they'd made of us." Keyhan, Khordad 1/May 22, 1979, cited in Shahid-e Javid, p. 526. After the revolution, Salehi held an "illegal" Friday prayer in Esfahan with Mehdi Hashemi's support, his prayer meeting becoming "a base for the counter-revolution", and "finally, one day, he fled out of fear of the people". Resalat, August 31, 1986.
SAVAK's interest in The Shahid-e Javid was not simply in spreading dissent among a restive clergy or concern over its religious justification of rebellion in general. The book was shot through with scarcely concealed attacks on the monarchy and carried on a polemic about Islam's championing of the civil liberties and social justice the Iranian people craved. E.g., pp. 171, 291-310.
Moreover, it found a reception among politicized lay Muslims and a few ranking clerics, particularly Ayatollah Hosein-`Ali Montazeri, perhaps second only to Khomeini in his outspoken opposition to the Shah for a clergyman of his status. In fact, it was Ayatollah Montazeri who lauded the book in an introduction written after it was published. A more complete list of other figures and organizations supporting the book can be provided.
Master and Minions
Mehdi Hashemi was born into a clerical family of considerable wealth and standing, judging from the claims to charity by his father in apppealing the dealth sentence brought on his son under the Shah, Distributing land granted by a titled nobleman, providing potable water and repairing mosques and baths, organizing night classes for thousands of people, founding a girl's school, and using his standing to settle local disputes. Khabarnameye Jebheye Melliye Iran,
Khordad /May 1977. Thanks to Prof. Ervand Abrahamian for bringing this to our attention. in 1946 near Najafabad (a town near Esfahan, long a center of Shi`ite learning, to become “a stronghold of anti-shah opposition.” AFP, cited in FBIS/MENA Dec. 15, 1978.), the city where Hosein-`Ali Montazeri and his son and Mehdi Hashemi's future comrade, Mohammad, were born. According to the biography of him presented in his indictment, Resalat August 16, 1987, hereafter refered to as "Indictment". he began his studies in Qom in 1960, and entered political life around 1966, Hashemi's televised confession of December 16, 1986, published in Resalat, December 17, 1986. in the years just after Khomeini's uprising against the Shah's White Revolution. He set up a "strike group" which, "in the name of defense of the struggle, beat and abused clerics", Ahmad Tavakkoli, Resalat, cited in Iran Times International, January 2, 1987. From here on, refered to as Tavakkoli (1). An articulate enemy of Islamic populism, Resalat is edited by Ahmad Azari-Qomi, a conservative, fundamentalist senior ayatollah and head of Qom's chief seminary. The conservative 99 in the second Islamic Majlis is identified as the Resalat fraction, and is a focus of the populist majority's rage. The polemic's author, as Minister of Labor, drafted a labor code based on a narrow reading of Islamic dogma which was so unspeakably reactionary that it sparked a massive wave of resistance, eventually forcing the government to revoke it and him to resign. but was arrested in 1968 "for reproducing and distributing statements", to be released "after making an agreement" and was rearrested early the next year and was drafted into the army in early 1969. (This draft imposed on unruly seminarians after the 1963 revolt led by Khomeini against the Shah's White Revolution). After his release from the army in 1971, "I came under the influence of models like that of the Egyptian or Chinese or Vietnamese revolutions...; to such an extent that I took a dim view of prayer and weeping and mourning rituals for Imam Hosein, and drifted away from Islam, traditional fiqh, and the traditional clergy and tended towards reason and pure intellectuation and deriving modernizing views of Islam from the Koran, the hadiths, and sought out proofs for armed struggle and party-building", Hashemi's file, vol. l, p. 508 - 509 cited in "Indictment". a development he blamed on "two years of service in the army's taghuti atmosphere, along with other reasons." loc. cit., p. 732. These "other reasons" had to do with the "atmosphere of struggles of the times, a time of super-activism;" Hashemi's televized confession, Resalat December 17, 1986. An Iranian audience hardly needed reminding that the early 1970's saw the rise of the Organization of Iranian People's Fedai Guerillas and the Organization of People's Mojahedin. Theologically, he blames one Aqa Gharavi of Esfahan, whom he characterized as "sectarian" [shazi], Hashemi's file, vol. (?), p. 732, cited in "Indictment", p. 5, col. 2. a possible reference to Ayatollah Musavi Mohammad Javad Gharavi, a loyal friend of Bani-Sadr's to the end and at daggers drawn with Hashemi on almost every possible issue but, in any case, the only prominent cleric named Gharavi in Esfahan at the time. Ettela`at Esfand 13, 1982. A Mojhtahed Gharavi, a comrade of Ayatollah Kashani's, an enthusiastic Khomeini supporter in 1963, and friend of Ayatollah Taleqani who died in 1978 is mentioned in Ettela`at 4 Azar '59 and Jomhuriye Eslami Azar 3, 1979. He was, however, based in Tehran at the time in question.
Hashemi remained unfrocked although, according to the Iranian daily Ettela`at, Ord. 30, 2535. All information in the balance of this section , unless otherwise indicated, is from Ettela`at, Farvardin 27 to Khordad 17, 1977, unless otherwise stated. As a conservative pillar of the monarchy, it has to be read with a degree of caution. However, the reporting on this case seemed to me relatively restrained, if negative. Thus, it went out of its way to discredit rumors about Hashemi's group's role in certain murders being attributed to him. Again, although at first Khomeini was mentioned in connection with the case, he was quickly forgotten as the drama unfolded. And even here, his name came up only in describing Salehi and Hashemi's comrades as Khomeini supporters, which certainly was true for the latter in any case. Finally, there are occasional contradictions in the testimony of presumed witnesses, but the facts of the case unfold fairly regularly. It should also be noted that the confessions of those convicted were given after the court had been closed by the judge to the public, and by unclear means. In any event, these articles read well in comparison with the hysterical tone adopted in Ettla'at's coverage of the government's war against Marxist urban guerillas going on at the same time. he maintained his interest in theology. He returned to his native rustic borough of Esfahan, Qahdarijan, A borough with a reputation for violence, as Hashemi himself points out (Hashemi's files, vol. 5, p. 732) (See Nurizadeh for the historical details) and a susceptibility to religious propaganda, according to a member of a prominent local religious family. Resalat August 31, 1986. around 1971 and began gathering a following, who would “raise the red flag instead of the flag of mourning” during the days commemorating Hosein's martyrdom, according to one neighbor, and opposed the mourning rites for the Kerbala martyrs, in accordance with the principles to be set forth in Shahid-e Javid. Ettela`at, Ord. 29/May 19, 1976. According to the son of one of his victims, he ridiculed mourning processions for the Karbala martyrs, shut the doors to meeting halls for the mourners, told the ritual flagellants that "whips are for donkeys," and preached his disbelief in Fatema Zahra's purity, Mohammad's bodily ascent to heaven, and paying tithes to sayyeds. Resalat, August 31, 1987. He named his group, Hadaf, the Goal.
Hashemi recalls that after having tangled with the clerical establishment over the Shahid-e Javid, he became obsessed with battling the clergy to the extent of turning away from battling the regime. Hashemi's file, vol. 5, p. 732, cited in "Indictment". In his confession before the Islamic magistrate, he recalls that two anti-Shah Islamic militants, Shafi`zadeh and Ja`farzadeh, started talking with him, but he convinced them that the present danger came from "the akhunds who were either quietist or supporting the regime", including Shamsabadi. "At first, they opposed this, then, after I forcefully presented them with my information and arguments, I convinced them to murder them." loc. cit. In a contemporary account given in Ettela`at, Ord. 26, Shafi`zadeh is called Ja`farzadeh's recruit, and they decided to murder some clerics later. `Abbas `Ali Rahimi and Hosein Moradi confessed that during the last Hadaf meeting, a death list was presented including 21 names, including 12 well-known clerics. Ettela`at, Khordad 8.
Hashemi recalls, "I imagined that, just as in China, where two thirds of its population being farmers, armed struggle began from the villages, we, too, in Iran, would be able to act as in China." Hashemi's file, vol. 5 (?) , p. 509, "Indictment", p. 5, col. 3. He saw his enemies as "agents of the landlords who were afraid of the spread of liberty and justice." Khabarnameye Jebheye Melliye Iran, Khordad /May 1977. According to his indictment in the Islamic revolutionary court, he organized "various groups... and gave them specific tasks to perform, and used them to terrorize and threaten the residents and beat his opponents and impugn their morality and spread rumors and, ultimately, use assassination." vol. 5, p. 509, "Indictment" He is accused by the son of one of his victims of "destroying the crops of farmers who opposed him...and wrecking or stealing their irrigation pumps and burning their houses and stores with his wrath." "Dah Sal-e Entezar", Resalat, Aug. 31, 1987. As he himself said, appealing to Esfahan's most powerful cleric while awaiting execution in the Shah's prisons, in Qahdarijan, "countless disasters have occured so far of which the pen is ashamed to write." Khabarnameye Jebheye Melliye Iran, Khordad /May 1977. "In those days, my ambition for power grew," and he saw his borough as "an impregnable fortress in which no one might move contrary to my ideas...." In this explanation, the religious aspect was at first a function of this political side, something which, after his battles with the local orthodoxy, took over and "turned me from thinking about struggle with the regime." vol 5, p. 732 of Hashemi's file, loc. cit.
Hashemi played an important but still unclear role in the Khomeini network. Khomeini's son, Ahmad, remembered Mohammad Montazeri as his contact with Hashemi, and when Hashemi was arrested, he kept in touch with one of Hashemi's clerical comrades. Ettea`at, Ord. 9/April 29, 1982.
Nurizadeh, the judge who convicted Hashemi, said that his devotees were so brainwashed they would die for him rather than say anything against him. Nurizadeh explains that they would join in the ritual mournings for Imam Hosein and his family, and then start a political discussion which would end with Mehdi Hashemi wishing "my ancestor Imam Hosein" had not listened to his advisors and had waged people's war. This was said to have greatly excited the mourners and won him a truly massive following in his borough of Esfahan. These new recruits dwindled from "over 1000" to "about 20" as they had a chance to find out what was going on, the orthodox clergy's resistance to their heresy speeding the process. Ettela`at, Khordad 3/May 24, 1976. They were down to "only 50," Ettela`at, Ord. 29/May 19, 1976. almost all relatives of Hashemi, when Hashemi's killing spree began. Ettela`at, Khordad 3/May 24, 1976. Qambar `Ali Safarzadeh's son writes, "My father re-invited that great scholar, the martyr Shamsabadi, several times and each time, that lofty cleric came to our village and informed the people, and for all my having been a child, I still have fresh images of the people of Qahdarijan's tumultuous reception and of the effect of those revealing talks on the people." Resalat, August 31, 1986. As one of Hashemi's disciples from that time recalled, "Bit by bit, Hashemi was finding himself deserted: his own brave family withdrew and told me to withdraw, too, and not get involved in this sort of thing, but I vehemently supported the Imam and Mehdi Hashemi, and they beat me violently for this support." "Indictment of the Two", col. 5..
"In my deviations towards violence in how I understood Islam and the Koran and the traditions, especially in regards to violent subjects like jihad or "commanding the proper and upbraiding the improper", became manifest in my private lectures and meetings." Hashemi's file, vol. 5, page 732, cited in "Indictment". The Master began answering the clergy's denunciations with threats of violence. When Hashemi's men first raised their heads in 1971, one Sheikh Ebrahim Tavassoli was approached by one of them while on his way to the pulpit (he had been invited to speak by Sayyed Esma`il Hoseini, see below) and told, "Don't talk about Shahid-e Javid ... or we will kill you or bring such a calamity upon your head that you will regret what you've done." His car was twice torched and then stolen and wrecked and he was forced by death threats to confine himself to his home. Ettela`at, Ord. 28, Khordad 8/May 29, 1976. Another outspoken enemy, Abolqasem Hojjati, who would denounce Shahid-e Javid from the pulpit, was severely beaten by them. Ettela`at, Ord. 28. According to the confessions of those arrested and convicted, the decision to kill was taken in September 1975. Ettela`at, Ord. 26/May 16, 1976. Their victims were, in order of their murders:
- The daughter of an Esfahani carpet weaver who was cut to pieces; killed by Mostafa Hamzezadeh Ettela`at, Khordad 15. at Mehdi Hashemi's orders. At his trial ten years later, Hashemi was to admit his guilt in ordering this murder on the grounds that she was immoral and that "according to the Holy Law, killing her would help society's moral security, and there is no problem with it." He was to name her murderer as Amir-qolu Hamzezadeh, Hashemi's File, vol. 2, pp. 205-9, cited in "Indictment", p. 5, col. 4. It should be mentioned that three other people had already been convicted of this murder, protecting the family honor. Ettela`at, Khordad 2, 8/May 23, 29, 1976.
- A guard at a water pumping station who was killed in September 1975. A Hadafi who confessed said the victim had behaved immorally with two boys and a woman; the victim's wife vigorously denied this. Ettela`at, Khordad 12/May 2, 1976. At his trial ten years later, Hashemi, after denying the murder, admitted he had ordered him to be murdered as an immoral man. He gave the killers' names as Amir Moradi, Amir Hamzezadeh, Mostafa Hamzezadeh, "and several others". They were killed, Hashemi says, after they themselves discussed the matter, asked Hashemi about it, and received his blessings. Hashemi's file, vol. (?), pp. 91, 175, 203, 205, 211-12, and vol 5, 205, 277, 606, 731, cited in "Indictment", p. 5, col. 4.
- A traffic policeman who, according to a confession, was stabbed 27 times in October 1975, for no apparent reason. Ettela`at, Ord. 29/May 19, 1976.
- The four year old son of Esfahani congregational prayer leader Hajj Sayyed Taqi Mosavi, an outspoken enemy of Hashemi, head of the prestigious Sayyed Mosque, according to the Esfahan police. He was killed in December and his body was found stuffed into a fertilizer bag crammed into an abandoned well. Ettela`at, Khordad 11, Ord. 27/May 1, 1976.
- Sayyed Esma`il Hasani, the representative of two of Shi`ism's Grand Ayatollahs, Kho’i and Golpaygani, and Ayatollah Shamsabadi, all bitter enemies of Hashemi. The day after returning from pilgrimage, this well-known cleric was set upon by masked assailants armed with knives and cudgels, inflicting wounds from which he died a few days later. Dying, he said he was attacked for opposing the teachings of Shahid-e Javid. Hosein Moradi, a Hadafi, confessed to his murder (and two others). Another assailant was recognized as one Mehdi Ramazani when his mask slid off. Ettela`at, Khordad 5/May 26 1976.
- Qambar `Ali Safarzadeh, who studied in the Esfahan seminaries under (among others) Ayatollah Mahdavi-Kani, Ayatolah Khademi, and Ayatollah Shamsabadi, and was appointed by the two latter to be responsible for disbursing the seminarians' stipends at a local mosque Resalat, August 31, 1986. and the local representative of Ayatollah Shamsabadi in Hashemi's borough. He asked Shamsabadi to come to Qahdarijan after Salehi began his propaganda for Shahid-e Javid. He had, according to his son, received threatening letters in red ink the previous spring saying that if the Imam `Ali, known in tradition as a ruthless warrior, were alive, "he would not give you one hour's reprieve, but sever your neck." Ettela`at, 27 Farvardin/ April 16, 1977. When this didn't suffice, according to the confession of one of the killers the Hadafis had hired for the job, two Hadafis, Hosein Moradi and `Abbas `Ali Rahimi, kidnapped him in early March 1975 16 Esfand. while he was awaiting his wife's return from pilgrimage, strangled him, and stuffed his body in a sack which they crammed into an abandoned aqueduct, which they then sealed. Hashemi confessed to this murder ten years later, too. A version of this murder is presented by his son in Resalat, August 31-September 2, 1987. Hashemi, after denying it before the inquest (up to vol. 4, p. 259) confessed to the killing (vol. 4, p. 607), making as if his disciples had the initiative in the matter, and finally, admitted that he'd told them to "finish him off". vol 5, p. 616, 732.
- Finally, in the early hours of 18 Farvardin/April 7, 1976, Ayatollah Shamsabadi was offered a ride to the mosque by Hashemi's men. In the car driven by Mohammad Esma`il Ebrahimi, a mechanic, Asadollah Shafi`zadeh, an oil vendor and another recent relative Hashemi's by marriage and later, according to Nurizadeh, Ayatollah Montazeri's treasurer gave Mohammad Hosein Ja`farzadeh, a young geology student just recently married to Hashemi's sister and later a commander in the Revolutionary Guards and a manager of the government's electronic media, a white kerchief with which he strangled him; they hastily dumped the body in a ditch by the roadside, according to their confession. Ettela`at, Ord. 25/May 15, 1976. The names of the accomplices are confirmed by Hashemi in his televized confession. Resalat December 17, 1986. Their responsibility was first exposed through an anonymous tip provided a week later, Ettela`at, Farv. 27/April 16, 1976. a tip that led to Hashemi's network's unravelling. The provincial and federal governments launched a major investigation and soon a number of Hashemi's men were arrested, leading to the other murders being solved. At first, Hashemi denied having commited this murder before the Islamic inquest, claiming that "foreign agents" did it, using the murder to get at Ayatollah Montazeri, given Hashemi's closeness to him. (vol 2, p. 67-70, 79, 91). Then he admitted that they might have been inspired by him (p. 175), he had no foreknowledge of the event. From pages 187-96, he denied any prior knowledge of the killing and any contact with SAVAK after the killing (see below). From pages 198-200, he claims he was trying to keep Mohammad Hosein and Asadollah from murdering in April 1975, but they did it anyway. On page 204, they convinced him to agree that he was deserving of the death sentence and gave his silent assent to the murder before the fact. On pages 210-11, confronted with a letter the authorities uncovered, he confessed to having planned and arranged the murder and on pages 231-32, he confessed to convincing the two to murder Ayatollah Shamsabadi against their own judgement.
