Hassan Pakravan

Hassan Pakravan

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Hassan Pakravan was a well known diplomat and minister in the Pahlavi
Mohammad Reza Pahlavi
Mohammad Rezā Shāh Pahlavi, Shah of Iran, Shah of Persia , ruled Iran from 16 September 1941 until his overthrow by the Iranian Revolution on 11 February 1979...

 pre-revolutionary government of Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

. He is not only notable for his political involvement with the Mohammad Reza Shah government and SAVAK
SAVAK was the secret police, domestic security and intelligence service established by Iran's Mohammad Reza Shah on the recommendation of the British Government and with the help of the United States' Central Intelligence Agency SAVAK (Persian: ساواک, short for سازمان اطلاعات و امنیت کشور...

, but also his relationship with Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.


Hassan Pakravan, son of Fathollah and Emineh, was born in Tehran
Tehran , sometimes spelled Teheran, is the capital of Iran and Tehran Province. With an estimated population of 8,429,807; it is also Iran's largest urban area and city, one of the largest cities in Western Asia, and is the world's 19th largest city.In the 20th century, Tehran was subject to...

 on August 4, 1911 (13 Mordad 1290 AP
Iranian calendar
The Iranian calendars or sometimes called Persian calendars are a succession of calendars invented or used for over two millennia in Greater Iran...

). His father held many high government posts, including governor
A governor is a governing official, usually the executive of a non-sovereign level of government, ranking under the head of state...

 of Khorasan and ambassador
An ambassador is the highest ranking diplomat who represents a nation and is usually accredited to a foreign sovereign or government, or to an international organization....

 to Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

. His mother, partly of Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

an descent, was a professor
A professor is a scholarly teacher; the precise meaning of the term varies by country. Literally, professor derives from Latin as a "person who professes" being usually an expert in arts or sciences; a teacher of high rank...

 at the University of Tehran
University of Tehran
The University of Tehran , also known as Tehran University and UT, is Iran's oldest university. Located in Tehran, the university is among the most prestigious in the country, and is consistently selected as the first choice of many applicants in the annual nationwide entrance exam for top Iranian...

. She was awarded the prestigious French Prix Rivarol, which the French
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 government gives to foreign authors who write directly in French. She was related to the Habsburg
The House of Habsburg , also found as Hapsburg, and also known as House of Austria is one of the most important royal houses of Europe and is best known for being an origin of all of the formally elected Holy Roman Emperors between 1438 and 1740, as well as rulers of the Austrian Empire and...

 rulers of the Austro-Hungarian
Austria-Hungary , more formally known as the Kingdoms and Lands Represented in the Imperial Council and the Lands of the Holy Hungarian Crown of Saint Stephen, was a constitutional monarchic union between the crowns of the Austrian Empire and the Kingdom of Hungary in...


As a child, Pakravan accompanied his parents to Cairo
Cairo , is the capital of Egypt and the largest city in the Arab world and Africa, and the 16th largest metropolitan area in the world. Nicknamed "The City of a Thousand Minarets" for its preponderance of Islamic architecture, Cairo has long been a centre of the region's political and cultural life...

, where his father was appointed diplomatic agent. There, he received his primary education at the Lyceé Français. He was then sent to Liège, Belgium
Belgium , officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a federal state in Western Europe. It is a founding member of the European Union and hosts the EU's headquarters, and those of several other major international organisations such as NATO.Belgium is also a member of, or affiliated to, many...

 where he attended high school and university. Pakravan then studied at the artillery
Originally applied to any group of infantry primarily armed with projectile weapons, artillery has over time become limited in meaning to refer only to those engines of war that operate by projection of munitions far beyond the range of effect of personal weapons...

 school in Poitiers
Poitiers is a city on the Clain river in west central France. It is a commune and the capital of the Vienne department and of the Poitou-Charentes region. The centre is picturesque and its streets are interesting for predominant remains of historical architecture, especially from the Romanesque...

, France, and the Ecole d’Application d’Artillerie in Fontainebleau
Fontainebleau is a commune in the metropolitan area of Paris, France. It is located south-southeast of the centre of Paris. Fontainebleau is a sub-prefecture of the Seine-et-Marne department, and it is the seat of the arrondissement of Fontainebleau...


Political life

Pakravan began his career at the Tehran Military Academy, where he taught artillery. He then served in a number of military, political, and diplomatic posts including adjutant
Adjutant is a military rank or appointment. In some armies, including most English-speaking ones, it is an officer who assists a more senior officer, while in other armies, especially Francophone ones, it is an NCO , normally corresponding roughly to a Staff Sergeant or Warrant Officer.An Adjutant...

 in the Intelligence Department of the Second Division, military attaché
Military attaché
A military attaché is a military expert who is attached to a diplomatic mission . This post is normally filled by a high-ranking military officer who retains the commission while serving in an embassy...

 in Pakistan
Pakistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign state in South Asia. It has a coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east and China in the far northeast. In the north, Tajikistan...

