Life, After Dying Before Death

April, 2002

Daryoush Homayoun

I, caught in the trap, pretending death
Like the parrot who “died” and did escape
‎ Khaqani (12th century)‎

As said by an English statesman, “In politics an afternoon could be a ‎
Lifetime.” In my case the afternoon began with a telephone call from ‎Hoveyda, the Minister of the Imperial Court, in early January 1978. ‎His called to inform me that an urgent article was on its way to me. It ‎was His Majesty’s order to get the article published immediately.‎

Next day, I was attending a convention of the Rastakhiz Party, as ‎chairperson of the by-laws committee. After lunch a group of party ‎members were gathered around me discussing different related issues. ‎Mr. Ali Ghafari the executive secretary of Hovayda, formerly holding ‎the same position when his boss was the Prime Minister, came forward ‎and handed me the envelope containing the urgent article. It was a ‎large white envelope. I was extremely busy at the time, and liable to ‎forget the article and leaving it somewhere. I noticed my friend, Mr. Ali ‎Bastani, correspondent from the Etela’at Newspaper and handed him ‎the envelope to be delivered to the newspaper editor-in-chief. It was at ‎that moment that I noticed the large gold seal of the Imperial Court. I ‎opened the envelope and saw a few typewritten pages; kept the envelope ‎and returned the pages to Mr. Bastani.‎

The following day I was in the midst of a meeting at the Ministry when I ‎was interrupted by a call from Mr. Shahidi the chief editor of Etela’at. ‎He asked, “Do you know what is the content of the article that you had ‎sent to me”. Of course I did not know anything since I had not read the ‎article. Mr. Shahidi continued, “It is an attack on Khomeiny!” My ‎answer was, “It does not matter. It was an order from higher up and ‎has to be published.” The editor replied in distress, “To publish this ‎article would result in people attacking and setting the newspaper office ‎in Qom (the most important religious center in Iran) on fire.” I simply ‎replied that there was no other choice, and that he was aware where the ‎order came from. “Why should we publish this article?” he insisted. I ‎Replied That “somebody has to do it and Etela’at has benefited most in ‎the past.”‎

A couple of hours later, the Prime Minister Dr. Jamshid Amouzegar ‎called me. He wanted to know the story regarding the article. Mr. ‎Farhad Massoudi the Etela’at publisher-owner had called the Prime ‎Minister questioning the wisdom of the content of the article. I simply ‎answered that it was an order that it be published. He agreed by saying ‎that of course it must be published. So two days later the article ‎appeared in an inside page. As anticipated by Mr. Shahidi, a group of ‎religious students attacked the newspaper office in Qom. Still worse ‎there was a mass demonstration in that city. Six people were killed as ‎the result of the military over-reacting and using combat ammunition ‎instead of tear gas to disperse the mob.‎

The article was read by a handful of people. But the killings sparked a ‎series of anti Regime demonstrations and acts of violence. In a few ‎months the violence and atrocities culminated in setting afire a movie ‎house, Cinema Rex in Abadan. In that wanton act by the Islamic ‎terrorists, some 470 people were suffocated to death. This incident ‎totally broke the spirit of the Shah, setting a trend of making ill-advised ‎concessions, withdrawal, and eventual surrender. His every move was ‎to weaken his own position and reinforcing the dissidents that fast ‎became full-fledged revolutionaries. Our cabinet was forced to resign ‎after that catastrophe. The next three cabinets, replacing each other in ‎rapid succession, did only what Khomeiny and his ever-increasing ‎devout followers could only expect in their wildest drams. This policy of ‎emboldening the revolutionaries went as far as arresting a number of ‎key former officials. Of course a great deal of old personal and political ‎accounts were being settled in this operation as well. My turn came ‎with the second and much larger wave, when the so-called military ‎cabinet was appointed as a bulwark against the revolutionary tide. It ‎was its one decisive act and people in no time recognized the real nature ‎of the men with iron fist. The Military cabinet was as an old Persian ‎fable recounts, a donkey in the hide of a lion. It broke all records in ‎begging the opposition’s understanding.‎

A few days after my resignation as the Minister of Information and ‎Tourism, Etela’at published a scathing article exaggerating and ‎falsifying my role in the fore-mentioned episode. The paper did not ‎make the slightest reference to the fact that the publication of that ‎article was ordered by the Shah in response to Khomeiny’s attack on ‎him. A few weeks before that Khomeiny’s elder son had died in Iraq ‎and the SAVAK (Security) was falsely blamed for his death. Khomeiny ‎from his exile in Iraq and some of his followers in Qom, openly and ‎from the pulpit attacked the Shah and called for his abdication. In ‎Tehran the bazaar merchants and the Shah’s opposition arranged for a ‎big memorial service for him, just to demonstrate public opposition to ‎the Shah.‎

The Shah’s policy as usual was to retaliate with similar articles. He ‎always wanted to pay in kind and was hoping to damage Khomeiny. ‎Etela’at of course knew perfectly well that the author of the article was ‎a veteran journalist, turned businessman, another Ali, who was working ‎with the press office of the Court Minister; but I would have made a ‎better target and less dangerous. ‎