The Ayatollah's murder created a national sensation. It was reported under banner headlines for weeks. Hundreds of thousands of Esfahanis mourned his death in a procession that stretched for miles. The president of the borough where Hashemi's men lived promised to change the borough's name out of shame over these deeds. Ettela`at, Khordad 3/May 24, 1976. Esfahan's board of clergymen talked of a "wave of outrage in Esfahan" over the killings. Ayatollah Hajj Sayyed Hosein Khademi, the city's leading cleric, promised "eternal relentless hellfire" for the murderers and added that the murder "has wounded the hearts of hundreds of thousands of Esfahanis. Their raging hearts will not be stilled until the perpetrators of this deed are punished before the people." Ettela`at, Khordad 5/May 26, 1976. He would live to see Hashemi's execution.
This sensation was useful to the government. The martyred Ayatollah was described as "both respected by all the people of Esfahan and ever the target of severe attacks by Khomeini's agents", both of which were likely true. Ettela`at, Ord. 25.
A long trial was held in Esfahan criminal court, and Hashemi was condemned to death three times for ordering the murders. Khabarnameye Jebheye Melliye Iran, Khordad /May 1977 [discuss international and national efforts, including by his father "May history reward your finding the truth." Hashemi appealed to Ayatollah Khademi in a long letter to not make the mistake of the early Muslims and allow rivalries to tear apart the Islamic community, but rather to follow the noble example of Imam `Ali who, mortally wounded by a schismatic, urged his murder not become an occasion for infighting among Muslims, as he was sure Ayatollah Shamsabadi would have wanted it that way. loc. cit.
In any case, the death sentence was never carried out. This might have been because the Shah was coming under pressure from the Carter administration and his own subjects. This version is confirmed by the fact that none of those convicted for this shocking crime were executed. On the other hand, if Hashemi’s confession under the Islamic Republic is true, the reason is otherwise: He was collaborating with SAVAK. Although the concensus is that he did cooperate in some way with SAVAK, it is not completely out of the question that his sentence was commuted as the Shah was releasing so many other political prisoners, the incarceration of whom was becoming a political liability for him. It should be recalled that Mas'ud Rajavi, a leader of the Organization of People's Mojahedin, was released after serving seven (?) years in prison for an assassination attempt on an Iranian prince and an attempted hijacking at around this time, due to vigorous international efforts organized by his brother. Mojahed Esfand 25, '58
Hashemi’s cooperation with SAVAK is explained in several not entirely incompatible ways in his confession. According to one, he was collaborating after his release from prison and before his military discharge: "SAVAK ... brainwashed and encouraged him to collaborate with it and ... obtained a contract of cooperation through military counter-intelligence, after which the court absolved him." "Indictment" This is a common canard used against people it wants to discredit. For example, Peoples Mojahedin leader Mas'ud Rajavi was accused of cooperation with SAVAK over the conditions of his release at around the same time, although he stoutly refused, despite savage torture, to pledge his loyalty to the Shah, the original condition for his release, (Mojahed, Esfand 25, '58) and against Iranian poet Reza Baraheni, who was released from prison after a similar international campaign and was hounded by Maoist Iranian students as a so-called SAVAK agent up through the revolution. The prosecutor cites an undated SAVAK "document" saying that "Sayyed Mehdi Hashemi, after his military service and learning of the country's social situation, not only didn't say anything against national security... from the pulpit, but mostly prays for ... the Shahenshah, Light of the Aryans...." "Indictment", p. 5, col. 2. He is even quoted as admitting to having lead his men to join and actively build the Shah's recently-founded single party, the Rastakhiz Party Hashemi's file, vol. 5 p. 731, loc. cit. and divert his men from struggling against SAVAK to struggling against the "silent and reactionary clergy". Hashemi's file, vol. 2, p.731-32, loc. cit., p. 5, col. 5. See the above references to volume 2 of Hashemi's file. His brother has unspecified evidence that "Mehdi Hashemi would, upon mutual arrangement, go to the Esfahan SAVAK office and talk with them about various matters, and those officials would even promise to help him in matters of ... health and welfare." Hashemi's file, vol. 1, p. 235, loc. cit.
This immediately raises an interesting question: didn't Mehdi Hashemi's brother feel some sense of urgency to communicate his suspicions about Khomeini's man in Esfahan's possibly being a SAVAK agent to the rest of Khomeini's network? Or were such contacts with SAVAK seen as ordinary, nothing to get alarmed about?
In his televized confession, Hashemi says that "out of inexperience, being overwhelmed by my senses and an immature understanding of Islam", he decided that it was "permissable and excusable" to establish contacts with SAVAK for the sake of "softening SAVAK's" attituted towards him, "a minor slip which gradually resulted in contacts with a local SAVAK officer" and discussing matters with SAVAK. When he was finally arrested, "I officially wrote a letter to SAVAK and announced my cooperation with them". Resalat, Dec. 17, 1986. "I ... believed that showing softness towards SAVAK could lower its sensitivities, but this weak relationship with SAVAK turned into a relationship" with a specific officer whom, he later realized, SAVAK had assigned to his case, and he later even met with an officer (executed after the revolution) at his house. Hashemi's file, vol. 2 p. 235, cited in "Indictment", where he adds that he used his contacts before his arrest "to try to distort the affair of Shamsabadi's death in their minds and save myself." In this connection, it is interesting to note that he more willingly confessed to his relations with SAVAK than with the killing of Ayatollah Shamsabadi. Hashemi's file, vol. 2, pp. 180-96, cited in "Indictment", p. 5, col. 5. See also Mohammadi-Reyshahri's remarks, cited at the end of this article. Hashemi's final prosecutor claims to have thirteen pages of SAVAK files proving that such cooperation led to SAVAK obtaining "significant quantities of intelligence", enabling it to identify "over 20" people, leading to "some arrests". This included requests for information on Ayatollah Montazeri and his son, Mohammad, the latter of which he gave some information about. Resalat August 16, 1987, p. 5, col. 3. This should be read in the context of the prosecutor's intentions of discrediting Hashemi: It is never specified whether those arrested were, for example, members of Hashemi's network or not. In fact, the only specific reference to such "information" and "arrests" is in connection with his own arrest for the murder of Ayatollah Shamsabadi. Moreover, there is a significant error, it seems, in Hashemi’s later confession. He says he was arrested and wrote to the head of SAVAK and promised to cooperate; a SAVAK officer came to the prison and Hashemi "gave him the names of Ja`farzadeh, Shafi`zadeh, Ebrahimi, and Rahimi and they were arrested." Hashemi's file, vol. 5, p. 731, p. 5, col. 3. This is a story he presents with some consistency, having said he contacted SAVAK and identified the killers in vol. 2, p. 189-96 of his files. See "Indictment", p. 5, col. 5.However, Ettela`at reported that in fact, Shafi`zadeh had been arrested first at his house, where they found a tape by Hashemi and that this linked the latter to the former, Ord. 26. Ettela`at, Khordad 6. and Rahimi's name arises almost two weeks later, and then only tangentially. A perhaps more truthful version is given a year earlier in his televized confession Resalat, December 17, 1986. when he simply states that it was only when he personally called in his contacts with SAVAK to save himself in the Ayatollah Shamsabadi murder case that SAVAK entered the picture. This jibes well with Ettela`at's contemporary record of the case. A different version is given by the Islamic Republican Minister of Intelligence who investigated Hashemi. He says that, in addition to having provided SAVAK with information on Dr. Mohammad-`Ali Hadi Najafabadi, Born 1941, student of international relations, friend of Mohammad Montazeri. Was arrested by French police in 1977 for "important role in the Paris St. Marie church hunger strike", after which he worked in Khomeini's office. After the revolution, editor for a time of Keyhan, then on the executive council of Seda o Sima, the government's electornic media. By early 1980, he had visited Tunisia, Algeria, France, Syria, and Lebanon on behalf of the Islamic Republic. Ettela`at, April 10, 1984, Jomhuriye Eslami Esfahan 17, 1980. by then a member of the Islamic Majlis, a member of the Majlis' Foreign Policy Commission and a close collaborator with Hashemi on his international activities after the revolution, on Khordad 31/June 21, 1974 and "wrote a letter to SAVAK without SAVAK's requesting it to say specifically who was guilty of murdering [Ayatollah Shamsabadi] and squealed on his comrades... who did what they had done upon his orders." He even reads the text of the letter: "I have found out that differences and factionalism in Qahdarijan, in which some decided to kill the late Sayyed Abol-Hasan Shamsabadi. So I am putting what I know at the disposal of the Esfahan Security Organization security officials and I request in return, in accordance with the legal clause which clearly states that people who cooperate with security officials or police officers in revealing information will be forgiven for their crimes, that I be protected under this clause." Television interview with Reyshahri, printed in Resalat, December 15, 1986.
This story, although obviously quite useful for the government's efforts to blacken Hashemi's name, is not inconceivable. It is not impossible, given the appearance of permanence which the regime then had, for an aspiring religious Guide, consumed by sectarian jealousies against the orthodox, to seek to have his own relations with the local power-structure. And it certainly raises questions about relations other Islamic revolutionaries had with the Shah's government.
Hashemi in Revolutionary Esfahan—I: Political Power
In any case Mehdi Hashemi was freed after the revolution.
When Mehdi Hashemi returned to his native borough of Qahdarijan in Esfahan, he found a city torn by factional turmoil. On the one hand, Ayatollah Hosein Khademi, whose granting ten day's refuge to anti-monarchist protesters in the Ramazan of 1978 and their being attacked on the fifth of that month (August 10) Jomhuriye Eslam, Mordad 8, 1979, Tir 28, 1980. marked the deepening of the revolution there, and the Esfahan seminary establishment led the old-line clergy. On the other hand, Ayatollah Sayyed Jalal od-Din Taheri, a relatively young congregational prayer leader and Khomeini's representative in Esfahan, led the firebrands Cite Spy Den documents. In jail several months, freed. FBIS/MENA Dec. 28, 1978. and, as was pointed out as early as Hashemi's arrest under the Shah, in a family related to Hashemi's Ettela`at, Ord. 29, where the Taheris are described as being "first to fifth degree relatives of the Hashemis.. Despite denying what was known to all, they were united only in their alliance with Khomeini.
Inevitably, this rivalry took the form of a struggle over the city's security apparatus, a fight between the komitehs, which were led by Engineer Sayyed Amir `Abbas Bahreinian and allied with Khademi and, later, the conservative Mosaddeqist nationalists; and the municipal Revolutionary Guards backed by Taheri, the governor of Esfahan province, Ettela`at, Mehr 9 Oct. 1, 1979. and the populist institutions. Conservative quality of komitehs. aside from my other work, 24 Mehr '59 Mardom and 1 Aban '58 Ettela`at.
On returning, Hashemi "utilized to the fullest his position in his birthplace." "Indictment", p. 5, col. 4. Firstly, he intervened in the already existing struggle between the komiteh and the Revolutionary Guards. Resalat, December 17, 1986. Secondly, he carved out his own niche among the Guards themselves. "After the Esfahan Revolutionary Guards were formed, I and several people like Akhavi intervened to found a Guard Corps in Qahdarijan, people who from the first were all my old friends and aquaintances and co-thinkers," Hashemi's file, vol. 3, p. 495, 497, cited in op. cit., p. 8, col. 2. Hashemi gave his interrogators an indication of the relation between the Guards and himself: "Of course, the extremist faction of the Guards, whose base was in Falavarjan,..., had warmest relations with me, and my role in keeping the factional atmosphere hot was greater than anyone." Hashemi's file, vol. 5, p. 734, cited in "Indictment", p. 8, col. 3. "If it weren't for our intervention and support, the Esfahan Guards would perhaps have succeeded in completely taking over [our] Guards, but as these Guard brothers saw, I completely supported them." Hashemi files, vol. 3, p. 486, "Indictment", p. 8, col. 3. "Instead of smothering the flames of differences, I persisted in an factional attitude for the sake of my success." Hashemi's file, vol. 3, p. 499, "Indictment", p. 8, col. 3. In other words, he didn't create the rivalries, but deepened them to suit his own purposes.
Hashemi was said to have used it to "organize troublesome people expelled from various organs" to "crush his opponents." "Indictment", p. 5, col. 4. This move met with resistance from the municipal Revolutionary Guards, which ordered his outfit dissolved. Hashemi's men disgraced them by mobilizing "the families of martyrs" Hashemi's file, vol. 3, p. 501, cited in "Indictment". and, in general, made his Guards a vehicle for locally existing discontent and differences. Hashemi's file, vol. 3, p. 497-99, cited in op. cit., p. 8, col. 2. The municipal Guards didn't recognize his Guards, "so I had the final word in removing and assigning people to posts in [his own unit of] the Guards." Hashemi's file, vol. 3, p. 497, loc. cit. The other side to this was that it was constantly in conflict with the municipal Guards. "Sometimes, the order would come from Esfahan to remove it from the [Guard] council or remove the Guards or dissolve them, but [Hashemi's] Guards would mobilize the families of martyrs and they would strike and sit in and the the Esfahan Guards would be embarrassed before the families and retreat." Hashemi's file, vol. 3, p. 501, loc. cit. Special meetings of its council were organized for him when he was passing through town at which he would make the decisions about internal Guard assignments. Hashemi's file, vol 3, pp. 474-79; 486, loc. cit. "Directly or indirectly, [Hashemi's] Guard's Central Council acted in accordance with my views, directly or indirectly." Hashemi's file, vol. 3, p. 497, loc. cit. It was armed, provisioned, and financed through his local network, building up an arsenal including fifty Kalashnikovs, grenades, mines, and vehicles. Being boycotted by the municipal Guards, it raised money locally, "acting like an autonomous government." Hashemi's file, vol. 3, pp. 535-36, 733-34, loc. cit.
This institution served as the lynchpin for his local policy: He states, "The existence of the ideas I always had was based on the existence of the Guards, for this organ was a popular, military, and revolutionary institution welcomed by the entire population.... Having the Guards on this ideological track lent the issue of Majlis elections powerful support every time. The selection of government officials was usually done with Guard advice. How often even in agricultural and economic issues was the Guard's influence and power decisive!" Hashemi's file, vol. 3, p. 495, cited in "Indictment" p. 8, col. 3.
Hashemi's men also became well entrenched in Esfahan's Fifth Precinct, which included Qahdarijan, including the Revolutionary Guards, the Jihad for Construction, the Housing Foundation, and the city's religious court. For example, the precinct's mayor, Mohandes Ja`far Asna`ashari, was one of Hashemi's men. Interestingly, his enemies accused him of being a leader of the shadowy Forqan anti-clerical terrorist group then just being broken up by the government. This is significant because it indicates that he was believed to have had links with a violent, anti-clerical secret society. Enqelab-e Eslami, Oct. 17 and 18, 1979. This was the way Hashemi's group was seen, e.g., by Ettela'at, which quotes Ayatollah Shamsabadi's murderer Ja`farzadeh as disliking "clergymen" as such (Ettela`at, Ord. 26) and by Ayatollah Khademi, whofulmitated against "crushing the clergy" and "forming deviated societies." Enqelab-e Eslami, Dec. 15, 1980. He formed a "vast and powerful" institution in Lanjan Sofla which included "a decision-making and planning axis at which he would be present, which was given the task of coordinating the political organs with itself in monthly and quarterly meetings in my presence, and it worked." Hashemi's file, vol. 5, p. 737, cited in "Indictment", p. 11, col. 2.