 (1949-50), chief of army intelligence (1951-53), military attaché in India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 (1954-57), deputy chief of the State Intelligence and Security Organization
SAVAK was the secret police, domestic security and intelligence service established by Iran's Mohammad Reza Shah on the recommendation of the British Government and with the help of the United States' Central Intelligence Agency SAVAK (Persian: ساواک, short for سازمان اطلاعات و امنیت کشور...

 in charge of external affairs (1957-61), deputy prime minister and chief of the State Intelligence and Security Organization (1961-65), minister of information (1965-66), ambassador to Pakistan (1966-69), ambassador to France (1969-73), and senior counselor to the Ministry of Court (1974-79). Pakravan was known for being more compassionate than any of National Security and Information Department's other directors. However, Muhammad Reza Shah replaced Pakravan with his childhood friend Nematollah Nassiri
Nematollah Nassiri
General Nematollah Nassiri , was the director of SAVAK, the Iranian intelligence agency during the rule of Mohammad Reza Shah. A personal friend of the Shah, he had gained notoriety for removing democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh from power...

 in 1965. He returned to Iran in 1976 and was brought out of retirement in 1978 by the Shah in a last-ditch effort to curb corruption at the Royal Court. Pakravan's supporters noted his aristocratic and impeccable character as well as his intelligence and moral courage to be a source of consolation at the difficult times of 1978-79 when the Iranian Revolution
Iranian Revolution
The Iranian Revolution refers to events involving the overthrow of Iran's monarchy under Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and its replacement with an Islamic republic under Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of the...

 took control of the opposition and eventually seized power.

Relationship with Ayatollah Khomeini

One of the more fascinating segments of the memoirs of General Pakravan's wife is the description of her husband's weekly luncheons with Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini
Ruhollah Khomeini
Grand Ayatollah Sayyed Ruhollah Musavi Khomeini was an Iranian religious leader and politician, and leader of the 1979 Iranian Revolution which saw the overthrow of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran...

 in 1963, when the ayatollah
Ayatollah is a high ranking title given to Usuli Twelver Shī‘ah clerics. Those who carry the title are experts in Islamic studies such as jurisprudence, ethics, and philosophy and usually teach in Islamic seminaries. The next lower clerical rank is Hojatoleslam wal-muslemin...

 was under house arrest.

According to General Pakravan, "The ayatollah used to say in this very flowery Eastern way, 'Timsar [General], I count the days until we reach the day of our luncheon.'" He described the ayatollah as, very handsome, someone with extraordinary presence, a power of seduction and great charisma. They talked about religion, philosophy, and history. General Pakravan also found him to be very ambitious and secretive. "So much so that it made my hair stand on end. It was frightening," he told his wife.

Mrs. Pakravan confirms the well-known story that her husband saved Ayatollah Khomeini's life in 1963. He was condemned to death
Capital punishment
Capital punishment, the death penalty, or execution is the sentence of death upon a person by the state as a punishment for an offence. Crimes that can result in a death penalty are known as capital crimes or capital offences. The term capital originates from the Latin capitalis, literally...

 and General Pakravan was upset by that. Pakravan felt that Khomeini's execution would anger the common people of Iran. He knew that the population of the country is not its elite. He presented his argument to the shah. Once he had convinced the shah to allow him to find a way out, he called on Ayatollah Mohammad-Kazem Shariatmadari
Ayatollah Kazem Shariatmadari
Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Mohammad Kazem Shariatmadari , also spelled Shariat-Madari , was an Iranian Grand Ayatollah.-Biography:...

, one of the senior religious leaders of Iran, and asked for his help. Ayatollah Shariatmadari suggested that Khomeini be made an ayatollah. So, they made a religious decree
A fatwā in the Islamic faith is a juristic ruling concerning Islamic law issued by an Islamic scholar. In Sunni Islam any fatwā is non-binding, whereas in Shia Islam it could be considered by an individual as binding, depending on his or her relation to the scholar. The person who issues a fatwā...

 which was taken by General Pakravan and Seyyed Jalal Tehrani to the Shah.


After the Iranian Revolution
Iranian Revolution
The Iranian Revolution refers to events involving the overthrow of Iran's monarchy under Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and its replacement with an Islamic republic under Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of the...

, Pakravan was among the first of the Shah's officials to be executed. He was not allowed to have access to a lawyer
A lawyer, according to Black's Law Dictionary, is "a person learned in the law; as an attorney, counsel or solicitor; a person who is practicing law." Law is the system of rules of conduct established by the sovereign government of a society to correct wrongs, maintain the stability of political...

 and the charges filed against him were vague. Given the fact that he was retired at the time of the revolution his execution seemed all the more unjust. It is well-documented fact (confirmed by many Iranian officials, including the late Shah, in his memoirs) that Pakravan was a key in convincing the Shah to commute a death sentence passed on Khomeini in 1963 for his role in the 1963 riots into exile. Khomeini was first sent to Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

, and then to Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

, where he stayed until his expulsion to France in 1978.

In her memoirs, Mrs. Pakravan provides details of the arrest, imprisonment, and execution of her husband by the Islamic Revolutionary Court
Islamic Revolutionary Court
Islamic Revolutionary Court is a special court in the Islamic Republic of Iran designed to try those suspected of smuggling, blaspheming, inticing violence or trying to overthrow the Iranian government...

. General Pakravan was taken from his house to an unknown destination. When his son tried to contact him, he was told that the general was not arrested at all. He is the guest of the ayatollah. But in fact he was imprisoned shortly after his arrest.

According to a fellow inmate, a few days before his execution, General Pakravan had smiled and said,
It’s funny. I’ve never lived in such conditions even in the army in such complete denuement [destitution]. I know what’s going to happen to me. It will be the machine gun, but I’ve never felt so [peaceful].

External links

  • Harvard.edu, Harvard Iranian Oral History Project: transcript of interview with Fatemeh Pakravan conducted by Dr. Habib Ladjevardi 3 March 1983]
  • HolyCrime.com, Hassan Pakravan - Biography Warning: This site contains graphic images (mugshot of corpse.)
  • Iranian.com, "Lunch with Khomeini - How a former SAVAK chief saved the ayatollah's life". The Iranian