Henceforth I became the enemy of the people who were gradually ‎becoming Khomeiny worshipers. Not one in a thousand of them had ‎even read the article in question. As the poet said, “ I was the target of ‎destiny”. My friends insisted that I should leave the country, but I ‎refused to take flight. In spite of threatening remarks and calls, I stayed ‎home and people came in groups to see me for different reasons. During ‎those days the new Minister of Information and Tourism called me ‎about the article. I told him as I had told the Shah’s office that I was ‎not going to involve the Court in this matter, and that I would not ‎answer any of the accusations in the press. I visited Hovayda twice. In ‎our last visit he told me that both our names were on the same list. A ‎few days later I received a prank telephone call, which I attributed to ‎making sure that I was still in the country and had not escaped. ‎


Two weeks later, a day in October 1978, my wife and I were invited to ‎have lunch at the house of my good friend Mr. Mahmoud Kashefi, the ‎former Minister Without Portfolio. There were other former colleagues ‎including Dr. Amouzegar. One o’clock in the afternoon Tehran Radio ‎&Television announced a message from the Shah. The military cabinet ‎had been installed. We sat with our eyes fixed on the screen at the ‎Shah’s image, thin and broken down, reading from a statement with ‎difficulty. The message, on the wake of announcing the Military cabinet ‎that had already shook the opposition, was no less than raising the white ‎flag. The Shah was telling people that he had heard their revolutionary ‎message, and was begging them to be kind enough to let him fight along ‎with them against what actually was his own past. In fact the essence of ‎the speech was to assure the revolutionaries that they have nothing to ‎fear from the military cabinet.‎

None of us present had any idea what to say. Bewildered, we bid good-‎bye and went home. At one o’clock in the morning the servant knocked ‎at our bedroom door to wake us up, saying that a group of people had ‎come to the door to see me. I dressed and went down, knowing what ‎was it all about. At the foot of the stairs I saw three men waiting. They ‎told me that they had something to discuss with me for a few hours. It ‎was then that I woke up from my indifferent negligence during the past ‎three months. I realized that my end was in sight and that I had to be ‎careful and depend on my good luck. I said good-bye to my wife, who ‎spent the next 12 hours calling in vain the authorities. Outside, I was ‎conducted to a car followed by an armed military jeep. One of the men ‎in the car called his superior and informed him that he had arrested me.‎

My prison was in the Military Police headquarters at Jamshidabad ‎barracks. It was a large room with beds separated by a small chest of ‎drawers. I saw about fifteen detainees from former high military and ‎political figures, and a few lower ranked functionaries who had been ‎arrested that same night. The first night was spent in conversation. ‎Next day the families brought the necessities for the prisoners. Some ‎days later the first group of former political and military leaders, who ‎had been arrested in the first wave, were brought from the city police ‎prison to join us. Eventually we were provided with better ‎accommodations, such as small individual cells, that a great many army ‎officers had occupied before. Our meals were the same as the army ‎officers. A few people had their meals brought from home. Prison ‎uniforms, something on the order of cut-down army uniform were ‎issued. I was the only person who wore the prison uniform. Other ‎prisoners sent their laundry home to be washed. There were a few ‎sentries on watch and to carry our occasional requests and to shop for ‎us. The attitude towards us was a mixture pf prisoner and ex-cabinet ‎minister. Twice a week we could have visitors in the presence of the ‎officer in charge.‎

Seasoned and substantial men, as those ex leaders were, they in general ‎kept their spirit and composure. But after the Shah left the country, the ‎bitterness could very well be detected in those who had served him and ‎the country for a lifetime, and had clean records. From then on they ‎were at the mercy of their long and sworn political and ideological ‎enemies. A few started to write their defense. As an example was the ‎account written by late Mansur Rouhani, a former minister both of ‎energy and agriculture. This that I read years later is about the ‎development of agriculture in Iran after the Land Reform. It is a ‎valuable document and should be published. ‎

One of the prisoners, the Deputy Mayor of Tehran, happened to have an ‎identical name to that of the former head of the guild Hall. The Deputy ‎was an honest simple man, contrary to the other one. He followed the ‎cleric Khoee in Najaf, and kept reading his book ‘Explanation of ‎Problems’. It was the only thing he read. Apparently he had been ‎imprisoned, instead of his namesake, who had strong SAVAK ‎connections, intentionally. A couple of times we asked him to read parts ‎of the book for us. He stopped reading for us when he saw our ‎uncontrolled laughter. After that, every evening, we would force him ‎to give us the book and entertained ourselves by reading it. Never ‎before did we have time to make the acquaintance of such things. We ‎could not believe that these were the people who had defeated us, and ‎how was it possible for our nation, under the leadership of their ‎intelligentsia, to long for the government of such characters in ‎preference to us? ‎

Two former cabinet Ministers who were among the original designers of ‎the strategy of sacrificing to the altar of the revolution, themselves fell in ‎their own trap – one of them at the last weeks of the Monarchy. Nobody ‎spoke to them, except Dr. Abdolazim Valyan, A dear friend and former ‎Minister and Governor General, who indirectly gave them some of his ‎famous tongue-lashings. Dr. Manuchehr Azmoun, one of the two, who ‎was arrested at the same time as myself, showed where his hope and ‎loyalty resided. His morale went up and down with any success or ‎setback of the revolutionary movement. He saw his future in the hands ‎of the clerics. When he escaped from prison he went to the next leading ‎mullah, Taleghani, at his own will, and straight to the firing squad. ‎