After the provincial governor appealed for the dissolution of the komiteh into the municiple Guards in September Enqelab-e Eslami, Sept 15, 1979. See also Mehr 9/Oct. 1, 1979., Ayatollah Mahdavi-Kani, national chief of the komitehs, went to Esfahan to plead for a reprieve. Enqelab-e Eslami, September 25, 1979. In a traditional gesture of protest against this move, Ayatollah Taheri refused to perform his religious functions Jomhuriye Eslami, October 17/25 Mehr, 1979. and thousands went into the streets pleading for him to return. Jomhuriye Eslami, October 22/30 Mehr, 1979. In the meantime, the municipality's forces were confronting the radicals in the Fifth Precinct. In November, the gendarmerie attacked land distribution in Falavarjan, sparking student protests in Qahdarijan. Enqelab-e Eslami, Nov. 5, 1979. In December, an engineer, a radical in the Jihad for Construction, who was parcelling out wasteland for the local peasantry in Esfahan's Fifth Precinct upon orders of Hashemi's ally Hojjatoleslam Fathollah Omid, was arrested by Khademi's komiteh and condemned by the Islamic judge, eliciting a reprimand to the komiteh from the Precinct's governor. Enqelab-e Eslami, Dec. 6, 15, 1979. Later, the precinct governor himself was arrested. Enqelab-e Eslami, Dec. 17, 1979. This sparked a wave of resignations and threats of resignations by Islamic court officials and others, and protests from peasants, students, revolutionary institutions, Islamic Republican Party units, and even some elements of the bazaar, Islamic workers councils, and farmers from tribal areas. "Hundreds of thousands" attended Friday prayers at which they demonstrated against attacks by "capitalist and false clergymen tied to Zionism and imperialism." Jomhuriye Eslam, December 15/24 Azar, 1979, Enqelab-e Eslami, December 17, 19, 22, 24, 1979. For his part, Omid went to Qom to personally "protest the intervention by irresponsible elements tied to the past regime". [Jomhuriye Eslami December 13/22 Azar, 1979. Omid had been arrested in March 1972 for possession of Khomeini's religious treatises. (Enqelab-e Eslami, August 7, 1980) He says of himself that he began his studies under Montazeri in Qom at the age of ten and spent seven years in prison, to be released in 1974, for his political struggles. One interesting rumor about him is that he had had a house seized and given over to "dubious" people, in which "arms were traded and declarations printed." He was also accused of membership in Forghan. (Enqelab-e Eslami, August 7, 1980) See also Ettela`at, Dey 4/Dec. 25, 1979, where it is reported that Khomeini wanted to remove him from his post. In any case, he threw his turban into the ring and joined the IRP's Grand Coalition electoral list that March (Jomhuriye Eslami, Esfan 22, 1980, coming in second with some 222,000 votes to future education minister `Ali-Akbar Parvaresh (235,000) , Islamic radical Fazlollah Salvati's 196,000 and Mosaddeqist Ahmad Salamatian's 182,000 votes. And he has a SAVAK officer sentenced to death that May (Jomhuriye Eslami, Khordad 5, 1980) If Omid was an ally of Mehdi Hashemi, qualifying him as an ultra-hezbollahi militant, he seemed to be closer to the Islamic radicals around Professor Reza Esfahani, author of the radical land reform later blocked by the regime and a supporter of Omid on the land question. (Dey 2, 1979). Prof. Esfahani gravitated to the People's Mojahedin on the issue of democratic rights and hostility to an increasingly suffocating clericalism. In a joint protest they signed with `Ali Tehrani and Mohammad Taqi Shari`ati, Mojahed, (Ord. 20, 1359), he complains, among other things, about "those who prevent expression of opinion and actitity ... by setting the people against their opponents or political rivals by calling them "counter-revolutionary" or "infidels", ... and ... even silence in this matter is a great sin which will incur God's wrath" and "I remind all the people, the Pasdar brothers in particular, of their religious obligations, lest somehow,... if someone wants...to crush his political rivals, ... to protect his own position, they not cooperate or keep quiet before their schemes, for they are responsible before God for each drop of blood shed, for each person disappointed and despairing in the Islamic revolution.". Hashemi says that he would carry out punishements for infringements on Islamic law "without the permission of he Islamic judge". (Hashemi's file, vol. 5, p. 734, in "Indictment", p. 8, col. 3) If this refers to Omid, this gives a very interesting indication of the nature of Hashemi's alliance with Omid. On the other hand, Minister of Intelligence Hojjatoleslam Mohammadi-Reyshahri stated, "A number of these gentlemen whom we've arrested say that a number of the assassinations after the revolution were done upon [Omid's] orders, such as that of Engineer Bahreinian and others." Television interview with Reyshahri, printed in Resalat, December 15, 1986. In response, Mahdavi-Kani claimed full backing from Khomeini, Montazeri, and the ruling Revolutionary Council, including support for Omid's now de facto exile to Qom. Enqelab-e Eslami, Dec. 24, 25 1979. As Ayatollah Mahdavi-Kani put it, "The Imam... clearly stated that Master Omid may never return to Esfahan again. He will return to Esfahan as a guest." Keyhan Dey 3/Dec. 24, 1979, cited in the series "Barghai az Arshiv", Resalat Dec. 24, 1986 Later, Ayatollah Taheri relayed to Esfahan Khomeini's opinion that "Omid was an excellent youth who must stay in Qom" and not be allowed "to become a tool and be abused." Jomhuriye Eslami, Dey 13/Jan. 3, 1980]
Meanwhile, a representative of the students occupying the American embassy sent a representative opposing the komiteh. They produced documents showing that Khademi had connived at having Jamshid Iranpur, a CIA contact who had made his fortune in imports and exports and had been run out of the country after the revolution, brought back to Iran and given a place of influence in Khademi's komiteh. Ettela`at, Dey 3, 4/Dec. 24, 25 1979. For Khademi's version, see Jomhuriye Eslami, Dey 5/Dec. 26, 1979. This would not be the last time Ayatollah Khademi would show this weakness towards pro-American elements; he showed only the most reluctant support for Ayatollah Shari'atmadari's defrocking when he was caught participating in a coup attempt backed by Ghotbzadeh. Ettela`at, Ordibehesht 2, 1361. This action triggered a new and truly sweeping wave of resignations from komitehs in the area, with many joining the Revolutionary Guards en masse, Jomhuriye Eslami, Dey 9, 12/Dec. 30, 1979, Jan. 2, 1980. and demonstrators in the "tens of thousands," Jomhuriye Eslami, Dey 6/Dec. 27, 1979. including "peasants with hoes and sickles" who chanted, "Execute the American agent Iranpur." Mardom Dey 9/Dec. 30, 1979. The protesters finally agreed to disperse after a visit by Ayatollah Mohammad-Ja`far Bahonar on behalf of Khomeini and the Revolutionary Council. Enqelab-e Eslami, Jan. 1,2, 1980.
Hashemi took part in this agitation in Qahdarijan, recalling that he "was among the serious supporters of the Guards in the area" and "made many speeches about this." pp. 749-50, vol. 5, cited in "Indictment", p. 8 col. 3. "There were two tactics for dealing with the local komiteh [affiliated with Bahreinian] in Sofla. [i.e., Lanjan, or Qahdarijan] One was the peaceful tactic which the Esfahan Revolutionary Guard council [allied with Taheri and the provincial government] supported and one was the extremist one which we suported.... [the Sofla Revolutionary Guards] decided beforehand to coordinate their actions with the Najafabad and Khomeinishahr Guards, and that support forces come to Qhadarijan." p. 8 col. 3. On Dey 9/December 30, 1979, after the latter sent in men to disarm both the local komiteh loyal to Bahreinian and the local Guards, sixteen of them were taken hostage and one of the Qahderijan Guards was killed. Enqelab-e Eslami, Jan. 1,2, 1980. Reza Moradi, one of Hashemi's lieutenants and chief of Guard operations, said of this, "I was asked to disarm the komiteh, and at first I refrained. After contacting several people, ... we went up to the komiteh, and I said... "Let's bring some tear gas. But before we reached the komiteh, they fired at us." "Text ofthe Indictment of Two Agents of Mehdi Hashemi's Gang", Resalat, August 23, 1987, hereafter, "Indictment of Two", col. 2. Ayatollah Taheri met with Khomeini for half an hour and came back with a statement effectively blaming the stubbornness of the Qahdarijan Guards for the violence.
Then, on Dey 15/Jan. 5, 1980, there was an attempt on the life of Hajj Aqa Mehdi Faqih Imami of the Esfahani Seminary, Ayatollah Khademi's stronghold, and Bahreinian was assassinated, 32 bullets in his body. Etteal`at, Dey 16/Jan. 6, 1980. This led to the bazar's closing in mourning and strong statements of denunciations from both Khademi and Taheri, the latter in any case having been closing ranks with the former. Enqelab-e Eslami, Jan. 7, 10, 1980. Taheri declared that "Khademi is my revered father." Enqelab-e Eslami, Jan. 12, 1980. Five were arrested by the komiteh in this connection: Mohammad Hasan Sami'i, Fazlollah Rismankar, Morteza Nilforushan, `Ali Omid Qaemi, and Hosein Ja`farzadeh. Enqelab-e Eslami, Jan. 20, 1980. At first, Hashemi denied knowing anything more than hearsay about the event, mentioning that he only knew about Hosein Ja`farzadeh's involvement. (vol. 1 (?), p. 97) Later, he says that, upon request of the municipal Guards over the affair, he sent three of his men with official papers over. (vol. 4, p. 601). Finally (vol. 5, p. 733), he confesses to his role in the murder as described below. The first name is that of an activist in the housing foundation, evidently oriented towards expropriations Enqelab-e Eslami, Feb. 13, 1980.; the last is that of a notorious Hadafi, a son-in-law of Hashemi's. Etteal`at, Ord. 29/May 19, 1976. In this connection, it is interesting that "one of Engineer Bahreinian's relatives said, "It's likely that one of the murders of the late Ayatollah Shamsabadi was involved in this murder." Etteal`at, Dey 17/Jan. 7, 1980. Two more were arrested later. Ettela`at, Dey 24/Jan. 14, 1980. Some of them had Guard cards, supposedly having been expelled from the Guards for absenteeism acording to a Guard commander, Enqelab-e Eslami, Feb. 16, 1980. and one was apparently active in the Housing Foundation. Enqelab-e Eslami, Feb 13, 19, 1980,
In his confession to the Islamic prosecutor, Hashemi explains it this way: "One night, as the conflict between the Revolutionary Guards and the komiteh in Esfahan was coming to a head, ... I said to Mohammad Hosein Ja`farzadeh ... that Mohandes Bahreinian is central to this conflict and if he is hit, it will be all over. He agreed with this and [so] I told him, Go to Esfahan...and plan it out. He went with Hasan Sate` and ... presented the plans to Aqa Omid, Esfahan's Islamic judge, and carried out Bahreinian's killing through several people, two of whom, Mehdizadeh and Ja`farzadeh, were members of the Lanjan Revolutionary Guards intelligence division." "Indictment", p. 5, col. 5, Resalat, August 16, 1987. Incidently, this would put Omid back in Esfahan as Revolutionary Judge at least as ealry as February, 1980. Indeed, Hashemi's Islamic prosecutor, according to a confession extracted from an arrestee in this case, claimed that Omid had "granted permission" for the assassination. Enqelab-e Eslami, August 7, 1980.
This assassination is the first on the list of the killings Hashemi was accused of having masterminded after the revolution.
This murder led to renewed resistance by Khademi's forces to "the irresponsibility of the heads of the organs across the country," referring to the revolutionary para-state institutions, and a rear-guard battle against the dissolution of their komiteh into the Guards. Bahreinian's relatives sat in at Ayatollah Khademi's house, demanding a purge of the Guards and that all those accused of killing Bahreinian be sent to Tehran for trial as Khomeini himself had demanded. Enqelab-e Eslami, Jan. 27, Feb. 13, 14 1980.
But these forces were rapidly losing strength; the American embassy occupation was in its second month. The killers were acting in cahoots with the local Islamic court, which "threatened" a government investigator sent to Esfahan to investigate why one of the accused had not been sent to Tehran for trial, but instead took the plane sent to transport him to Bushahr instead, a fugitive from the frigid Tehran winter rather than the law.... Enqelab-e Eslami, Feb. 13, 1980. And the supporters of the students in the embassy marched in front of Khademi's house against those taking refuge with him, and when Ahmad Salamatian, a local Mosaddeqist politician, appealed to Khademi and promised an investigation into the murder of Bahrainian "and other recent assassinations", he relented, Enqelab-e Eslami, Feb. 26, 27, 1980, Jomhuriye Eslami, Esfand 8/Feb. 27, 1980; Ettela`at, Esfand 11/March 1, 1980. but soon left town in protest. Enqelab-e Eslami, March 1, 1980. (It was around this time that a magazine linked to Hashemi, refuting tradition-based ideas of morality, said, ominously, "Islam's commandments are linked to change and evolution, ... and a great aim lends what is done to achieve it special merit." Ommat-e Eslami, Khordad 15/June 5, 1980, cited in Tavakkoli (1).)
These forces lost out to Bani-Sadr's allies in the Majlis elections, as Salamatian, with considerable support from the bazaar, beat Hojjatoleslam Omid, who was furiously resisted by Ayatollah Khademi, who warned anyone who would listen that they would be "responsible before God" for "electing ...heritical schools deviated from Islam and the clergy," which was "a grave sin", Enqelab-e Eslami, March 10, 1980. and Ahmad Ghaznafarpur, a conservative ally of Bani-Sadr, was elected to represent Hashemi's stronghold of Lanjan. The election of two outspoken liberals to represent Hashemi's home base indicates that Hashemi was not universally popular, certainly with the local establishment. Another indication of this is that "When I would come to the area from time to time, I would go to a meeting which had been organized for the occasion composed of local clerics and reputable figures... The general policy dominating these meetings was one of finding a legal resolution to the problem" of differences between the local komiteh and the local Guards. Hashemi's file, vol. 5, p. 734, "Indictment", p. 8, col. 3.
After this, we've only found two references to Hashemi's activities in Esfahan. One appears in Ettela`at, October 27, 1981, where the provincial governor says, "Among the security problems are the grouplets and movements with a special character, and this movement began before the revolution with [the murder of] Ayatollah Shamsabadi, continued after the revolution with the assassination of Engineer Bahreinian, and lately with the assassination of Dr. Hatemzadeh, which case is being diligently investigated." Note that this was said at the peak of the fury of the Mojahed insurrection.
A second refers to the second major confrontation between the Guards and the komitehs, in May 1982. [Sha`ban 3] Hashemi describes the event as follows: "During a procession, while representatives and regional [officials] were present, a fight broke out. There are various reports about how it began, the most reliable of which is that when the Revolutionary Guards troops came before the komiteh, Asadollah Shafi`zadeh (a leader in Hashemi's Guards) seized the loudspeaker ... and chanted violent slogans against the komiteh, even "Death to the komiteh", and a fight broke out in which about eleven of the komiteh, the Guards, and ordinary people were killed and a number wounded." Hashemi's file, vol. 5, p. 734, cited in "Indictment", p. 8 col. 3, where he goes on to say only "a few" were killed. That there were only two such conflicts is attested by Reza Moradi in his confession. "Indictment of Two". Hashemi's lieutenant, Reza Moradi, describes it as a rather spontaneous affair, too, with people suddenly "leaving Qahdarijan in droves for Falavarjan," between the Lanjan Sofla Guards and the Falavarjan komiteh. "Indictment of Two". See also Free Voice of Iran broadcast, June 9, 1982 cited in FBIS/SA June 10, 1982, which reports that "a group of the regime's Guards have gone to Falavarjan from Esfahan and now have the Falavarjan municipality and district governor's office in their control."
Ayatollah Khademi was on a death list drawn up by Hashemi's men, according to the confession of an unnamed comrade of his. Press conference with Reyshahri, printed in Resalat, December 15, 1986. Reyshahri refrained from naming who else was on this death list.
There is only one other murder or assassination mentioned in the official material 15 are mentioned as having been confessed to by Hashemi or his accomplices as early as three months after his arrest. "It must be much more than that: the people of Qahdarijan presented a petition in which they listed many killings which we have not looked into." It can be imagined why the government saw no point in going into on each of the killings! Why it chose to dwell on the ones it did mention is another matter. Press conference with Reyshahri, printed in Resalat, December 15, 1986. or getting more than a bare mention in any of the material we've found, is that of `Abbasqolu Heshmati and two of his sons, stemming from a vendetta dating back to before the revolution. His house was subject to an armed attack (in which no one was killed) involving Esma`il Ebrahimi when it was determined at a Hadafi meeting that it was "a center of good-timing and licenciousness" Mehdi's file vol. 2 p. 291-2, vol. 4, p. 538, cited in "Indictment" B: 2, 3, 4. After the revolution, Hashemi saw the Heshmatis arming themselves illegally, "intimidating the religious".
Hashemi said that the Guards, upon his insistence, Hashemi's file, vol. 4, p. 538, loc. cit. threw some of them in jail, where they tortured them in accordance, according to Hashemi, with Islamic law. They were freed "after a while", having been shaken down for money for account #7100, Hashemi's file, vol. 4, p. 540. and rearrested "a short time later". The elders of Qahdarijan appealed to Hashemi in person to save `Abbasqolu, Hashemi's file, vol. 1, p. 98. but Hashemi denied any knowledge of the matter. The Heshmatis apparently decided to assassinate Hashemi and had been seen by the Guards reconnoitering his house. "A few months later", in May 1985, Quoting Reza Moradi. Hashemi's file, vol. 4, pa. 602-03, "Indictment", p. 8, col. 2 and "Indictment of Two" col. 1, where it is recalled to have happened during Ramazan 1364. Incidently, this would indicate that acoount # 7100 survived well into 1985. Hashemi's men decided to beat them to it, Hashemi's file, vol. 4, p. 587-89 cited in "Indictment" p. 8, col. 1, 2. although Hashemi went to great pains to stress that he was not to be associated with the murder in any way; this shows that he was still able to maintain a fiction of distance between himself and his disciples' actions, and, above all, that he found such a posture necessary. Although we have seen that the connection between the murders he was involved in after the revolution and before were whispered about and found their way into the press on occasion, it was only in an indirect way and certainly not mentioning Hashemi by name. Interestingly, one of the reasons given for killing `Abbasqolu Heshmati was that he was supporting the People's Mojahedin in the area. Hashemi's file, vol. 4, p. 535, loc. cit.
Finally, as Mohammad Kazemzadeh, one of the three murders, confessed, they forced their car to stop, seized and bound the elder Heshmati and two of his sons, strangled them, and dumped their bodies in an old well. Also involved in the murder were Gholam-Reza Moradi and Reza Moradi. "Indictment of Two".
In connection with this murder, it should be remembered that one of the prime activities Hashemi had always been involved in was running a brutal and even murderous morality squad. This was low on the list of the Islamic prosecutor's concern, but it must have been a fearsome presence in Qahdarijan. Hashemi himself describes this group as, "A strike force of hotheaded boys to beat and seize corrupt people." "Indictment of Two"
Hashemi in Revolutionary Esfahan--II: Economic Power
The social program advanced by Hashemi's allies in Esfahan was a radical one, although not necessarily a constructive one. Thus, the day after his execution, Ettela`at reported Hashemi was accused of "ruining wells and agricultural land." Sept. 29, 1987. An Iranian broadcast quotes the Islamic revolutionary prosecutor of Esfahan's complaints about "counter-revolutionaries inciting...villagers in some villages,... encouraging them to occupy, violate, and even destroy villages and destroy crops...," threatening them with prosecution if they continue. FBIS/MENA Sept 20, 1978. Ayatollah Khademi accused Hashemi's men of being "atheists" who "take over people's property" and "torture people in ways SAVAK never did" and that he would never "let the banner of Communism be raised over Esfahan." Ettela`at, Day 5/Dec. 26, 1979. A local government representative told President Bani-Sadr's newspaper that rumors about "dividing crops and imprisoning people" were only true "in Lanjan, where a committee called the Council to Divide Produce was guilty of such crimes, having nothing to do with this body," and that they were able to carry this out only in the absence of nationally-centralized organization. Enqelab-e Eslami, Sept 7, 1980. A more sympathetic article appeared there ten days later about two "decisive committees" set up for land distribution in Lanjan and Falavarjan.