After reading a few books from the prison library, notably the excellent ‎Persian translation of Moby Dick, by late Parviz Dariush – a great ‎experience -- I spent a great deal of my time reading the books that ‎reached me in prison. This was an immense opportunity to benefit from ‎the time on hand. But the political events in the outside world, moving ‎so fast, were forcing us to follow and analyze them. Dr. Freydoun ‎Mahdavi, the ex-Minister of Commerce, a very good friend and a man ‎consumed by politics, and I had our ears tuned to the news and our eyes ‎fixed on any newspaper that we could lay our hands on. What we could ‎see was the sheer hopelessness of our situation. Whoever the winner in ‎the unfolding conflict, we were the certain losers. ‎

We had been arrested under Martial Law. We were not accused of any ‎wrong doing, but the talk in the Parliament and the press was about our ‎execution. The Bakhtiar government tried, but failed, to make a case ‎against us. Besides time ran out on them. A team of prosecutors from ‎the military Intelligence, were stationed near our prison and started ‎questioning us. But there was no charge and it went nowhere. The ‎head of SVAK did what he could to use the fake list of people who had ‎moved foreign currency out of Iran against us. This list was the ‎brainchild of the (later) secretary General of the National Democratic ‎Front with cooperation of a few employees in the Central Bank. All ‎told, the political and psychological pressure for our execution was ‎coming from every direction. A ruling elite that was steadily losing ‎ground over the past six months, and unable to have any strategy, saw ‎the easiest way out in making a group who for whatever reason, had ‎become the escape goat of a failed regime. (It is ironic that fewer of us ‎were executed, than those who wanted to sacrifice us so that they could ‎hold on to their seats.)‎

By the end of the fall, there was no doubt in my mind that the end had ‎come for us, if not sooner than the regime. We saw on television ‎hundreds of thousands of people filling the streets shouting “Death ‎to….” Later the same crowd believed and assured everyone else that ‎the entire uprising was a foreign plot. We saw multitudes of men and ‎women all over the country, shorn of logic and reason in their ‎unquestioning devotion, their Rancor giving way to barbarity, they ‎were ready to fall down into whatever abyss their Imam was leading ‎them. The political leadership, which paralyzed by fear, in its sheer ‎cynicism, and in an environment devoid of any moral considerations ‎and common sense was not even able to act in its own self interest. With ‎unbelievable cowardice and shabbiness it was pushing the splendid ‎vessel of the imperial government to the rocks. We were looking at a ‎society experiencing its worst historical period, as far as the eye could ‎look back to the distant millennia, since this time it was a disaster of its ‎own making. What hope there was amid such ignorance and ‎vindictiveness?‎


I was insisting for some time that my wife leave the country, arguing ‎that it would be even good for me. With her in Iran I would be traced ‎and trapped. She would not consent. She had stayed to defend me if ‎necessary in the highest court of authority, the royal household and the ‎parliament. She repeatedly would ask “What will happen to you?” I ‎would jokingly reply, “I would wear a turban and go to Khomein ‎‎(Khomeiny’s home town) and preach. I had grown a beard from the ‎first day. I am not sure whether it was from being lazy or that I had an ‎intuition that it would come in handy some day. No doubt in my ‎innermost I was hoping to escape.‎

The combination of several factors in the family came to my assistance. ‎Our older daughter, adamant not to leave, found that she was expecting ‎a child; our son-in-law had to go to Switzerland to attend to his dying ‎father. So my wife and daughter left the country six days before the ‎Shah. Her intention was to return home to Iran. The ordeal of their ‎departure is a good example of the declining state of affairs in Iran at ‎that time. With all the connections of my wife with the royal family, she ‎had to prove with a great deal of difficulty that she had not taken money ‎out of the country and her name on the faked list had no significance. ‎She departed with only the clothes on her back. ‎

The defection of soldiers began in the middle of autumn. The morale in ‎the army was generally very low. The army did not have sufficient fuel ‎supply to heat the barracks. In the wake of the strike by the oil ‎company workers the barracks were not heated. (We kept ourselves ‎warm by walking around the prison). There was no gasoline. Walking ‎around the compound we noticed many stalled tanks and other vehicles ‎sitting idle. Outside in the streets the soldiers were either hapless ‎spectators, or once in a while in extreme anger would aim their machine ‎guns at the demonstrators. Six hundred soldiers ran away from our ‎barracks. We tried to persuade our guardians not to defect!‎