A sense of Hashemi's ally Omid's economic perspective is given by Heidari, a Majlis member, in a speech in which he protests Omid being given his credentials. He quotes an interview with Omid in Jomhuriye Eslami: "In Islam, in my opinion, basically anyone should own only as much land as he can work." Khademi is quoted in a letter to Khomeini as saying: "Omid Najafabadi said in his interview that property belongs to he who has the hoe in his hand, and this is pure Communist thought... and obviously to deny private property is to deny the Faith." Omid is also said to have had 70 to 80 executed and organized 400 to 500 expropriations. Mardom, Mordad 16/August 7, 1980.
The only detailed picture of life in Falavarjan is given in the Moscow- oriented Tudeh party's daily, Mardom. It should be noted in reading this first, that although the Tudeh was in a strategic alliance with with the clerical radicals, its tone on social issues tended to be more one of giving the government helpful advice than blanket support. However, one useful way of reading what follows it to gauge the degree of sympathy the Tudeh had for Hashemi and his allies. See below. In any case, Mardom could be expected to turn a blind eye to what Hashemi's enemies would consider mayhem. Perhaps not unexpectedly, the picture it presents is much more benign.
In one village, of 104 families, 10 km. west of Falavarjan proper, the landlord's family managed to gain control over the area's village's land and, later, evade the Shah's land reform. (The man in charge of carrying out the reform was himself a landlord of Qahdarijan, and was imprisoned several months after the revolution.) The reporter then gives a peasant's annecdote about current conditions: "Once, we saw the streams were silted up and the crops and orchards were shriveling away. We went to the court. The court summoned the landlord, who didn't turn up. Finally, it ordered that we sell a portion of the orchard for 50,000 tumans. The Jihad added in 10,000 tumans. We saw it was harvest time. We went and got the court's permission to harvest. But the fields had become all overgrown with weeds and brambles. When we finished harvesting, we didn't even recover our expenses." Another peasant volunteered that the land was now producing up to three times what it did in the landlord's time. The villagers now want to keep the land they've been allowed to till.
Another village, of 115 families,10 km. further west, 80 hA of the landlord's land, a quarter of which was swamp, has been made over to the farmers and brought under cultivation. Farvardin 11/March 31, 1981.
Finally, in a village between the other two of 150 families, "all the lands of the four landlords" which included a governor and a member of the Majlis under the Shah "were given to the landless and land-poor farmers." This land was taken in 40 acre lots and given to groups of 7 to 10. "Through the farmers' efforts, there isn't a speck of fallow land left." A large orchard is also being tended by a farmers council." Farvardin 20/April 9, 1981.
Hashemi in Revolutionary Esfahan--III: Liberation Movements
We now trace the rise of Hashemi's career in the aspect it is best known for in outside Iran.
Although in principle, the Islamic Republic is not limited to Iran, but will transcend boundaries and sweep the world, exactly what this meant in practical terms has never been worked out in any detail. At the very least, its institutions are supposed to be at the service of all victims of oppression, anywhere in the world in general and the Islamic world in particular. After the revolution, this took its most visible expression in the international liberation movements seminars organized in Tehran and in the antics of Ayatollah Montazeri's son, Mohammad. The Second Liberation Movements Conference involved the more "enlightened" or "cosmopolitan" Islamic revolutionaries such as Ayatollah Lahuti, Sheikh Dr. `Ali Tehrani, Dr. Habibollah Peyman, Taher Akhundzadeh (?), some relatives of the late `Ali Shari`ati, Zahra Rahnavard, A`zam Taleqani, etc., and not the Imam's Line militants. Enqelab-e Eslami, Jan. 7, 1980, E Dey 16/Jan. 6, 1980. When the mainstream Khomeiniist elements organized such activities, they seemed mostly oriented to discrediting opponents rather than offering any useful solidarity. An example of this is the liberation movements march organized by the Mojahedin of the Islamic Revolution, where a central slogan was, "Death to the Fedais, American mercenaries," referring to the Marxist guerrilla movement. Jomhuriye Eslami, Dey 5/Jan. 26, 1980.
Hashemi himself was directly involved in all this through the famous account number 7100 in the National Bank by Ayatollah Montazeri in Qom. The first trace of it we found was in February 1980, when Ayatollah Montazeri reminded people that "it is still in use." FBIS/MENA Feb. 25, 1980, monitoring a Feb. 22 broadcast. In Esfand 6/Feb. 25, 1980, Revolutionary Guards in Esfahan donated a day’s wages to it upon the ayatollah's appeal; Jomhuriye Eslami, See also Enqelab-e Eslami, Feb 26, 1980. Jomhuriye Eslami reports that the Iranair Islamic Association coughed up 192,360 rials. Shahrivar 15/Sept. 6, 1980. This sort of institutional support for the fund is probably typical. Another fundraising technique is refered to above: Hashemi agreed to free the aforementioned Heshmatis upon suitable payment to account number 7100. p. 540 vol. 4 of Hashemi's file, in "Indictment", p. 8, col. 1. On Jerusalem Day, 1982, the Revolutionary Guards' Office of Public Relations, appealed to the people to help and "go beyond slogans" (possibly an implicit criticism of the government and even some of its critics) "and thus fulfill their religious duty to the world's liberation movements," particularly mentioning Iraq and Afghanistan. Jomhuriye Eslami, Mordad 16/August 7, 1980.
The legitimacy of Hashemi's efforts reached its peak in late July 1981, when a rally of Liberation Movements for Jerusalem Day featured Mehdi Hashemi, introduced as the organizer of the Revolutionary Guards' Liberation Movements Unit, a representative from Montazeri's office, Islamic Republican Party boss Mohammad Beheshti's brother Mohammad-Reza, `Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, and international guests from the Moro and Eritrean liberation movements. Ettela`at July 30, 1981. Perhaps significantly, this is mentioned only in a small note on the second page.
1982 and early 1983 were tumultuous years which in which Iran's military victories against Iraq and the Organziation of People’s Mojahedin and an economic recovery based on a massive increase of oil exports were at center stage, years during which the Iranian government was breaking out of its isolation, establishing ties even with the nearby Arab sheikhdoms, it was a period in which institutionalization and stability at home and breaking out of international isolation were the watchwords. quote, e.g., Sciolino.
This was not a good period for Hashemi to establish himself. As he himself put it in his confession, while he was in charge of the Liberation Movements department of the Revolutionary Guards, he "opposed any sort of establishment of order, management, or planning" Hashemi's file, vol 5, p. 750, cited in "Indictment", p. 11, col. 5. mentioning only that he would decide, and hastily, which movement was worth supporting. A rally organized by the Revolutionary Guards department of the Islamic Liberations Movements of the World (from Iraq, Afghanistan, the Moros of the Phillipines, and groups from Bahrein, Saudi Arabia, and Oman) went off without a mention of Mehdi Hashemi in the report in Ettela`at (a newspaper which would prove itself sympathetic to Mehdi Hashemi in the coming months), a possible indication that he was becoming a contraversial figure. Azar 1, 1360/Nov. 22, 1981. The next mention in Ettela`at Azar 3, 1981. of the itinerary of these foreign revolutionary dignitaries is a talk with a Majlis representative of the Liberation Movements Majlis Defense Committee who suggests that the Majlis is setting up a committee to help them "without intervening in other nation's fates", a feat which would require considerable political subtlety; the other representative mentioned suggests the Majlis committee with "coordinate" or rather, give advice by "explaining Islam and the plots of Islam's enemies."
In March 1982, Khomeini made a speech denouncing "party membership" in the Revolutionary Guards, to be seconded by Guard General Commander Mohsen Reza’i, who called for a "complete break with any political group." Ettela`at, Esfand 26, 1360. That June, just after a seminar of Islamic Liberation Movements was winding down, Khomeini instructed his representative in the Guards, Ayatollah Mahallati, to demand "the complete political independence of the armed forces", which Mahallati interpreted to mean that Guards members "not have any membership in any any political group." FBIS/SA June 16, 1982. In Tavakkoli (1) we read that this declaration was directed at groups like Hashemi's, if not at him exclusively. Iran Times International [IT], Jan. 30, 1987
Yet throughout this period, Hashemi and his Liberations Movements Unit of the Revolutionary Guards was to keep a high profile with the close cooperation of Ayatollah Montazeri. In late April 1982, Montazeri addressed this unit of the Guards on how to respond to a Soviet attack on Badakhshani tribal people in Afghanistan. Also meeting with Montazeri here was Khomeini's representative in the Guards and Qom's Guard intelligence chief, as well as Mehdi Hashemi, introduced as the head of this Unit. In his address, Montazeri clearly states two themes: first, that the task of "this organ, according to the Constitution" is to "protect the revolution from external and internal intrigues" by "export[ing] its message in its intellectual and dogmatic dimension". The second, more controversial, and which he would continue posing, if not so squarely, in the future, is that "it is fitting that the Guards, and especially [Hashemi's] Movements' Unit, act with greater independence and power, removed from any entangling official and governmental discipline". Ettela`at, Ordibehesht 7, 1361/ April 27, 1982.
Ayatollah Montazeri also presided at the mid-Sha`ban [birthday of the Hidden Imam] World Day of the Abased, falling in early May 1982, Ettela`at, 16 Ordibehesht/ May 6, 1982. which would feature a ten-day seminar "with representatives from all the world's liberation movements", to total 250 people, Ettela`at, 6 Khordad '61/May 27, 1982. with "almost 100 national liberation movements" reported in attendence in Qom, under the auspices of Hashemi's unit, to be addressed by Ayatollah Montazeri. Ettela`at, 19, 20 Khordad '61/June 9, 10, 1982.
By mid-November, the Majlis refrained from giving Hashemi's Unit legal status. This was considered the disolution of the Unit. Hashemi's file, vol. 3, p. 451, "Indictment", p. 11, col 5. Hashemi asked Ayatollah Montazeri what he was to do. He refers to account # 7100 opened by Ayatollah Montazeri, how President `Ali Khamenei, then member of the Revolutionary Council, had assigned Hashemi, the Ayatollah's martyred son Mohammad Montazeri, and one other, put in charge of this account. He politely suggests that perhaps the Majlis was simply to preoccupied with the war and other issues to give Hashemi's Unit formal status. Ayatollah Montazeri responds that "the Holy Law obligates you to continue your work in complete coordination with the related organs until a decision is rendered by the Majlis. God willing, the Guards and the Foreign Ministry, too, in accordance with their Islamic duties, will provide the requisite cooperation." Ettela`at, 25 Aban, 1361. On November 26, Mohsen Reza’i, the Guards commander, and Mohsen Rafiqdust, the Guards' minister, met with Ayatollah Montazeri in Hashemi's presence, where, officially, they discussed the war and support for liberation movements, and Montazeri complained of the absence of support for such groups on "the preoccupation of officials with affairs of state". FBIS/SA Dec. 1, 1982. A subsequent statement by Montazeri shows what line Montazeri was going to take in protecting Hashemi. Sounding off on a theme he would repeat with growing urgency in the coming months, he said: "The danger always threatening the Revolutionary Guards is the weakening of spiritual thought and sincerity and personal opinions in this revolutionary organ, and ... if this trend grows in the Corps and is not stopped, the Corps will lose its popular and spiritual base." Genuflecting to Khomeini's statement on Guard members and politics, he said: "If Guard personel are allowed to be members of parties or groups, albeit with Islamic titles, this important organ ... will be dragged toward various groups and organizations." FBIS/SA December 6, 1982. In December 1982, Khomeini issued his eight-point edict aimed at bringing the actions of the Revolutionary Guards into a framework compatible with the rule of law. And that month, Bani-Sadr's weekly announced that Hashemi had lost his struggle with Revolutionary Guard chief Mohsen Rafiqdust to get his unit of the Guards recognized. Enqelab-e Eslami dar Hejrat, 23 Azar/Dec. 14, 1982. This event is aparently refered to both as the "separation of the Liberation Movements Unit from the Revolutionary Guards" and the "dissolution of the Liberation Movements Unit". See Hashemi's televized interview, Resalat, December 17, 1986.
Nonetheless, in late December 1982, Hashemi issued a message "to Islamic liberation movement militants" as "Grand Ayatollah Montazeri's representative" It could well be asked, Representative to what? That Hashemi and his broad circle didn't consider the Liberation Movements Unit dissolved can be seen in how often this Unit is refered to and how casually. Thus, when Hashemi is arrested, his disciple Reza Moradi, who is stuck with an illegal stockpile of his weapons, dumps them on a comrade saying they belong to the Movements Unit. "Indictment of Two", col. 2. In his statement, he notes that according to a law ratified by the Islamic Consultative Assemby, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards are not permitted to engage in independent activity with liberation movements, ... grand Ayatollah Montazeri has instructed us to form an independent organ in coordination with the Islamic Republican system to foster foreign and domestic relations with deprived peoples and has assigned me the responsibility of providing material and moral support to genuine and independent Islamic movements" via account number 7100. The statement follows with an emotional appeal for support to this account over the heads of the Majlis in a scene that would become familiar to many Americans three and a half years later. He appeals in the name of his martyred friend, Mohammad Montazeri, and, surprisingly, Majlis speaker Hashemi-Rafsanjani. Ettela`at, Dey 4, 61/ Dec. 25, 1982. It should be stressed here that Montazeri called for the "independent organ" to act "in coordination". The least that can be said of Montazeri's position here is that he had plausible deniability of Hashemi's future operations. Montazeri was effectively pleading to have Hashemi be given a blank check without having to take responsibility for the consequences, although he probably saw it more as an admonition. Hashemi's file, vol. 3, p. 451 and vol. 1, p. 48, cited in "Indictment", p. 11, col. 5.
An Afghan Interlude
The Islamic Republic's relationship with the Afghan Islamic resistance has not been adequately studied. With a wary eye to its northern neighbor, the Islamic Republic has always kept correct relations with the Soviets, even under the most difficult conditions (e.g., during the anti-Tudeh campaign). A survey of speeches monitored by the CIA, declassified, and published in FBIS shows only occasional Iranian interest in openly and materially backing the Afghan mojaheds. When Ayatollah Shari`atmadari called for active support to the Afghan mojaheds, it "caused considerable surprise in Tehran, where the present regime, like the shah's, has always acted cautiously in its relation with Afghanistan," according to an AFP reporter. FBIS/MENA March 20, 1979. Perhaps significantly, the only other figure recorded in the FBIS to call for material aid to Islamic Afghanistan was Ayatollah Tabatabai-Qomi, another arch-conservative. FBIS/MENA June 22, July 2, 1979. More typical was Foreign Minister Ebrahim Yazdi's insistence on "the necessity of safeguarding good-neighborly relations" with Afghanistan loc. cit. and Ayatollah Khomeini's suggestion to the Soviet ambassador that Soviet intervention in Afghanistan is bad for Communism and good for the United States. FBIS/MENA June 13, 1979.
Aside from fear of their northern neighbor, the Islamic Republicans had two other reasons for their relative disinterest in the Afghan cause. One is the contempt Afghans are held in by many Iranians. One of the first acts of the revolutionary regime was to expell 7000 Afghans working in Iran illegally. FBIS/MENA Feb. 13, 16, 21, 26, March 20, 1979. 1983 saw anti-Afghan riots and an effort by the Islamic Republic to control the nearly two million Afghan refugees, and it forbade them to travel between cities Ettela`at, April 14, 1983. and tried to entice them to register with the government to receive certain benefits FBIS/SA march 3, 1983. with insignificant results, according to a pro-Soviet source. NVOI broadcast cited in FBIS/SA June 1, 1983.
A second reason was a suspicion that Afghan mojaheds backed by the Saudis and Pakistanis were working in cahoots with the CIA against the Islamic Republic. This was not unreasonable; in June 1980, "Pravda said that ... the CIA was able to work with Afghan guerillas in Iran by using Pakistani agents sent from Peshawar." Henry S. Bradsher, Afghanistan and the Soviet Union, etc. In July 1980, the head of the Revolutionary Guards in Khorasan, the province including the most important Afghan refugee offices, charged the Jami`at-e Eslami leader there with being a US agent: "America supplies the group with money and nurtures it ideologically and materially, and ... carefully lays down its policy", he said, going on to accuse Jami`at members of drug dealing, sodomy and rape, prostitution, and selling weapons to the Kurdish guerillas. FBIS/MENA July 28, 1980. In meetings with Islamic Republican officials, Afghan mojaheds are routinely warned against allying with the West in their fight against the Soviets.
Nor was there much Afghan mojahed love lost on Khomeini's men. As a member of the Maoist Afghan Peoples' Revolutionary Group [Goruh-e Enqelabiye Khalqhaye Afghanestan] complained in May 1979, Ranjbar, Khordad 8, 1358. "Perhaps the strangest and most unexpected attitude towards our revolution was that of the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran ... which was supported strongly by our people ... [but] was not able to take a decisive position in favor of our revolution.... Iranian news services tried in all sorts of ways to make our country's revolution out to be dependent on the West and reactionary.... It disarms mojaheds who have been able to escape death with their weapons and seizes their weapons, it discriminates among the forces fighting for independence ... over opening their offices in Iran." One guerilla chief visiting the US said, "The Americans ... are confusing the Afghan problem with the Khomeini problem. ... The latter has never helped the resistance. Quite the contrary, he has aroused groups of seccessionists within the Shi`ite community." FBIS/SA April 18, 1984. It should be mentioned that a member of one mojahed party, the Nehzat-e Eslamiye Afghanestan, while claiming ignorance of the fate of 100 tumans promised by the Iranian government to the Afghan mojaheds, did say "we have gotten many weapons and supplies from Iran and have a military base in Iranian territory." Sobh-e Azadegan, no date, cited in Ranjbar, Shahrivar 9, 1359.