On February 12, 1979, the day of the final collapse of the old regime, ‎about three o’clock in the afternoon we heard the noise and movement ‎of a large crowd outside. Someone in our group climbed on the heating ‎radiator in order to be able to look outside through the window. He ‎told us that a group around two to three hundred people were gathered ‎at the entrance of the barracks, that already had a large sign hang at ‎the gate reading, “The Islamic barracks of Jamshidabad.” We also ‎heard good many of shots being exchanged. Some of the shots even ‎reached us making holes in the walls. According to the accounts of the ‎prison guards, the shooting started because at the beginning the ‎demonstrators approached the base with friendly, brotherhood slogans. ‎Once inside the premises, they lured the soldiers and tried to disarm ‎them, and the shooting and throwing hand grenades started. The leftist ‎groups had been attacking and storming army barracks and polices ‎stations for some time, trying to arm themselves for their next bid for ‎power. Some of the shots came from the apartments across the ‎barracks, occupied by the revolutionaries.‎

Dr. Shaykh-ol Eslami Zadeh, the former Minister of Health and a co ‎prisoner was hard at work attending the wounded soldiers. He did not ‎take the opportunity to escape, and was captured by the attackers. He ‎remained for many years in the Islamic prison. At about six o’clock in ‎the evening a few of the remaining soldiers came and opened the doors ‎announcing that the prisoners were free by the order of the ‎revolutionaries. We went downstairs and joined some six to seven ‎hundred army personnel who had been prisoners. I dressed properly ‎and put on my reading glasses that bothered me. My thick beard ‎disguised my well-recognized television face. The early darkness of ‎winter nights came to our aid. A large group of army prisoner came out ‎chanting, ‘La elaha el allah’ (There is only one God). Soon they ‎retreated in fear of flying bullets. We who preferred death to a second ‎captivity, left with the second wave. I bent down and walked as fast as I ‎could. The compound was dark except for the headlight from some cars ‎outside. Somebody in the crowd asked “Is Hovayda here?” “No. He is ‎in another place,” another one answered. One or two men stared at me ‎but they did not recognize me.‎

From our group, General Nassiri the former chief of SAVAK who was ‎in in a room away from us, always in deep grief, and not speaking to ‎anyone; Gholam Reza Nikpey the former Mayor of Tehran known for ‎not getting along with others, and Lt. General Sadri the former head of ‎the Police, were possibly arrested right there by the revolutionaries. ‎Rohani and Dr. Gholamreza Kianpour, a dear friend and one of the ‎best civil servants of that era, were later on arrested. The last one, as ‎mentioned before, turned himself in voluntarily. They were all ‎executed. I do not know how many of the revolutionaries of that ‎evening survived their victory. ‎


‎ I took to the narrow, empty streets towards a main thoroughfare to ‎find a taxi. More than once I noticed some young men carrying ‎firearms from cars into apartments. I decided to go home and did not ‎desire to impose on anybody unexpectedly. I was hoping and counting ‎that nobody would think of me in that on-going chaos. I knew I could ‎depend on the loyalty and secrecy of my household staff and the ‎watchmen of our neighborhood. They were like members of family. I ‎stood in front of Laleh Park in Amirabad waiting for a taxi that never ‎came. A young man was also waiting along with me. The streets were ‎full of cars and trucks filled with young people who were happily ‎celebrating and a few who waved their guns in the air. It was the end of ‎us, and the beginning of their end. A Volkswagen stopped and the ‎driver said that he was going towards Mahmoudiyeh. I sat in the front ‎seat. The taxi-driver would not accept money when I reached for my ‎pocket to pay and seemed annoyed. It was a gift of brotherhood, in the ‎general spirit of the moment. The other passenger gave him a bullet for ‎a souvenir. A short distance away another young man hailed for a ride. ‎He was going to Mahmoudiyeh also. I got out of the taxi to let the new ‎passenger into the back seat. Getting in and out of the vehicle put me ‎more in view of the first passenger.‎

When the taxi reached the turn into Mahmoudiyeh, the first young man ‎and I got out. He turned to me and said, “Are you Mr. Homayoun?” I ‎said, “yes.” “What are you doing here?” I told him that people stormed ‎the prison and told us that we had not done anything. “Yes.” he ‎continued, “You have not done anything, but put on your glasses.” He ‎was right. I had continuously taken my glasses off, since they hurt my ‎eyes. Another car gave us a ride to Tajrish Bridge. Long after, I heard ‎that the driver had been a friend of one of my brothers, and had told ‎him about this encounter. At Tajrish Bridge we both waited for a ride. ‎A car passed and my friend yelled, “Abbas”. The car stopped. There ‎were two young men inside. We sat in the back seat. One of the friends ‎turned to my fellow passenger and said in a scolding way, “Where have ‎you been? In Eshratabad we got this baby.” He handed a Usi ‎submachine gun to his friend as I looked at both of them with bemused ‎apprehension. We reached the Tajrish Baazar. I got out, thanking ‎them profusely. Another free ride took me to a few blocks away from ‎my house. That first night was a prelude to my moving from place to ‎place for many years to come. ‎

I have repeated the story of the young man to dozens of people with the ‎hope of finding him. Several years later in Washington, my good friend ‎Dr. Asa’ad-Nezami recalled, “The fellow that saved your life saved me ‎too.” The story goes that during the first week of the Revolution Dr. ‎Asaad-Nezami was caught in a heated discussion with a group standing ‎in front of the University of Tehran. He had made the remark that the ‎era of monarchy was not all that bad. If the young man had not come to ‎his rescue, and introduced him as true believer of the Revolution, my ‎friend would have had to deal with the Committee and even worse ‎places. The young man had told him, “You are the second man that I ‎have saved. I also told Homayoun to put on his glasses!”‎

The watchmen of our neighborhood looked at me but they did not say ‎anything. The cook was the only person left in the house. At first he ‎did not recognizes me. It was late at night and I was not hungry but ‎extremely thirsty, as if the agitation of the past few hours must have ‎dried up all the water in my body. The cook said that the city water had ‎been poisoned -- another of the countless rumors of those days. I kept ‎drinking water and looking over the house and did not know what to do. ‎I never thought that I would set foot in my house again. During the ‎three and a half months of imprisonment, the people and the system ‎that I was a part of, were hard trying to do away with me. I had slowly ‎resigned to death or at least a life of a wanderer. The escape of my ‎colleagues and myself from death was like the miracle of Poland. ‎During World War I no matter what, Poland was doomed. It did not ‎make any difference if Germany or Russia won the war. The result ‎would have been loss for Poland in both cases. Nevertheless, against all ‎logic, Russia was defeated first and Germany afterwards. The same ‎happened to us. The first enemy was the last governments of the ‎imperial regime, which collapsed before ending our lives. The second ‎enemy was the armed revolutionary groups that in a state of ecstasy, ‎being able to have their long awaited armed struggle, and using their ‎deadly toys, were not patient enough to wait and catch us in our cage ‎like birds. To their regret they came to our rescue and set us free.‎

The only thing that occurred to me was to destroy names and addresses ‎of our friends and family. I contacted a friend through my father, and ‎made an appointment for the next morning early. Late at night the ‎phone rang asking for the cook in a very rude tone of voice. I replied ‎that we did not have such a person. A few minutes later the call came ‎again. This time I answered in English and said that it was the wrong ‎number. The caller imitated me in English. I pulled out the telephone ‎cord. Henceforth worry did not and would not leave me. I called one of ‎my neighbors, a former colleague in the government, and asked him if I ‎could spend the night at his house. I had a good rest there that night. I ‎told the cook not to expect me. The next day I took my two passports, a ‎small suitcase and left the house, that does not exist any more, forever. ‎A friend informed my wife that I have had safely escaped. On that day ‎the fear of death left me. From that moment no fear was going to stop ‎me from my goal. I should have died then; each day was one day more ‎than my share. The dangers encountered later on the way out of Iran ‎were not taken but as daily events. Never again did I feel as thirsty as ‎that night.‎


I spent the first week in a small apartment near the Radio-Television ‎Station. The former occupants of the apartment had moved somewhere ‎else. There was constant traffic of armed militia in and out of this ‎neighborhood, along with the sound of a great deal of shooting. One ‎day I saw the militia take over the street. Some had climbed on the ‎rooftops. Looking through the curtain into the street, I could hear the ‎armed men talking through the microphone. I was not sure what I was ‎going to do, should they come inside the apartment. I was determined ‎not to fall in their hands. I was not going to tolerate the humiliation of ‎being subject to the Revolutionary functionaries. Finally they left in ‎half an hour. Apparently their prey was a police officer. In the ‎evenings it was a torture to see on the television the sadistic ‎investigation sessions of the former cabinet ministers and wounded and ‎desperate generals being humiliated by that certain Iranian-American ‎Doctor, a member of the Revolutionary Council who was both ‎‎“nationalist and religious.” It was not long before the parade of the ‎bullet-ridden bodies at the Refah School (where Khomeiny was ‎residing) came to view. Soon it was the turn of my friends and ‎colleagues. All these events have embittered my soul, hurting to this ‎day. I still feel a deep pain, whenever I hear the song ‘Happy Spring’ ‎that was repeatedly broadcast on Tehran Radio-Television. That tune ‎was so inappropriate in that blood stained winter that was befalling ‎over Iran.‎

My next abode lasted another three to four months, in the house of a ‎friend. One day the militia occupied the office of Ayandegan ‎Newspaper that I had established. My father was the treasurer of the ‎paper. He was arrested with a group of employees during the takeover. ‎He knew of my whereabouts, so I decided to move to another place. My ‎host contacted a friend and I moved during the night. My new host had ‎sent his wife and children abroad. A poster of a smiling Khomeiny was ‎hung on the wall. The explanation was to laugh at his own stupidity ‎each time that he looked at the picture. A few days later my former ‎host came very disturbed, since the militia had raided his house twice, ‎once while he was away and another time when he was at home. The ‎reason being that he was mistaken as one of the big capitalists. It took a ‎long time for him to prove that he had inherited the house from his ‎father, with same name but no relations to the capitalist, and long dead. ‎Thanks to the cautionary measures we had taken, since my escape -- ‎rare visits and absolutely no telephone calls -- my father succeeded to ‎prove to the investigators that he did not know where I could be. His ‎most effective argument had been that I knew that they would go to him ‎first. My life was spared once more. If they had not arrested my ‎father… ‎