The Iranian press generally avoided the issue of aid to the Afghan mojaheds. And when it did discuss military operations in Afghanistan, they are all attributed to generic "Afghan mojaheds"; military organizations are rarely named. The Revolutionary Group militant quoted above says the biggest group active in Hazareh, Afghanistan's Shi`ite province and the province with Iran's greatest presence, is the Shoraye Enqelabiye Ettefaq-e Eslami, which functioned like a mojahed parliament, with representatives from 17 rebel-held cities. It was favored by Bani-Sadr during his presidency According to Mehdi Hashemi. Ettela`at, Farvardin 7/1983. The above-quoted member of Nehzat-e Eslamiye Afghanestan said that it itself was based in Jamuri, the Harakat-e Eslami, Nasr, and his Nehzat had forces in Qarebagh and in Ghazni, the Jebheye Azadibakhsh-e Islamiye Afghanestan, in Herat, the Harakat and Nehzat, in Kabol, the Nehzat in, and in the Turkoman area, Nasr were present.
In mid-January 1983, it is reported that "A group of Afghani militant clerics and seminarians in Qom met and talked with ... Ayatollah Montazeri along with Hojjatoleslam Sayyed Mehdi Hashemi, who has been put in charge of investigating Islamic movements by him." The article continues, "At the beginning of this meeting, ... Hashemi presented a report on the movement of the Muslim Afghan people and the role of its militant clergy which had recently been organized." Ettela`at, Dey 28,'61/Jan. 18, 1983. See also FBIS/SA Jan 18, 1983. In early March, Mehdi Hashemi is greeting Hojjatoleslam Hajj Mohammad Akbari FBIS/SA March 3, 1983. identified later as the chief of the Militant Clerics Society of Afghanistan FBIS/SA March 23, 1983. and still later, by Afghan state radio as "an Iranian spy, Mohammad Akbar Karizi" who "has given military and combat training to 400 counterrevolutionaries in the central regions of the country." FBIS/SA July 26, 1984. After another huddle in Montazeri's office in Qom, "trusted representatives of Islamic movements" issued a statement asserting that account #7100 "still has its...validity." Ettela`at, Bahman 18, 1983.
In the first of a series of articles devoted to the subject, Ettela`at, Bahman 10, '61/Jan. 30, 1983. Hashemi says that the mid-January meeting was an opportunity for Montazeri to suggest the formation of the Afghan Militant Clergy Society, an event whose importance is underlined by the clergy's unique stature and spiritual qualities, which enable it to inspire people to do things that no amount of US-provided ammunition could, against any amount of Soviet-provided weaponry." The clergy, he would later argue Part 2 of Hashemi's article, Ettela`at, 21 Bahman '61/ Feb. 10, 1983. is the ideal revolutionary instrument, since unlike political parties, whose ideas are the product of a few minds of sometimes ambitious people who don't understand the forgotten masses, leaving them succeptible to isolation from the msses and an idolatry of ideology. The only thing imperialism has left the people of Afghanistan is love of the clergy. This is what gives Montazeri's call for the organization of the Society of Afghan Militant Clerics such importance. To return to the original argument, he says that, while the idea that the Islamic revolution's victory in Iran would attract people "to the line of orthodox struggle with arrogance", it was Montazeri "who affirmed [this] the most" and declared that "as long as the cry of the wounded hearts of the arisen peoples of the Islamic world and Islamic liberation movements are not met with a decisive and serious response, removed from politicking, there can be no hope for the export of the revolution, its completion and its continuation." He further argues that this can only be done "through precise and methodical ... planning, removed from legislative exigencies" and that "the Islamic Republican system must do this to defend the millions of its faithful supporters all over the world, removed from short-sighted analysis about extremism". He summarizes Montazeri's address to his Afghan guests earlier that month in four points: the importance of Khomeini's leadership to the victory in Iran, the close ties the Afghan revolution must have with Iran, the importance of Sunni-Shi`ite unity, and the need not to center the struggle around any one leader (except, presumably, Khomeini). Hashemi added that the Afghan revolutionaries were looking to Iran to see how they might overcome their errors. He takes a poke at the Iranian government for not giving sufficient coverage to the Afghan struggle, so that "except for only a bit of incomplete news each day, the Muslim people of Iran hear nothing of the grandeur and magnificance of this bloody revolution." Further, it allows the Iranian people to believe that Afghans are "a bunch of thieves and smugglers, murderers and rapists" (blaming unnamed "mercenaries of the left and right" for trying to "God forbid turn the responsible officials from attracting, supporting, and guiding them, so that that great people's struggle might be perverted and debased.")
One theme which is returned to again and again and at length is the need for Shi`ite-Sunni unity; coming from the pen of an outspoken supporter of "humanizing" Imam Hosein, this insistance takes on a new significance. It can be speculated that the more dogmaticly Shi`ite Iranian leaders have lost interest in competing against the more congenial Saudi Arabia and Pakistan for a political breakthrough in Afghanistan, whereas someone who had already courted charges of Wahhabism as a champion of Shahid-e Javid might be more willing to launch a poltical battle against the pro-American Islamic regimes for the hearts and minds of his brothers-in-faith. It is not every Iranian politician who would dare say, "Protecting the nature of various Islamic sects is necessary, since it is only through them that the followers of these sects and Muslims [in general] can develop...." Part 2 of Hashemi's article, Ettela`at, 21 Bahman '61/ Feb. 10, 1983.
This leads to another point: Hashemi begins his article by damning Khomeini with faint praise, compared with his benefactor Montazeri. Yet he endows Khomeini and Khomeiniism with extraordinary historical importance: "For almost 200 years, ... whatever liberation movement appeared among the people of Asia or Europe or Africa, became entangled in either opportunism or ultraleftism or was destroyed by political dealings with the Great Powers because they had no mother center or center of gravity to inspire and guide them, and international imperialism was completely satisfied with this. But now that, as God willed it, this revolution won in Iran, and the cry of exporting the revolution and supporting the abased... reached the ears of the dispossed, they imagined that they were freed from the eternal danger of not having a center of inspiration and sought of guidance.” He continues, "If we don't embrace them ... won't we be helping world arrogance?" and "Now that ... the dispossed peoples have such a center, if we don't do our hazardous duty toward the militants of the world of Islam, and even non-Muslim peoples who want to get aquainted with the foundations of Monism, there will be even more bitter deviations than before among the oppressed peoples' movements, and who will be responsible before God for them but us.... ?" Later, he would argue "the Afghan clergy's great mission in connection with the true slogans of the Imam's Line's Islamic Revolutionaries as the link between all the heroic struggles of the century against the Satans, East and West." Part 4 of Hashemi's article, Ettela`at, Farvardin 7, '62/ March 27, 1983. In yet another article, Part 5, Ettela`at, Ordibehesht 22, 1362. Hashemi goes on at length about deviant interpretations of the Imam's Line, and that it was "Mohammad Montazeri who, during the years of repression, posed the Imam's Line against the nationalist, liberal, and conservative lines", an indication of what he thought the Imam's line is. It is "a godly line", not to be confused with "the line governing the Islamic Republic" which includes "weaknesses of Islamic Republican organs in the stage of planning and practical decision making". And of course, it is not "the nationalists' and liberals' line, or ... the American Islam or well-to-do Islam line or the intellectualizers' line ... [that of those who] hide themselves under the mask of the Imam's Line" or that of "Marxists like the ... Tudeh Party or the Monafeqin [Mojahedin]" which also claimed allegiance to the Imam's Line up to the end. He concludes his fifth article Ord. 22. by calling them "viler than the terrorist Monafeqs". The complement was to be returned by Khomeini himself in a speech but a week later. See below. When he gets to describing it positively, he comes up with unremarkable Khomeiniist positions—recognizing Khomeini as the pontif (marja`), recognizing his political leadership, and moral self-discipline. The only difference is that he, as an internationalist, is faced with developing Khomeiniism in a non-Iranian context. This includes confronting the idea "posed by some ignorami in Afghanistan that it is for the Imam to lead the world of Islam, but so-and-so to lead Afghanistan," 22 Ord. and to assure the Sunnis that "the future will confirm that ... one of the principles of the Imam's Line is Muslim ecumenicalism [vahdatgarai bein tavayef-e Muslimin]... so that our militant Sunni Muslim brothers' concerns might be allayed."
What this all means in practice can be understood when we remember that since the American embassy occupation, during which this began, Islamic radicals, more or less consciously, have styled themselves followers of the Imam's Line; Khomeini was not in a position to directly confront those who put his firey words into action, and thus they can only be outmaneuvered with great delicacy. Given Hashemi's apparent self-image as a politico-religious leader, it can be imagined that this maneuver was fairly self-concious. Indeed, for the truth about what this particular "follower of the Imam's Line" was thinking just around this time, we may look at his televized confession, where he says, "I arrived at an image of the Imam which I now am ashamed to utter and unable to write." Resalat, December 17, 1986. See statement by Afghan clerics at the end of this section.
Finally, we note that the articles by Hashemi are innocent of any understanding of Afghan society, which serves only a backdrop for his schema. There are no tribal, linguistic, national, or social divisions. The clergy is revolutionary, the focus of popular affection and reverence, "removed from opportunism, the thirst for power, factionalism, conciliation, and political machinations" by their "inseperable ties with pure Islamic culture". With such a weapon, there is no need for taking aid from the Soviets against the Americans or vice versa, rather, they should take the Iranian revolution's path of self-reliance. Part 2. His claims that the clergy is invulnerable to precisely what he began his career murdering them for will strike the reader as a case of simple irrationality. Not necessarily. These claims can also be read as an attack on the Islamic Republican Party on behalf of an ideal of clerical non-party organization.
It's in the fourth article in the series Farvardin 7, 1983 that reality intrudes. Hashemi's plan has its enemies. One of them is the Unity Council [Shoraye Ettefaq]. After having been set up with Iran's help, it has turned around and attacked the Islamic Republic, accepting supplies from Pakistan. With the formation of the Militant Clergy Society of Afghanistan, the parties associated with the Unity Council staged riots in Qom, Tehran, and Mashhad, "provoking the disposessed Afghan workers' feelings".
The fifth article Farvardin 11, 1983. in this series begins listing the means imperialism uses to derail Islamic struggles, such as ideological confrontation and assassination, and then, halfway through, takes a surprising turn. The imperialists try to compromise clerical revolutionaries by playing on their weak points, including "minor sins and errors, rumors of which the enemy's secret hands deftly puts into the people's mouths in the form of rumors and provocations, thus discrediting and bringing down and giving a bad reputation to men loyal to the revolution." This obviously refers to himself and his comrades. He continues, "Even more, the enemy even has plans, in some countries, to dispatch professional spies expert in all things to hide dangerous sexual traps and film them and distribute them." Could this refer to Hojjatoleslam Falsafi, an Islamic conservative of the anti-Bahai movement, that bitter enemy of Hashemi, who was filmed in a comprimising position with a prostitute, pictures of which were distributed around Tehran during the revolution? Is this a warning to his enemies that they are, in effect, all in it together and that dragging up one side's murdering ayatollahs can be countered by dredging up certain unpleasantness about the other side? "Using such antihuman policies, the mercenaries try to destroy that special sanctity which the clergy have...."
He next warns that in some unnamed place, the imperialists "place unfit and irresponsible and treacherous and mercenary people around the society's outstanding clergy whose homes are frequented by the people and a center of important decisions" to "obtain precise intelligence" and "discover the clergy's weak points and strengths" by means of "spies they control who are mostly in clerical garb and are influential among the militant clergy" and use them to influence their decisions as well, diverting positive revolutionary energy, rendering them ineffective. Here, he has Afghanistan in mind: "On the one hand, it is seen that a few clerics have been dragged towards a position by those around them who are either unaware or have their own motives at heart or are agents where they consider cooperation with reactionary countries in the region to be their duty", along with taking American weapons. "They are doing what neither Eastern nor Western countries, with all their huge investments, could not do.... Some turbanned people have been thus taken unawares by a bunch of profiteers and opportunists, politicking groups, mercenary traitors among the ignorant and illiterate people, have spread such rumors and made such provocations against the Militant Clergy. When one of the weak-spirited clerics, drawn by the seductive attractions and personality to unsound positions before the Islamic Revolution and, imagining he is the future Vilayat-e Faqih of Afghanistan, he brings grist to the enemy's mill as a so-called mojtahed, and follows the same path that the previous party..." although he insists "lest the sacred clergy be discredited and the Tudeh party and other ... groups take advantage", that there are very few such people.
This article closes with a discussion of "governments which wear popular and revolutionary and sometimes Islamic masks and raise the call of struggle with imperialism" and raise expectations among the poor countries. They lay a trap for them by providing them with free weapons. At first, it appears that he is talking about the countries in the political camp of the two superpowers, but then he comes to the point, "Even if we suppose that governments without ties to the superpowers and only wishing to suport the disposessed and attract movements to anti-imperialism did this [i.e., offered material support], the danger of complete dependence of the movements to the governments would still be certain. This dependence on governments would distort the foreign policy of the movement and whenever the people would want to choose their course independently, they would be faced with a cutoff in military and financial aid by that government," just as in Eritrea. Furthermore, such dependence places false values in the struggling people's value system. This seems to be a warning about an overdependence on the Islamic Republic of Iran as then constituted. The answer, he concludes, is the revival of pure Islamic thought, and this is the true significance of Montazeri's project of a Militant Clerics Society of Afghanistan, in which the search for martyrdom and the ability to fight with whatever was at hand could overcome the most powerful enemy. Certainly a more attractive prospect than reliance on such American puppets as Husni Mubarak, King Fahd, Zia ol-Haqq, and King Husein.
His next article, Farvardin 16, 1983. he begins with a demonstration of how the revolution, in order to become a truly people's revolution, and not the posession of a single party, must be based on the clergy living among the people. The clergy is ideally suited for this because, with only rare regrettable exceptions, the clergy have always lived simply, the Islamic seminary trains them to live simply and in accordance with an exacting standard of morality. He also adduces several Koranic proofs for the leading role of the clergy in Islamic society.
Then he gets to the point: a revolution should become a popular revolution. This would mean, first, that "the costs of the revolution would be continuously provided by the people as an Islamic-political duty, and there would be no need for begging from governments and powers, where agents of influence could gain influence with the revolution by providing the its supplies. It is useful to recall here that the fate of account # 7100 was hanging by a frayed thread at the time.
Second, a popular revolution would be invulnerable to military aggression or economic blockade; "with the presence of the people on the scene, all plots would be neutralized."
Third, "the possiblity of ideological or political deviation would be minimized"; again, it's useful to remember Hashemi's precarious position.
Fourth, “the disposessed people would gradually take on an independent political character and have no need to take their character from ... parties.”
Fifth, a revolution made popular would not have its "faithful cadres suffer power being monopolized or factionalism and could recruit God-fearing cadres from the inexaustable source of the people."
The realization of this program requires that "the clergy form the needed organizion among the people before the revolution's victory." Reading this brings out the Iranian government's objections to Hashemi's program: it had no intention of spawning a sort of Islamicizing Qaddafi.
The significance of the series of articles is clearer when we note a series of events which were unfolding before, and during, the articles' writing.
The first indication of these events was given in the French daily Libération, November 10, 1982, picked up by Bani-Sadr's newspaper Enqelab-e Eslami dar Hejrat, Nov., 16, 1982. with perhaps suspicious alacrity. The Soviets, it seems, have been using phoney mojaheds to incite warfare between the Hezb-e Eslami and the Jami`at-e Eslami. The article continues, "Also, in the center of Afghanistan, in Hazereh, the Russians are trying to set up a resistance group called Nasr, which supposedly supports Khomeini and is in fact a creature of the Iranian Tudeh party, and so by cooperating with fundamentalists and under cover of Khomeiniism, the Tudeh Party is inflicting a blow on the Afghan resistance from within."
The second is a letter to Bani-Sadr from an Afghan nationalist, Enqelab-e Eslami dar Hejrat, Feb. 22, 1983. who claims that the Iranian Revolutionary Guards "who are organized by the Tudeh party ... have started a civil war. The Iranian Guards have publicly taken advantage of the Afghan peoples' religious sensibilities in the jihad fronts and intervened and have ruined the struggle of we, the Afghan people, in the Imam's name. Now, all over Hazerejat, Afghanistan is gripped by civil war, brother killing brother, the prime reason being the Guards and so-called orthodox [maktabi] groups .... Now, the six million Shi`ite Hazereis have lost their unity, due soley to the Guards. In this civil war, 3000 have died, and the fighting is now not with Russia, but the representatives of the vilayat-e faqih have led a war against our countrymen inside Afghanistan, the primary agents of which are the Tudeh party of Iran and the akhunds ."
Incidents of this sort are refered to throughout this series of article by Mehdi Hashemi. He unexpectedly begin his Farvardin 7/March 27, 1982 article, which appeared soon after Bani-Sadr's article, sharply attacking "the Unity Council, [Shoraye Ettefaq] those unpaid agents ... of imperialism in Iran and merchants of civil war... in Afghanistan" which had been set up with the help of the Islamic Republic and was now taking aid from Pakistan. It "started opposing the Afghan Militant Clergy [Society] in Qom, Tehran, and Mashhad by provoking the disposessed Afghan workers' feelings ..."