It was in the fall of 1979 when I moved to an apartment that a friend ‎had rented for me in his own name. He visited me regularly and ‎supplied my daily needs. This was my last home until I ran away from ‎Iran. In all, I was fifteen months in hiding. During this time I had ‎plenty of time to think, and more time to read. I read more than 200 ‎different works such as complete dramatic works of Bernard Shaw, ‎Ibsen and Strindberg; theater substituting for the actual world that was ‎beyond my reach. I also devoured most of Saul Bellow’s novels, and ‎many others. I had learned since the prison blackouts to read by ‎candlelight, moving the candle over each line. I made up for my past ‎recklessness and did not forego any caution. The very few friends that ‎were in touch with me had started the rumor that I had gone to the ‎United States. I did not even contact my sister and my two brothers ‎who lived in Tehran. I left them without any news of me. I made no ‎telephone calls to anyone, a habit I have kept even after I left Iran. It ‎has been more than twenty years, but I do not desire to cause any ‎problem for anyone. In all those months and regardless of the false ‎rumors, the authorities continued their search for me, questioned ‎everyone they could; even my enemies who would have been willing to ‎give me away. ‎

My life was similar to the story of “The Three Fish” in the fables of ‎Kalileh and Dameneh. The three in a pond one day saw some men ‎looking at the water. One of them sensed the danger and threw itself ‎out of the pond and into the stream nearby. Next day the men came ‎again with their net. The second fish acted as lifeless and one of the men ‎took and threw it away and the fish also made its way to the stream. ‎The third one wandered around in panic and was caught. Shedding the ‎fear of death had made me optimistic. I was confident that I would be ‎spared from all dangers. When I bid good-bye to my father for the last ‎time he observed that there was a great deal of work awaiting me in the ‎future. I believed in his judgment. I sensed that perhaps the second life ‎that I was granted was to leave behind my first life that died on that ‎winter night when the gates of the army barracks opened. As said by ‎Sanaee ( 11th century poet ) I had died before death came, and the first ‎gift of a second life is freedom. I did not see my father again. He died ‎after eleven years without ever seeing me. At least I accomplished a few ‎of his expectations. He was content to live his final years living through ‎and inside me. I think of him often and he is still alive in me.‎

It was during these months that I realized that I was unable to return to ‎be what I was before. Therefore I ventured on an extensive remaking of ‎myself, which still continues to this day. I died on the eve of the ‎Revolution. Hundreds of thousands of people would have loved to see ‎me dead. There was the daily danger of falling into the hands of the ‎militia. It was then that I made the resolution to begin a new life built ‎in the depth of where fear and death had once invaded me. I decided to ‎forget the past and avoid being handicapped by it. I have achieved my ‎goal beyond expectations. Unfortunately I have also forgotten names ‎and faces and many memories. But I have been able to face with ‎greater freedom any new circumstance ahead of me. ‎

Slowly I realized the great value that came out of my arrest. If I had not ‎been imprisoned and forced to stay undercover, my death would have ‎been inevitable – I was too outspoken and politically active in the fight ‎against the leftists and Islamic radicals. I had been a target of terrorism ‎long before the revolution. My enemies had twice planted bombs in the ‎office of Ayandegan, my newspaper. Had I not gone through the two ‎years of 1978-1980, it would have taken me longer to be reborn, if a ‎highly successful active life would have allowed me – a man who usually ‎thinks by action -- time for pure thinking at all.‎
‎ ‎

In the course of the past 15 months I sent only one short letter to my ‎wife through a friend who was going to Europe. The short message was ‎a true picture of me at that time. The words came out of the depth of my ‎soul: A spirit hardened and stilled; no remorse, no sorrow, no grudges, ‎no debt to anybody; no apology for the past, no fear of the future. A ‎present submerged in books. With the hope of, “One fine day…”‎

I was not thinking very much about leaving Iran. I was afraid of being ‎captured, since I had so many enemies and I could be easily recognized. ‎A few months went by, and the revolutionary ardor was cooling down. ‎
My decision to remain in Iran became firmer. I was counting on the ‎opening of schools and universities and the expected mass ‎demonstrations by the disillusioned youth, that could bring the shaky ‎rule of the revolutionaries to an end. The American Embassy hostage ‎incident put an end to all my calculations. Once more the Iranian ‎intelligentsia proved their unlimited ability to self-deception and wrong ‎headedness. Khomeiny gave them a puppet to play with, while ‎consolidating his own power. It was at that time that I contacted an old ‎friend who, despite his unique place in my life, had been kept in dark ‎over my whereabouts, for arranging my second escape. Dr. Zia ‎Modarress was a brave patriot, a personification of loyalty. He ‎remained in Iran in that dangerous atmosphere in spite of being advised ‎by our friends and me especially to leave. The executioners captured ‎him. In the courtroom he defended himself bravely to the point of ‎making the clerics angry. He faced the firing squad as a hero. If he had ‎listened to our advice and had left Iran, how much further we would ‎have been in the battle against the mullahs.