About a year later, the official Afghan radio service reported, "One of the leaders of the so-called Shoraye Enqelabiye Etterfaq-e Eslami, in an interview with Voice of America, ... revealed that during a joint attack by the Nasr and Sepah-e Pasdar on the Shoraye Ettefaq-e Eslami band, they did not even bestow mercy on women and children. Along with robbing an burning the homes of members of the Shora band, they shot a large number of women." FBIS/SA July 26, 1984. The commentator goes on to call Nasr a Maoist gang "which has disguised its ugly face under the mask of Islam, and has so far committed hundreds of assassinations and crimes" and the Afghan Pasdars form "a rough copy" of the Revolutionary Guards "of the reactionary regime of Iran, and is being created under the guidance and direct instruction of this aggressor group which at present is ruling ... Iran. The above-mentioned person in his statement explicitly mentioned that Iran has put a large quantity of weapons and ammunition at the disposal of Nasr and Sepah. Only recently the Iranian government handed over 240 weapons to Nasr and Sepah and in one month in the past year, 420 weapons were placed at their disposal."
It should be noted that, to the end, Ayatollah Montazeri was in this up to his turban in principle, although he apparently counciled a bit of moderation. Montazeri, too, stressed the fight for Khomeiniism among the Afghan mojaheds. "The best and strongest religious axis that can mobilize the nation is the leadership of ... Khomeini." FBIS/SA March 22, 1985. Ettela`at reported that Montazeri held a meeting with unnamed "militant clerics of Afghanistan together with representatives from Muslim and militant groups of Afghanistan" about "internal problems". Here, he insists, "The best and most powerful religious and divine axis which can mobilize the people is...Khomeini, in whose light all factionalism and differences can be turned to unanimity...." May 22, 1985. It also reported the names of the groups involved “the Nehzat-e Eslami, Pasdaran-e Jehad-e Eslami, Jebheye Motahhed-e Enqelab-e Eslami, and the Nasr Organization of Afghanistan, who together saluted Montazeri as "the great Faqih and the hope of the Imam and the Islamic World." May 25, 1985. The deletion of the name Niruhaye Eslamiye Afghanestan was probably accidental. Two months later, a unity pact was signed among the above "militant Afghan Muslim groups" in cooperation with the Foreign Ministry. Ettela`at, July 29, 1987. The next month, an article surfaced in which Afghan groups together with Ayatollah Montazeri condemn the distribution of unidentified secret leaflets. Ettela`at, August 10, 1987. In February 1986, Ayatollah Montazeri sends a delegation to Afghanistan to try to conciliate the warring parties, Its return is reported in Ettela`at, February 4, 1986. headed by Hojjatoleslam Jawaheri, including the Afghan forces listed above, a visit protested by the Afghan government. FBIS/SA February 11, 1986.
The last heard of this episode is a talk by Iranian president `Ali Khamenei to Afghan rebel leaders, who denies "lies about Iran's position on Afghanistan" spread by the "international lying apparatus." He coninues, "We neither take seriously these baseless rumors of world lying agencies nor do we have a set formula for the future of Afghanistan," and that the future of Afghanistan "is up to the Afghans", a point he emphasizes and notably, in contrast to Montazeri and Hashemi, makes no mention of the need to follow "the Imam's line", although he does insist that the mojaheds fight for an Islamic state and reject anything compromise with either the Soviets or the Americans. Ettela`at, July 2, 1986. A year later, the eight Afghan groups (joined by one Da`wa Party) unite in a coalition; Ettela`at, June 18, 1987. Just before Mehdi Hashemi was executed, one Hojjatoleslam `Alemi, a spokesman for the Shoraye Ettefaq-e Eslamiye Afghanestan consisting of the eight groups expressed his "willingness to torm a grand alliance with all Afghan Muslim political groups following the principle of no East, no West", although still condemning the Saudis. Ettela`at, September 16, 1987.
Hashemi, in his indictment, is accused of "forming assassination squads abroad to eliminate his rivals" Hashemi's file, vol. 5, p. 734., in his last defense, said, "We could have prevented the bloodshed [between Afghan factions] but we didn't until His Eminence Ayatollah Montazeri sent a peace committee to Afghanistan." Resalat August 18, 1987. We believe the record as indicated above shows Montazeri's role before this peace commission was sent shows him as sharing responsibility with Hashemi in his Afghan debacle.
Finally, some Afghan clerics living in Qom made the following accusations against Mehdi Hashemi after his arrest: Sowing division between the clergy and Afghan Shi`ite groups, being responsible for the "killing of tens of thousands of men, women, and children in Afghanistan", "the pillaging and expropriation of the property of hundreds of families who had a vital role in the Afghan Islamic revolution", "making hundreds of thousands of Afghan Shi`ites homeless by fomenting civil war between parties", "the imprisonment of over three hundred wives of Shi`ite clerics and pious men and planning to deliver them to Soviet soldiers and the Kabul Communists" and "killing the heads of four hundred families and giving their women to Sunnis" and "appointing illegitimage religious judges" and taking millions of tumans from Iran supposedly to build seminaries in liberated zones and using them to strengthen his perverted line and weaken the leadership's line and and Shi`ite fiqh", "strengthening the line of Wahhabism among Shi`ite youths", "rendering insecure some of the realistic and Imam's Line clerics in Iran", "making trouble for two Afghan clerics... and arresting them for several nights and threating them with defrocking and expulsion from Iran and even assassination by his agents", "setting up so-called Islamic ideological classes for a few Afghan clerics and nurturing perverted ideas among them", supporting some akhunds who opposed the Imam's line and leadership both before the revolution in Afghanistan and after the revolution in Iran", and "forming a society called the Society of Clerics in 1364  composed of clerics who didn't even support the Imam's pontificacy, let alone his leadership." Resalat, August 19, 1987. The veracity of these claims might be scaled down by noting that the eighth charge in his Indictment accuses him of "damaging the country's foreign relations, resulting in the killing of hundreds through armed clashes." [our emphasis]
The Creeping Coup
Returning to 1983, Hashemi's long-time comrade, Mohammad Hosein Ja`farzadeh, later to be convicted of murdering Ayatollah Shamsabadi, was removed from the electronic media news section. Tavakkoli (1), Iran Times International, Jan. 16, 1987. It seems that it was around this time that, he began secretly "organizing ... extremists and people expelled from Islamic revolutionary organs" in cities across Iran, even those "expelled for moral or social deficiencies," in order to "strengthen the revolutionary line, which I saw embodied in me." "Indictment", p. 11, col. 1. This milieu of the disaffected he was gathering included repentant members of the People's Mojahedin and other Islamic political opponents of the regime. Television interview with Reyshahri, printed in Resalat, December 15, 1986. Reyshahri even accuses Hashemi of forming an actual party called the Party of God. This is probably an exageration: Hashemi had some of his leaflets signed Party of God, but if he had actually have formed such a party in fact, he would likely have been accused of having done so. This would be "a popular arm for my protection ... and a base of support in the face of the unkind way I was being treated by the politicians and their so-called attempts to drive me out of the political scene." Hashemi's file, vol. 3, p. 455, "Indictment", p. 11, col. 1. His calling the Revolutionary Guards command "followers of the American Line" "was for that group of Guard brothers in the provinces who had been expelled from the Guards for various reasons reasons (valid and invalid) ... as if I had spoken their heart's secret and so I had common temperment and even action with them." Hashemi's file, vol. 1, p. 43, "Indictment", p. 11, col. 1-2.
Hashemi had used his position in the Guards to smuggle weapons from the Guards into his Liberation Movements Unit. Then, two months before his unit of the Revolutionary Guards was dissolved, i.e., in late October 1982, he began stashing away the Unit's weapons for himself According to Mohammad Kazemzadeh. Hashemi's file, vol. 5, p. 804 in "Indictment", p. 8, col. 4. rather than turning them over to the Guards as he was supposed to have done. This was to include, according to his indictment, p. 8, col. 3. Hashemi admits this as early as his televized confession where, however, he portrays himself as having been drawn into accumulating the weapons by others and then accumulating them himself. Resalat, December 17, 1986. This discrepancy is part of a pattern of how Hashemi was gradually forced to take responsibility for the crimes committed by his group. "over 280 light and semi-heavy weapons and provisions and explosive material,... and 80,000 rounds of ammunition". "Indictment" p. 8, col. 5. detonators, a box of candy with explosives secreted inside and the makings for other such material, a booby-trapped typewriter, a remote-control model plane filled with explosives, Reyshahri's televised statement, Resalat, December 15, 1986. One of the more puzzing items found was "a kilogram box of carcinogenic powder". 280 grams explosives for mines, 155 rifles, 68 machine guns, seven RPG launchers, and 100,000 rounds of ammunition, booby traps, cyanide, explosive pens, and other material which he was said to have kept when he was forced of the Revolutionary Guards. Iran Times International December 19, 1986, April 10, 1987. He also stashed away material from a base in Mimeh Taken over by Hashemi's men between 1980 and 1982, when it was dissolved. "Indictment of Two", col. 1. and Vahdati Base at Dezful being dissolved by the government. All this was done under the guise of "holding them" for the Guards. Hashemi's file, vol. 5, p. 733, cited in "Indictment", p. 8, col. 4. These weapons he kept out of a concern that there was a real chance of civil war breaking out in Iran. Hashemi's file, vol. 5, p. 726, in "Indictment", p. 8, col. 5.
Also after his Liberation Movements Unit of the Guards was shut down, he held onto the classified documents he had and used his network to accumulate more. Hashemi's file, vol. 5, p. 734, "Indictment" p. 8, col. 5. He had a casual network of some 30 contacts in various government agencies, Hashemi's file, vol. 1, p. 159-60, loc. cit. some being friends, some he would consult with, and some who would provide him with priviledged information. Hashemi's file, vol. 5, p. 818, loc. cit. These agencies included the Ministry of Intelligence, Labor, Religious Instruction, the Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization, the Pasdar Political Bureau, Intelligence Unit, Central Headquarters, and press foundation Hashemi's file, vol. 5, p. 824, loc. cit. and the Majlis. loc. cit. , p. 828. In geographic terms, he developed some contacts in Esfahan, holding his first meeting there in 1985. Hashemi's file, vol. 3, p. 474, "Indictment", p. 11, col. 2. He also developed contacts in some towns around Esfahan such as Dastgerd (a significant number of educated youths called the Islamic Association), Hashemi's file, vol. 1, p. 157, 737, loc. cit. Shahreza, Najafabad, Dawlatabad, and Zarinshahr, in some cases drawing in members of the Jihad for Construction or Islamic cultural groups. His circle also included a group in Tehran, Mashhad (probably centered around the Afghan groups), and Qom (as we will see). Hashemi's file, vol 3, p. 456, 737, loc. cit. His ultimate plan was to have young seminary students propagate his ideas in the provinces of Iran and found cultural centers based on his ideas to be administered by a council of fifteen seminary students. Hashemi's file, vol. 1, p. 158, loc. cit.
He confessed to clandestinely distributing anonymous tracts criticizing the authorities, including the leaders of the Revolutionary Guards, calling them pro-American. The Minister of Intelligence claims ten different statements had been distributed by Hashemi's men over the years in addition to those distributed after his arrest. Resalat December 15, 1986. If the one example we have is typical, these had a limited audience: An open letter to Hashemi-Rafsanjani and Khamenei had a press run of 200. "Indictment of the Two", col. 2. In Hojjatoleslam Faker's 1983 polemic against Hashemi, he says he distributed them at unspecified Friday Prayer meetings. Resalat December 28, 1986. For example, "a group of students at the Tabriz Seminary" addressed an open letter to Khomeini in early June 1983, complaining of "the existence of a devilish situation within the Guard command, which issues statements to increase the Guards' obedience ... [and] forbids political discussion when they themselves take their line from a political clique." Tavakolli, Iran Times International, January 30, 1987. This letter was written independently of Hashemi, who found it to his liking and distributed it. Resalat August 18, 1987. In a speech to a group of martyrs' families in Esfahan in 1983, Hashemi complained of "a secret line and a secret current which is influential in the higher echelons of this organ." loc. cit. Saying such things, he "said what was on the minds" of "Guard brothers in various provinces who had been expelled from the Guards," and "this resulted in them feeling a kind of personal and perhaps practical relationship with me." He gathered them in "cadre-building classes." For example, in his borough of Esfahan, he personally led a class of seventy to eighty. Hashemi's file, vol. 1, p. 154, cited in "Indictment", p. 11, col. 2. In addition to groups he assembled in that province, he also gathered followers in Tehran, Kashan, Mashhad (evidently among the Afghan refugees), and Qom. He envisioned "sending young seminary students to propagate in the provinces and form cultural institutions and establish ties between them and the Qom seminary."
In the mean time, Khomeini was preparing for a direct confrontation with Hashemi. In a May 22, 1983, speech, Iran Times International, May 27, 1983. he said that, with the arrest of the Tudeh leadership, propaganda against the Islamic Republic has begun. "We are now under the pressure of some who are busy making false propaganda for the sake of the leftists, for the sake of the Tudehists, for the sake of the Soviet Union, and against the interests of Islam and the country. It seems that today, these two groups have suffered a blow. The first group suffered a blow from the Revolutionary Guards and the other group who have also suffered a blow from the dear Revolutionary Guards and have gathered their forces to continue their satanic propaganda." These groups "claim that the government hasn't done anything for Iran, that the arrogant have gotten more arrogant and the abased, more abased. These are the charges of the infidels." He says that those who are consciously spreading such propaganda "must be sharply confronted." He then warns them: “Your goals will not remain hidden. You will be finished just as the monafeqs were finished. You will go the same place the monafeqs went.” In an article published in July 1983, Khomeini is quoted as having said, "The monafeqs have, for all their organization, been uprooted and you, too will be uprooted, and if you don't shut up, I will expose your list." From a speech by the Shiraz Friday Imam, printed in the Revolutionary Guards magazine, Peyam-e Enqelab Tir 18, 1983, cited in Resalat, December 23, 1986. That this is taken as refering to Hashemi in particular is proven in the next paragraph when it talks about those who call the Society of Religious soothsayers and fortunetellers, a typical reference to Hashemi. Ayatollah Mahdavi-Kani, who had crossed swords with Hashemi's men before and was now of the Guardian Council, picked up on this speech with alacrity at a visit to Esfahan province, saying, "Lately, the Imam has uncovered another line besides the Tudeh Party line and that line was begun by some in Esfahan in the Guards and other places, and it has said among the Guards that the Qom seminarians are fortune-tellers and when his Eminence the Imam issued the 8-point decree [in December 1982, limiting the powers of the Guards to intervene in people's private lives], it encouraged the Guard brothers to resist and rebel against government authorities, and I have heard that they brought this tape [in which this was said] before the Imam and he listened and said "[So!] the Qom Seminarian Society are fortune-tellers!", whereupon Mahdavi-Kani gave a speech about the importance of the Qom Seminarian Society, its historical relations with Khomeini, its protecting the Islamic revolution from becoming "socialist or communist", and indirectly linking its critics with the recently-dissolved Tudeh Party. Ettela`at, Tir 14, 1983, cited in Resalat, December 23, 1986.
As 1983 closes, we see Ayatollah Montazeri aparently under increasing pressure over his helping Hashemi. On August 28, he gets another visit from Rafiqdust and Mahallati. FBIS/SA September 2, 1983.
In December 1983, Montazeri began a series of public homilies on two virtues that need to be restored in Iran: political pluralism and revolutionary sincerity. Ettela`at on December 13, 1983, featured a speech by him to visiting education officials. He concluded his talk by saying, "Unfortunately, we see today a widespread manner of branding good and useful people, and often many valuable and competent forces are driven out this way and isolated. And all the while, we have a great need for such forces and must put them to work to their fullest capacity... and if something had been done in the past, we shouldn't be hard on them. I have said repeatedly that this extremism..., albeit not done with bad intentions, is more damaging than the counter-revolution." Ettela`at, Azar 22, 1983. The next day, after a lengthy but uncontroversial speech about the need for the clergy to be of the people, live humbly, avoid discord, etc., to a national conference of Friday Imams, Montazeri suddenly declared: "There is a saying that revolutions devour their own children, and I feel today that this is exactly what is happening in our society, and it could be said, as they say these days, that there is a creeping and gradual coup to eliminate the revolution's true friends and isolate them, and conditions have arisen which gradually place independent and free people who are both committed to Islam and have revolutionary records of self-sacrifice, and are wise and competent as well, in danger of being withdrawn and isolated. I think this is a grave danger facing the revolution and the country that you honorable masters Friday Imams should sit and contemplate if you feel. I feel that today, usually, weak and obedient and, as they say, yes-men are mostly drawn into important and sensitive positions. This is felt in the government and Majlis and many organs, and even in the seminaries.... If they express themselves, it does them no good, no matter how pious or wise or revolutionary they might be. And this while, say, there must be pious, independent, and courageous people in the seminaries and government and Majlis who, say, if the government or the Majlis speaker or the President says something and they believe something else, might have the courage to speak their minds. It would be good for the government and the Majlis and the country if, say, they would speak their minds without fear.... Unfortunately, it is apparent that today, insulting and branding good people ... has become so widespread that, as the Great Leader of the Revolution has lately said, factionalism is rife ... " He complained that the accusation of being in "Line Three" is very common, "and we hear here and there how pious and militant people are called Third Liners; I think that such attitudes which result in isolating good and competent people is a great sin...." Ettela`at, Azar 22, 1983December 14, 1983. The Third Liners were "crypto-communist" hezbollahis like Dr. Habibollah Peyman or Mohammad Montazeri Cite Mohammad Montazeri on communism, the Tudeh on Peyman. who would raise such slogans as "A united front against imperialism including all forces, religious and non-religious," or "For a classless, monist society". Mojahed, Dey 16, '59. Mojahed adds, "Their attractiveness for the ruling faction is in the stream of invective they constantly let loose on the revolutionary forces", i.e., the People's Mojahedin and their leftist and liberal allies. Hojjatoleslam Faker, a conservative member of the Qom Seminarians Society, inveighs against the third line between Islam and unbelief in an anti-Hashemi polemic of 1983, defining it as hypocricy and division, ultimately unbelievers, like those who wouldn't break their Ramazan fast during battle even if the Prophet did, although in the future, they would play with the people's honor and property. The polemic then zeroes in on Hashemi's men without mentioning their names. His position won massive acclaim in the Majlis, 145 members signing it, apparently as an attack on the Islamic conservatives. Ettela`at, December 19, 1983.
1983 ended with an attempt at damage control on Montazeri's outspokeness. Khomeini made a speech addressing someone commonly understood to have been Montazeri, demanding, "Why do you weaken the government by criticizing it?" reference An editorialist for Ettela`at insisted that it was a misunderstanding to label Montazeri as the focus of the speech. At a meeting announced prominently on the front page of Ettela`at, Dey 5, '62. The meeting featured a speech by `Ali-Reza Shirani, the manager of the Ettela'at Foundation effectively endorsing Taheri. Ayatollah Taheri, the Imam's representative in Esfahan and a prominent protector of Mehdi Hashemi, while applauding Khomeini's speech, complained that "the hypocrites, i.e., those who want to have an excuse to attack, have said that the Imam meant the Supreme Faqih [Ayatollah Montazeri] in Qom and so-and-so in Esfahan," a clear reference to Mehdi Hashemi. Taheri continues, "In my recent visit to His Eminence the Imam, I proposed that I deny this, and he declared, It is your duty." Khomeini himself apparently had nothing to say on the matter. This was underscored by a three-quarter page article responding to Israeli and American-backed radio broadcasts putting forward the hypothesis that Montazeri was indeed the target of Khomeini's wrath. Dey 6, '62. It may well indeed have been a misunderstanding. Khomeini's speech targetted the Islamic conservatives with positions close to the so-called Hojjatiyeh faction (those who mutter about communism in Iran, those who say taxes have no religious basis, etc.). Iran Times International, December 23, 1983.
Also in late 1984 that Ayatollah Montazeri delivered a series of homolies on the theme of tolerance for criticism by sincere revolutionaries inside the Revolutionary Guards. In a banner headline article in Ettela'at, Montazeri begins by saying, "An organ that has a greater clerical presence in it than any other is the Revolutionary Guards. Therefore, people's expectations of it because of the delicacy of its work, the danger of the influence of unfit people in it is also greater than that in any other organ." Shahrivar 27, '63. The origional text read, "the delicacy of its work and the danger of ..."; we dropped the "and". Guard candidates require "an all-round moral and religious review." Then he gets to the point: Regarding those who would raise criticisms within the Guards or other organs, including the Majlis or the government or the seminaries, he said, "One must not cut the tongues of those who point out errors in a friendly and sincere way in the organs or seminaries. Rather, they must be given the right to sound and constructive criticism. Even if be of a high officer or a professor or seminarian. Let it not be that anyone who wants to say a word about what has been done or a Guard commander or an official in any organ or a professor be expelled or forbidden from service." Otherwise, "weak and flattering people will get the power and strong and intelligent and sensitive people will be isolated and the revolution will be quickly corroded and burned up from within."
Finally, we are not claiming here that Montazeri's campaign was against Hashemi's loss of power alone; rather, Montazeri's interest in Hashemi's condition should be seen in the context of the themes of relative openness preached by Montazeri. Thus, among the themes repeatedly stressed by Montazeri was the need for a developed technocracy, even if these technocrats were not religious or revolutionary. Iran Times International, October 21, November 18, 25, 1983. In addition, Montazeri's campaign also needs to be seen in context of what was the overarching domestic political conflict of the time, that with the Islamic conservatives, the so-called Hojjatiyeh, who were in the process of being beaten down after their rise to prominence earlier that year around the time of the anti-Tudeh party campaign. Thus, in this sense, his pitch for the Islamic radicals got a lift from the ambient anti-"Hojjatiyeh" campaign.
In the mean time, Hashemi's home base in Esfahan was being eroded; at a meeting with the new commander of the Guards in the area including Esfahan, Reza Seifollahi, Mahallati and Reza’i met Ayatollah Khademi and Taheri, the first three being enemies of Hashemi, the latter one of his most important protectors. Khademi reminded those present of "the Imam's remarks that there should be no loyalties to a certain group" in the Guards, and Taheri agreed. FBIS/SA Jan. 5, 1984. On the other hand, the notoriety he had accumulated had its uses. As he put it, "After the Movements Unit was dissolved and I took my stand against the Society of Seminarians and the Guards and the IRP, my name was on everyone's lips in Esfahan and my connections with the guys there improved by degrees." Hashemi's file, vol. 2, p. 233, "Indictment", p. 11, col. 2.
At the Qom Seminaries
Hashemi had enemies among the higher clergy in Qom since the sixtees, according to Tavakkoli's polemic, when he organized morality squads to attack the morally lax. His radical activities since the revolution made him many more enemies, and Hashemi continued to be outspoken about the higher clergy. "In one of his sensational speeches [in early 1983] ... he called the Society of Seminarians headed by Ayatollah Azari-Qomi, fortune-tellers and a soothsayers", according to a polemic by Tavakkoli in Resalat. "The Evil End of a Plot", August 18, 1987. Hereafter refered to as Tavakkoli (2).
In this polemic, we read that Hashemi's educational plans in Qom preceded his presence there: he positioned his men to have those in charge of the Revolutionary Guards' commanders' education be indoctrinated by his men. Tavakolli continues that this plan was foiled when Khomeini ordered him out of the Guards "for his deviated beliefs."
The ash-Shira` article says that in 1984, when Khomeini reapportioned Hashemi's bailiwick between the outspokenly pragmatist `Ali-Akbar Velayati's Foreign Ministry, which he saw as a "conservative and featureless government organ" Hashemi's file, vol. 5, p. 743, citied in "Indictment".. with which, according to his confession, "my conflicts reached an unprecedented level," Hashemi's file, vol. 1, p. 127, cited in "Indictment". and the Ministry of Intelligence under Mohammad Mohammadi-Reyshahri, fresh from his fight with the Tudeh Party, Hashemi tendered his resignation and went to Qom, where he began a new phase in his career at the seminaries established by Ayatollah Montazeri in alliance with more established clerics. Here, he did two things. First, as the ash-Shira` journalist reports, he continued his support to "Islamic liberation movements around the world" in which the government was losing interest, "particularly in Afghanistan." In fact, the arrestee in the Hashemi affair who first fingered Hashemi identified him as being "in charge of the International Division of the Islamic World Movements Foundation. “Indictment”.
The second is Hashemi's activities in the seminaries of Qom itself, according to his confession after his arrest. Upon his own arrival in Qom, his first attempt at politicizing the seminary students there, Hashemi's files, vol. 5, page 765, cited in "Indictment". he organized the political bookstore at the major seminary there, at which 20,000 were studying, and a youth newspaper, from which he was to have propagated the idea of student power, free speech for seminary students, etc. Under this cover, he was to have allowed leaders of Dr. Peyman's formally dissolved Movement of Militant Muslims with whom, according to the Islamic magistrate who tried him, Hashemi had some ideological affiliation, For example, Hashemi's network distributed an open letter from him to Ayatollah Montazeri. and other dubious elements to gain a foothold. He was to have attacked the directors of this seminary in his writings, although they had been brought together by Ayatollahs Montazeri and Khomeini. He was also to have attacked the Guardian Council (an institution set up and hand-picked by Khomeini to vet legislation according to its Islamic character, dominated by Islamic traditionalists and the bane of more populist or statist political forces).
Hashemi aparently developed a great deal of influence in these seminaries, particularly the new ones founded by Ayatollah Montazeri. The Martyr Motahhari Seminary is mentioned specificly by Mohammadi-Reyshahri in his December 1986 press conference. Resalat, December 15, 1986. In his televized confession, he says he "appointed some of the officials of these seminaries" and "some of the seminaries' officials I considered my cothinkers". They even formed a committee which met several times a week to discuss their activities in the seminaries. They adopted a political bookstore operated by one Sheikh Shokuri which had been operating out of the Society for the Propagation of Islam offices, but was forced to relocate due to unspecified "differences"; the sheikh was taken into Hashemi's circle of malcontents. His current gained such power that, having formed "an alternative management council", he put taking over the management of these schools on the agenda. As things were, he confesses to his ideas having had considerable influence in the seminaries, both teachers and students. This led to the point where students under the influence of his ideas used knives to settle arguments and even "form a gang to assassinate 'big-shots'".
He also stated in his televized confession that he had a powerful ally in Montazeri's office in Qom: His brother, Hadi, "was in charge of the office and the mutual relationship and trust between my brother and I was a positive factor in realizing my ideas." He would contact his brother frequently "to analyze and discuss and review what was to be done." Sa`id, Montazeri's son, "was also cooperating with me and so I had many friends in the office for this reason, too." Ayatollah Montazeri himself "had tremendous trust in me for many long years and I considered this to have been a very positive factor on the side of my ideas." Moreover, "I saw a series of statements which [Montazeri] made which I considered good for the country's future and they were, taken together, positive factors which led me to conceive of the office as my base and I could put my ideas into action through the office." The contacts he had through the office gave him contacts around the country with like-minded people. He saw his personal meetings with Montazeri, in which he would present reports on his activities as something that connected him with the office. Perhaps trying to contain the damage his confession was doing Montazeri, he added, "I wanted, by submitting these reports, to impress my ideas upon him and insinuate my line in the line he had in mind and keep myself in good standing.... I abused the pure and unalloyed trust which this great faqih had in me." Resalat, December 17, 1986. This outspokenness, however qualified, about Montazeri's relations with Hashemi, completely vanished from future testimony: it must be remembered this is very early testimony, coming as it does three months after Hashemi's arrest and even less after he began giving serious testimony. It can be infered from this that, to the degree Hashemi's arrest was being used to embarass Ayatollah Montazeri, this had been accomplished by then.
After Hashemi was arrested, Reyshahri said that one of his worst crimes was to have "spread corrupt ideas in the Qom seminary." Iran Times International, December 19, 1986. This was not simply because an attack on the seminaries was an attack on doctrinal purity, but because of the seminary's central role in training future Islamic politicians: "I saw Qom and the seminary as a primary power base in and around which the revolution's and the country's future forces and cadres would be nurtured, ... [where I might] spread my deviated ideas all over and have a powerful clerical arm at my disposal." Hashemi's file, vol. 5, p. 738, 753 cited in "Indictment", p. 11, col. 3.
Qom became an important base of operations for Hashemi. There, he managed to gather some of the seminary authorities around him with whom they would hold discussions "every three or four weeks." He also opened "a political bookstore" there. Their initial aim was to "first, raise their level of political education, which the political bookstore was to do; second, teach them an international and global outlook, which the Liberation Movements department of the Revolutionary guards was to do; and third, make them aware of the events and state of the country, which we did in turns," through weekly forums, Hashemi himself leading a monthly class of seventy in which, in addition to classes on ethics, the country's political debates were addressed. Hashemi's files, vol. 5, page 738, 765, cited in "Indictment". These would be, Sheikh Ja`far Mahmud [refered to above] said, "a cadre building school ... like those in the Soviet Union and the international parties. Hashemi's files, vol. 5, page 835, cited in "Indictment".
From there, he planned to set up political bookstores in provincial centers and had weekly meetings to coordinate this project. Hashemi's files, vol. 5, page 739, cited in "Indictment".
The only specific example given in the court documents is the case of Afghanistan, among whose "seminary students and religious scholars living in Mashhad we decided set down our criticisms of the Foreign Ministry and have the Tehran office print and distribute them."
Le Monde's Roger Gueyras made a similar observation at around the same time as the ash-Shira` piece was published. He noted Hashemi's opposition to Rafsanjani's policy of "trading war for revolution in the Gulf," i.e., "persuading Iraq's regional and international allies to end their support for Iraq's president Sadam Husein" by "stepping up his reassuring statements stating in public that if Sadam Husein stepped down, Iran would not call into question Iraq's unity and integrity and would be prepared to negotiate wi the new Baghdad regime, 'even if it were pro-American,'" and "abandon all its past efforts to impose an Islamic regivme on Iraq" and "guarantee the security and integrity of all the Gulf regimes." This was, for Hashemi, to "guarantee victory to Syria." Le Monde, Oct. 25, 1986, cited in FBIS/SAS Oct. 27, 1986. Hashemi and the war, "Indictment" p. 11, col. 5, top. Tavakkoli" "The relatively soft position of the heads of the countries of the GCC issued late October with the issuing of a declaration about the war, the clear speech of Jaques Chirac, the French PM, about Sadam's being the aggressor, and finally the ridiculous trip of MacFarlane to Tehran which led to a disgraceful defeat for Reagan, can be taken as the newest indications that Saddam's being on his way out is being confirmed in the world political arena." Centrality of the war, this is what West fears, the rapprochement with the west merely incidental. Tavakkoli, Resalat, Nov. 29, 1986.
Plot to get rid of Saddam to prevent him from falling due to Irani military victory. This itself a victory brought about by stability. Not sazesh, but stability. Poindexter (23 Aban/ Nov. 14, 1986) arrest of Mehdi Hashemi.
"A Group of Professors at Qom Seminary" (29 Mehr, 1986): "Corrupt acts such as secret contacs with atheist countries in the East and enemy countries in the West." (leaflet protesting arrest of Hashemi) Another such leaflet: Aban 10, 1986. "Conciliationist attitudes and dubious negotiations with French, British, and American delegations are taking place.... The issue of French debts to Iran are being solved after several years. ... The Saudi oil minister has resigned,... Kuwait's leaders are travelling to Iran, a number of American hostages have been freed in Lebanon, ... let alone Sayyed Mehdi Hashemi himself." Declaration in Keyhan, Aban 8, '86 on the occasion of 13 Aban. "Countries like France, England, and West Germany must be defined to be part of Western imperialism...." Suppors "a revolutionary diplomacy" and removal of pro-west and capitalist supporters. "nothing should be hidden from the people." "Adopting a conciliatory way and negotiations with various politican delegations from France, germany, and America... is what imperialism wants." Tavakkoli: Reagan had "no proof to offer" for his assertion that inthe past 18 months, Iran had refrained from terrorism!! "So all he could do was repeat and insist on his claim, but since in fact, Iran's banner role in defending the dispossessed of the world is nothing which can be hidden, , he has to say, a few minutes later," that there are severe differences. Indeed, Reagan says, does support terrorism. His Fgn. Minister says same thing.
The final incident, according to Hashemi's friends in ash-Shira`, was Hashemi's meddling in international affairs again. According to the ash-Shira` article, the first incident involved smuggling arms and explosives into Saudi Arabia in mid-August, the pilgrimage season, 1985 (a charge made by the Iranian government Iran Times International, November 21,1986.), apparently to head off a Saudi-Iranian détant which had been developing for some time. The second involved the four hour kidnapping of the Syrian charges d'affairs in Tehran on October 2, 1986. ash-Shira` quotes Hashemi's Iranian friends as claiming, implausably, that the Revolutionary Guards as such were involved with the explosives and that it had nothing to do with him, and that the kidnapping of the Syrian diplomat had been supervised by none other than Reyshahri to send a message to Syria to have its diplomats stop meddling in Iranian politics. But above all, according to ash-Shira`, there was the September McFarlane visit to Tehran, where Iran was to have agreed to liquidate its foreign adventures for American military cooperation.
Hashemi was arrested along with fourty of his comrades, who included two parliamentarians from his native Najafabad, `Eidi Mohammad Mirza’i and Hojjatoleslam Fathollah Omid on October 12. News of this was delayed fifteen days, when it was announced on the government's radio. Some time later, nine of Hashem's comrades (Amir "Amiri" Shahnevazi, Hosein Moradi, Mohmmad Hosein Ja`farzadeh, Asadollah Shafi`zadeh, Mostafa Mehdizadeh, Fazlollah Rismankar, Morteza Nilforush, Mas`ud "Mo`tamedi" Arabzadeh, and Mohammad "Qasemi" Qasemzadeh. These arrests were publicly and vigorously supported by Khomeini.
The charges against Hashemi were: forming numerous terrorist groups before and after the revolution, founding an independent Guard unit and initiating clashes with the local komiteh leading to "dozens" of deaths, taking weapons and supplies from the Guards and hiding them, forming secret networks in various government agencies and stealing classified documents, misguiding the youth and forming extremist organizations, discrediting officials and the Islamic Republic by spreading lies and forged documents, sabotaging the government's foreign relations in such a way that hundreds were killed in military clashes, and another charge, kept secret by the court.
The trial was delayed while religious courts were set up to try clergymen. During this time, Hashemi and his men prevaricated, the final version of the story coming out only gradually. See Keyhan weekly on this.
Hashemi's trial began August 13, 1987 in Evin Prison and ended on the sixteenth, a trial introduced by the judge, who accused him of forming "terrorist murder groups" to "take power ... and install a new system in accordance with his deviated ideas."
Was It a Frame-Up?
Mehdi Hashemi was interrogated under conditions where the rule of law was a feeble thing compared to the strong desires of the revolutionary authorities to get what they wanted. This raises questions of whether he was guilty of the charges he was convicted of. Based on the above material, it is hard to believe otherwise. We leave aside one rather curious charge: did Mehdi Hashemi induce cancer in one of his rivals as charged by But the case posed some very embarassing questions for the government.
One obvious question is how did the murderer of an ayatollah reach the position of prestige and power he did, heading the regime's international revolutionary activities? Or were the regime's leaders, whose insight and probity are regularly touted in the Iranian press, all fooled by this murderer's story? This poses a real dilemna for the regime; either the clergy knew and didn't care, or they had the wool pulled over their eyes. Thus, on the one hand, we have Hashemi's prosecutor's claim that after Hashemi's arrest under he monarchy, "His Eminence the Imam, the revolution's far-sighted leader, ... during those very days, with his profound political vision, saw the truth of the matter and turned down those who asked that he participate in the protest which was being held for the release of Sayyed Mehdi Hashemi in the St. Marie church in Paris, saying, "He's a murderer, not a political prisoner."" "Indictment", p. 5, col. 3. Was he in Paris in Oct. 1977?