‎ ***

Departure time was set around Nowrooz, being a busy time with more ‎traffic. Dr. Moddaress was the kind of man whose circle of friends was ‎not just from one region or a particular social class. He brought a ‎Kurdish gentleman from Western Azarbaijan to my place. I gave him ‎my passport so that he could obtain entrance visa on my part at the ‎frontier of Turkey. We set six o’clock in the evening of a certain day to ‎meet in the city of Orumieh (Rezayye) in the square under the ‎Municipal Building clock. Before my departure I dyed my beard and ‎hair light brown. I resembled one of those central-European professors. ‎With my special glasses on I could not be recognized easily. There were ‎three fellow travelers with me. On the way to Orumiyeh our two cars ‎faced many technical problems. In the city of Khoy a small truck fully ‎loaded, hit one of our cars which caused a great deal of shouting from ‎the truck driver wanting to take us to the Committee. It was his fault ‎but we paid him so that he would leave us alone. All along, the highway ‎between Tehran and Tabriz on both sides was filled with abandoned, ‎half built industrial projects. A people who had preferred the Islamic ‎Revolution, had suffocated an Industrial Revolution!‎

We reached the city square under the clock with an hour and a half ‎delay. It was already dark and no one was expecting us. We waited ‎around for a while. Finally I sent one of the cars to our guide’s house to ‎find out. The news was that our guide to be was arrested the night ‎before, charged with smuggling firearms. His wife said that my ‎passport was safe in the village and did not fall into the hand of the ‎Committee. (In most cities, neighborhood hoodlums and thugs formed ‎the committees. For years they operated as police and court of justice. ‎Today they occupy a branch of the law and order apparatus and ‎operate as they please.) It was late and the roads were not safe, we ‎decided to spend the night in a hotel. We took two rooms. It was ‎dangerous for me to go to a hotel, because of my job in the past, most of ‎the hotel people should have known me, but I had no choice. I showed ‎the copy of the fake birth certificate. If the hotelkeeper recognized me, I ‎don’t know because he did not say anything. One could see perfectly ‎well in his face how disgusted he was with Islamic regime and the ‎Islamic Regime and the rule mullahs and thugs. The return to Tehran ‎was free of any unexpected event. We had a good lunch at the neat, still ‎well run hotel from the era of Ministry of Information and Tourism. A ‎European lady and her two beautiful Dalmatians were also having ‎lunch. The Revolution had not matured as yet.‎

The next attempt was in May of 1980. This time Dr. Modarress came ‎with a former member of the Parliament. After the usual pleasantries, ‎the gentleman said, “I suppose you don’t recognize me. I am the same ‎person whose name you left out of the list of candidates to represent the ‎Rastakhiz Party.” I still did not recognize him, but he was telling the ‎truth. I was at the chair of the election committee for Azarbaijan, ‎during the 1975 elections. In order to bring new blood into the ‎Parliament, we took out the names of many former deputies, ‎landowners, and influential people from of the list of candidates. My ‎point was to break down the political machines and make more room ‎for change.‎

I had nothing to say. The surprise made me laugh in embarrassment. ‎The man himself soon came to my rescue and started to discuss the ‎main purpose of his visit. He demanded a certain amount to take me to ‎Turkey. It was much more than what I had on hand. I told him my ‎price and he accepted wholeheartedly and said “ Mr. Homayoun ‎requests something for once, there is no room for argument.” Later I ‎asked the same gentleman to help three of my friends out of Iran. We ‎became good friends though we have not been able to see each other. I ‎gave him my diplomatic passport - a leftover from my official trips to ‎Austria and Turkey in 1978, to secure the border crossing. We set a ‎date for the middle of May. When I entered the car I noticed another ‎passenger in the front seat. He made a discreet acknowledgement while ‎sinking his head more inside his overcoat. We made a stop by the ‎roadside near the thick jungle approaching the city of Ahar for my ‎friend, who had come to help me through, in the other car to catch up ‎with us. He did not show up, so we continued. During this stop while ‎admiring the hand planted forest, the other passenger in the car ‎recognized me from my voice and his anxiety increased. He was Mr. ‎Akbar Lajevardian a well-known industrialist, who was running away ‎because of the crime of establishing a huge acrylic factory in Esfahan.‎

In the afternoon we came upon a dirt road on the way to Salmas ‎‎(Shapour) towards the frontier of Turkey. Some distance down the ‎road we reached a jeep that was making a lot of dust in front of us, and ‎would not give us way to pass. Suddenly the jeep put on the breaks and ‎our car rear-ended the jeep very hard. The hood of the BMW was ‎damaged. Three bearded men wearing semi military overalls and ‎carrying machine guns came out of the jeep. I came out of the car first ‎acting very calmly as did the other two. Our cool attitude was our best ‎help.‎

The Pasdaran (revolutionary guards) spoke in Turkish to the Guid who ‎was protesting, asking him why was he chasing them, and that they ‎almost started shooting at us. The driver explained the situation, while ‎they looked at us with suspicion. They asked who we were and what we ‎do. We had decided ahead of time to pretend as a businessman, and an ‎engineer looking for a marble mine. They seem to know our guide. This ‎information did not satisfy them, they wanted to inspect our belongings. ‎We had very little that was any use to them. The driver translated this ‎information to us later. All told, the militia let us go and kept following ‎us. A change in our plans was essential at this time. Instead of going to ‎our appointed meeting place we went to a small village, stopped and ‎asked for information about the marble mine from a young guy on a ‎bicycle. The guy insisted that there was not such a mine in this area, ‎but we kept pointing in different directions. This act apparently ‎satisfied the Pasdaran and they finally left. Immediately we left for our ‎original rendezvous at the edge of the river with the Kurdish guides. ‎