A similar dilemna faces the regime on the issue of Hashemi's collaboration with SAVAK. As we have seen, Hashemi's prosecutor tries to show him as having been loyal to the Shah since the early 1970's. They quote his brother as having had intimations about Hashemi's contacts with SAVAK. The question remains why it was that Hashemi's SAVAK file was never glanced at by anyone despite his powerful enemies who surely had an inkling of a possible Hashemi-SAVAK connection before the revolution and could certainly have had it investigated and exposed. Mohammadi-Reyshahri, in his December 1986 press conference, Resalat, December 15, 1986. remarks that a newspaper had asked whether his having worked with SAVAK wasn't enough. He answered that "there might be many who had worked with SAVAK and no one knew about it. It's not possible to look into every file and see what each had done.... When I saw he had worked with SAVAK, I was really shocked." This does not, of course, answer the question, but shows a startling lack of the sort of careful review of the record of the highest officials in the Islamic Republic. Could this laxity be explained without accepting the proposition that a sufficient number of such officials themselves had records of collaboration with SAVAK against, for example, the communist opposition or other rivals of theirs and that such skeletons were better left in their respective closets? Was this the reason that the demand by many leftist activists that all SAVAK files be published was met with such stoney silence?
A similar question faces Hashemi's illegal activities after the revolution. Certainly after a revolution, by its very nature, there will be a period of institutional ambiguity. The question of which institution represents and which is subverting the state is not an easy one to answer in the years when precisely this question is in the process of being settled. Who are the counter-revolutionaries and how are they to be put down? Where is the line to be drawn between putting down the resistance of the old order and murder and mayhem? But in the case of the Islamic revolution, where the harsh punishments for moral turpitude were to be meeted out in accordance with the literal word of the Holy Law often as not determined by thoroughly lawless elements, it would seem that Hashemi's brutality stood out only a little. Cite Iran Times International from Zan-e Ruz.
Similarly, that Hashemi was able to accumulate a small arsenal is not surprising; many Guard units are known to have a fair degree of autonomy certainly throught the time of Hashemi's arrest, and a great deal of fire-power was absorbed by various bands of the citizenry in the course of the revolution. But it is interesting to compare the different stories of just when it was that the authorities decided to bring the boom down on the Master.
In a December 1986 press conference given by Iranian intelligence chief Hojjatoleslam Mohammadi-Reyshahri, Resalat, December 15, 1986. he said that the investigation began after Khomeini had "sensed danger" in Hashemi's current "for years". Khomeini ordered him to compile a report on it in late 1984 over his activities in the Qom seminaries. Reyshahri conducted a straightforward investigation into him resulting in the same charges being brought against him as he wound up being convicted of, including murder, kidnapping, illegal underground activity, illegal retention of explosives and arms, and unspecified relations with SAVAK. But a few minutes later, he says, "The first time it occurred to us that we could pursue the charges against these gentlemen legally and in the courts ... came up" in April or May 1986. There were some forged SAVAK documents distributed against a Majlis member (in fact, Dr. Hadi, refered to above). On checking Dr. Hadi's SAVAK file to see where these documents might have come from, they noticed a series of SAVAK reports about him. They checked the files of some of his companions, such as Mohammad Montazeri, and found similar reports, and it was only when the sent to Esfahan for Mehdi Hashemi's files that they found that Hashemi had provided the report on Dr. Hadi on Khordad 31, 1974. "We saw that it went beyond this matter, since he had squealed on his own comrades regarding Master Shamsabadi's murder, too." It is only as an afterthought that he mentions that it also provides proof that he had "killed an innocent Muslim" and that he should be punished for it. Dr. Hadi. p. 15, col. iv-v. SAVAK document altered.
However, he was not able to prosecute them for it because it was a "common murder, and investigating common murders with no other aspects involving security issues is outside the the Ministry of Intelligence's juristiction, and since arresting them under those circumstances would have had many political andsocial consequences," he decided not to arrest them. (One could imagine that his concern for the consequences was the overarching concern here.)
Then the Ministry of Intelligence's counter-intelligence division came upon a safe-house packed with munitions in early September According to Hashemi's indictment, p. 5, col. 2. and determined that it was related to the accused. Khomeini and Montazeri were informed of this, the latter much to his embarassment, one would imagine. loc. cit. Even now, the Minister of the Intelligence hesitated. "Because I felt that removing illegal materials from that house would have social and political consequences, ... and that these people would make many provications against the Ministry of Intelligence (with the friends they have)," he contacted Khomeini for backing and got it. And as day follows night, the "provocations" came, as the world knows. This forced the Intelligence Ministry to ask Khomeini to publicly back the investigation, which he did for the first time.
We are left with two interesting facts from this remarkable press conference. One is that, whatever the specific legal charges brought against Hashemi, the impetus for his prosecution was political. The other is that the chief obstacle to prosecuting Hashemi was also political, a fear of so-called provocations, almost certainly a code-word for blowing the whistle on one of the regime's dirtiest secrets.
A Note on Moderates and Extremists
The glibness with which the Western media is willing to tag political figures in an alien political context as "moderate" and "extremist" is depressing for those of us sceptical of Barbara Walters and Co.'s mastery of Iranian politics, with its complex, unspoken, and fluid alliances.
Despite current conventional wisdom, Ayatollah Montazeri was considered a true conservative on a whole range of domestic issues before the Iran arms deal was exposed. Around the time of his confirmation as Khomeini's "heir apparent," he was stressing the role of the private sector, had come out against the involvement of the clergy in such social functions as distributing goods, came out against slogan-mongering and for a greater acceptance of criticism (within limits, of course!), against state intervention and for greater respect for private property [Iran Times International, January 3, 1985], against state loans to the peasants (who would simply mis-spend the money), against giving the Revolutionary Guards and other revolutionary institutions a free rein in their encounters with the people. The emigré Mosaddeqist monthly Jebhe saw him as being on good terms with more traditional, conservative clerics such as Ayatollahs Mar'ashi-Najafi and Golpaygani (two of the pillars of the Shi`ite Islamic establishment and sworn enemies of the doctrine of Shahid-e Javid), and hailed his selection as Khomeini's successor as "a sign of moderation." Cited in Iran Times International, January 3, 1986. There was even widespread speculation that Bazargan was being protected in his bold criticism of continuing the war which he raised during the hostile countries' bombardment of each other's cities in early 1985. See, e.g., Le Monde, February 13, 1985.
On the other hand, Ayatollah Montazeri seemed closely associated with Hashemi's clique.
Aside from being the only more or less prominent cleric who endorsed Shahid-e Javid, his son, Mohammad, Mohammad Montazeri entered political life participating in Khomeini's 1963 rebellion along with his father, and spent three years of prison, during which he was tortured to the point of partially losing his hearing and eyesight. After his release into internal exile, which he fled with the help of Ayatollah Montazeri's son-in-law and Mehdi's brother, Hadi, to Pakistan, where he lived in poverty. There, he made contacts with Yasar Arafat's Fatah and launched himself into a career as in international revolutionary (p. 70-107). [was joined, according to the famous ash-Shira` article, by his "true friends like Hojjatoleslam (!) Sayyed Mehdi Hashemi," reproducing political declarations and studying third world revolution in Najafabad p. 59. In a way, this was inevitable, given his outspoken opposition to the Shah, his closeness to Khomeini, his maintained presence in Iran, the amount of time he spent in exile and prison, and possibly a willingness to experiment with some new theological ideas, perhaps because his very lack of venerability.
Yet, this association was not as close as it could have been. For one thing, and this goes for his relations with Mehdi Hashemi, Mohammad Montazeri was very much a loner, having a distinct Arabist line, for example. (refusal to condemn Ba'thism as such, e.g.) As one reads Mohammad Montazeri's speeches and articles as collected and published in Iran, one is struck by the fact that, aside from the inevitable statements of filial love and loyalty and the presence of father and son together in prison, there is no indication of much close collaboration between them in political projects. The only other memorable mention of his father in this collection is the father snapping at reporters who had quoted him as calling his son "insane," when he had really said his son had a "nervous disorder" [za`f-e a`sab, p. 249.] In fact, it was his father who said, "Because of this way of struggling and in addition, the constant psychological blows and the chaos reigning in Iran after the revolution's victory, he suffered a kind of nervous disease [`asi va kuftegi]... I've always been thinking about controlling and curing him, and have so far done thgings serveral times, and even had him undergo forced treatment in Qom, but unfortunately, it did no good." Front page article in Jomhuriye Eslami, 28 Shahrivar 1358/1979. Finally, it is mentioned that one of Mohammad Montazeri's bitterest enemies, Ayatollah Ahmad Azari-Qomi (who, as Chief of Justice under the Bazargan government, directly blocked him from making his second trip to Libya) was on very good terms with his father. p. 232, 237. His father did intervene for his son in this case. p. 230.
The complexity of the relationship between father and son here reminds one of the relationship between Khomeini and his son, Ahmad, and indeed other members of the Khomeini household such as his son-in-law, Eshraqi, and his older brother, Pasandideh, who were quite outspoken against torture and the menace the Islamic Republican party was representing during Bani-Sadr's term as president, until just before he fell, a policy clearly opposed by Khomeini himself. See the appropriate sections in Shaul Bakhash, Reign of the Ayatollahs, NYC: Basic Books, 1986. Yet, Ahmad Khomeini stayed in his father's good graces (or got back into them soon enough.) Ayatollah Montazeri's association with Islamic radicals might be more understandable in this context.
Ayatollah Montazeri's protestations that he had been manipulated by Hashemi, then, are believable, at least in the sense that the former, like, for example, Rafsanjani himself, felt the latter had his uses and therefore allowed himself to be used.
Maintaining unity was a big factor in motivating Iran's rulers to pull behind a single successor. Rejecting the alternative of a Leadership Council, Ayatollah Azari-Qomi, who had been supporting Ayatollah Montazeri as successor to Khomeini since 1983, said in 1984, "We need a focus for the people's emotions. How can the people shout slogans like, 'We are your soldiers, O Leadership Council!'?" Majlis representative Fakhroddin Hejazi said that this alternative would lead to Iran becoming "another Beirut." Hashemi-Rafsanjani, Montazeri's "moderate" arch-rival, came out for Montazeri as far back as 1983, too. Iran Times International, November 29, 1985
This support to Montazeri needn't have been based on pure principle. Khomeini had called him "the fruit of my life's work" and had been having ministers, congregational prayer leaders, and military commanders report to him. Khomeini's son Ahmad had publicly called Montazeri Khomeini's successor as early as April 1982. loc. cit.
Yet, a clash between Montazeri and Rafsanjani was seen as in the works a year before the Iran arms deal was revealed. "Speculation grew as to whether Montazeri would be able to hold on to the succession or would eventually be toppled by Rafsanjani or another powerful figure," commented Iran Times International December 6, 1985. See quote from Newsweek in the same issue. The British Economist article cited in that issue put it best, predicting Montazeri could become a "constitutional Imam." From this, it can be speculated with some confidence that Rafsanjani went along with Montazeri's selection as heir-apparent at least partly out of expedience, but didn't want to actually share power with him.
Finally, it should be noted that, aside from Rafsanjani, Hashemi's presumed major enemy, only President Khamenei, who has been largely passed over by our would-be experts, is mentioned explicitly as a subject of Hashemi's pamphleteering; Hashemi also singles out the Prime Minister as an opponent. Also done perhaps to please the orthodox clergy. In the process, takes a swipe at Shahid-e Javid. Thus, he confesses, "After the Shahid-e Javid affair and the raising of the issue of Wahabism [i.e., his being accused of virulent anti-Shi`ism by his enemies], I believed in struggle with the clergy, which was fanning the flames of these two issues, and became deviated from struggling with the regime."
It is hard in any case to believe Hashemi's SAVAK file was not examined after the revolution, particularly given the number of enemies he had. It is possible to believe that a temporary lapse into collaboration, say, in prison with a death sentence over his head, could be excused and covered up. But a long-term relationship with SAVAK and spying on Ayatollah Montazeri and his son.... It is also interesting to note that it is only the simpler story, of a temporary lapse while in prison, which is picked up by his enemies. For example, the son of one of his victims writes, only days after the official version is released, "That accursed corrupt man feared death, and escaped death by accepting SAVAK's yoke of slavery." "Dah Sal-e Entezar", Resalat, September 2, 1987.
According to an article by Dr. `Ali-Reza Nurizadeh, former editor of Omid-e Iran, ["Mehdi Hashemi, Ya "Hasan Sabah"-e Rezhim-e Hakem-e Iran" (Mehdi Hashemi, or the "Hasan Sabah" of the Regime Ruling Iran), Ruzgar-e Naw, November 1986. Nurizadeh's article is useful, but, of course, he has his own axe to grind as, among other things, a follower of Ayatollah Shari'atmadari, whom Khomeini's followers exposed as having received SAVAK money before the revolution and pursued contacts with the CIA to further his political goals after the revolution, and ultimately executed for conspiring to organize a coup d'état, with, according to recently published information, US mercenary backing. For example, he says of the book, The Shahid-e Javid, "In this book, in addition to denying the Imams' occult powers, 'esmat [miraculous powers], and pure intentions, he made Imam Hosein out to be some kind of a Palestinian guerilla or a Che Guevara. Similarly, ... some of the Imams are condemned for concealing their beliefs and colluding with the caliphate...." (loc. cit. , p. 48.), which is almost completely false. Moreover, one of the pictures in his article identified as belonging to Mehdi Hashemi belongs to one of his comrades.]
The politics of the case: "Whatever the silence of ...those from whom some word is expected, for whatever reason,"--Tavakkoli, Jan. 2, 1987 IT.
"This deviated group, with its semi-secret and public activities at first divided the clergy into the "supportrs of the abased" and the "supporters of the capialist", and ... brought the people, esp. the youth, into this polarization. --Tavakkoli, Jan. 9, 1987 IT.
"Attacking the Party, they lauded H-R and Musavi, with the excuse of defending the PM, they attacked the President, or ... they hurled the worst charges against HR and Khamenei under cover of defense of and concern for Grand Ayatollah Montazeri" Tavakkoli (1), Jan. 30, 1987 IT
"Mssrs. representatives, it seems to us that all the problems of the revolution and government and people and you comes from the country's wrong and false and anti-Islamic and anti-Imam's line executive system which (with the exception of a few people) has everything but the Imam's line in it." "Tell the president that if his hon., the PM claims that under pressure, he is forced to accept such an understanding in the executive system in the country, he is terribly mistaken and you, dear ones, to try to cut such pressure and know that if those Mssrs. who are pressuring have made many mistakes which are in no way pardonable or defensible, and precisely the same ones who, at the beginning of the revolution, insisted that `Ali Asghar Hajj Sayyed Javadi and Minachi and Lahiji and Peyman, etc., be members of the IRP CC." (Aroused Clergymen, letter to Majlis, Khordad 30, 1987) [The relationship between Hashemi's current and Dr. Peyman is a complex one. In addition to the note above on the open letter signed jointly by Hashemi ally Omid and Dr. Peyman, published on the front page of Mojahed, there is the 1985 open letter authored by Dr. Peyman himself addressed to Ayatollah Montazeri and distributed by Mehdi Hashemi, despite some of its "weaknesses". Hashemi's file, vol. 2, p. 287, in "Indictment", p. 11, col. 4]
Another letter by Aroused Clergymen to tollab, Shahrivar 7, 1983 (??), says Khomeini kept Musavi gvt. in power, has no decisiveness.
Most attacks on foreign minister. Takes his instructions from president, not PM. "Overemphasises relations with Turkey, France, and England." (Hezbollah-e Shahed, 28 Ordibehesht, 1984) How it came to be written: Indictment p. 11, col. 4, top.
Accuses them of making the people despair about the war and the Guards. As a pro-Hashemi paper complained, "The revolution's forces have been brought to the point that not only are revolutionary movements limited to a single system, but the system's absolutism has brought things to the point that without coordination with principles and lawfulness of the system at issue, no activity or effort will be legitimate or lawful." [Tavakkoli (1), Iran Times International Jan. 9, 1987]
Shafizadeh: Asadollah, Nasrollah, Yadollah (3 sons), Hasan `Ali, Ahmad, Sha`ban `Ali, Heydar `Ali (dad),
Khamenei: "We must pay attention to both principles of defense of [not, i.e., support to] liberation movements and non-intrference in country's internal affairs, as laid down in the Constitution, and pay attention to both criterion and not sacrifice one for the other." Accused world arrogance of frightening away other countries from Iran. Ettela'at Aban 1, '63. Visit with IRI ambassadors, staff, and political representatives in Europe and America. Iran Times International, December 26, 1986. Sa`id Montazeri, the Ayatollah's son, and Hadi Hashemi, Ayatollah Montazeri's son and the Mehdi's brother, have also scrambled to disassociate themselves from the accused. Iran Times International January 2, 1987; his brother, incidently, is named Hashemi's indictment as having conspired with him to having distributed the leaflet which blew the whistle on the Iran/contra affair. Indictment, p. 5, col. 4. He is also described by Hashemi in his televized confession that he was "helped in my designs by ... the fact that my brother was in charge of [Ayatollah Montazeri's] office". Resalat December 17, 1986.
This theme was quickly taken up by a member of the Islamic Review Council [Shoraye Negahban] set up under the Islamic constitution to vet Iranian legislation according to whether or not it is congruent with the Holy Law and a center of conservative power, Ayatollah Mahdavi-Kani, with whom Hashemi's men had crossed swords before. In a speech given at Kazerun in , in Esfahan province,
It is also interesting to note that, according to one of the more likely versions of how Hashemi came under investigation, it began in late 1984, Iran Time International, December 19, 1986. i.e., not long after one of the bloody interenecine battles between Tehran-backed Afghan mojaheds.