Our driver was shaken and now trembling. As he saw the jeep with a ‎few people sitting around it, he decided to turn around and go away. I ‎questioned his decision. In response he said that they might be the ‎militia and shoot us. Obviously he could not judge properly because he ‎was so frightened. He took us to his place and we had a worried lunch. ‎An hour later the Kurdish guide came and started an angry discussion. ‎It was agreed for us to follow them. As soon as we approaches the same ‎dirt road, the militia’s jeep appeared in the distance and they started to ‎talk to the Kurds. We turned back in a hurry to the guide’s home, in ‎great anguish. In the next room I saw a large poster of the Mujahedin ‎‎(a religious revolutionary group now mainly working from Iraq,) a fact ‎that made us worry even more. The Kurdish guides came back, upset, ‎wanting to know what was going on. We managed to satisfy them. ‎Since night was approaching, we told them that tomorrow our guide ‎would get in touch with them. We spent the night without being able to ‎sleep. Our worries were unnecessary since the Pasdaran had not seen ‎us at all. We were saved for the second time.‎

I told the guide that as it is said in English ‘I am a hot potato. Don’t ‎hold me in your hand too long’. It is better to contact the guides as soon ‎as possible. However he did not want to be seen with us any more. ‎Finally it occurred to him to ask the head of the town’s Committee for ‎help. He was a famous scoundrel. Our guide said that in the past he ‎had rescued him from jail many times, and the man owes him a few ‎favors.‎

The head of the Committee was a perfect example of the “new class” in ‎looks, behavior and language. The first thing that he did was to go ‎through our small suitcases, which did not have anything for him either. ‎We told the story that we were factory owners and tired of disorder and ‎bribery; so we left everything behind and wanted to leave. He promised ‎to return in the afternoon. Our guide promised two thousand dollars, ‎and later made new arrangement with the Kurdish guides. In the ‎afternoon we said goodbye to our host and left with the head of the ‎Committee in his latest German model car. We traveled for an hour ‎without any incident until we reached the Kurd’s jeep coming from the ‎opposite direction. We transferred to the jeep and thanked the ‎Committeeman.‎

There were two guides, each wearing side arms with a hand grenade ‎hung from the belt. We drove as far as a small river where two men ‎with two horses were waiting for us. The head of the party who knew ‎me very well handed me my passport saying, “Fight against the ‎regime.” I answered, “Partly that is my purpose for leaving.” We said ‎good by and with their help I managed to mount. One of our guides ‎joined us. He and the owner of the animals each took the rein and we ‎set out. ‎


I had never ridden a horse before, and was slightly uneasy looking down ‎from that height. Our Kurdish friends were having fun looking at me. I ‎looked down and noticed that four feet were negotiating the water in a ‎perfect way. I felt better, and waved at the Kurds and smiled. In a little ‎while I became one of them. We came upon a sky-high mountain. We ‎were told that we would soon climb that mountain. It was hard to ‎believe. In three hours we reached the summit with many stops. I ‎insisted on stopping and letting the horses to rest. They claimed that a ‎horse never gets tired. But I could feel the animal’s heavy heart beat ‎under my legs. Mr. Lajevardian was riding a younger horse. Sweat ‎was running down his body like rain.‎

Many times the animals slipped on the rocks towards the bottomless ‎ravine. But I had confidence in my horse. Along with the dogs, the ‎horses were the most revered animals for ancient Iranians. I also had ‎confidence in our Kurdish guides. In all my experiences with them I ‎saw nothing but honesty. Climbing a mountain on horseback was an ‎adventure not to be repeated. This was the dividing line between Iran ‎and Turkey. It probably was a point that Ata Turk and Reza Shah had ‎agreed on being the frontier dividing line ending a centuries’ old ‎dispute. We were out of Iran. The horses were treading through fields ‎of wild rhubarb. We breathed the clean cool mountain air like drinking ‎the chilled Alsace wine on a summer day. Night was upon us, while I ‎saw the nearest and most beautiful sky of my life. Going downhill was ‎steep, sometimes as if going down a straight wall. The horses’ knees ‎were shaking. As our friends and guides had advised, we were leaning ‎back almost on the tail of the animal, contrary to the position while ‎climbing the mountain. It took us one hour and a half to descend.‎

We said goodbye to the friend who had provided the horses; petted the ‎animals, our dearest and closest friends for so many hours. I never had ‎a pet of my own. My mother fed the cats, the dogs and the pigeons, but ‎did not let them inside the house. After my mother passed on, for two ‎years I lived alone. I was home only to sleep and did not have time to ‎think of a pet. My wife is friendly with domestic animals from a ‎distance. But on that day I discovered how animals and humans could ‎become so closely related until death. At the foot of the mountain there ‎was a house consisting mostly of a large room serving as the guesthouse ‎of the village headman. It was a resting place for the smugglers crossing ‎the mountain. Rollaway sleeping covers served as backrests lined up ‎around the room. We were offered the place of honor. There were ‎some twenty people sitting around. We had seen some of them with ‎their load of wool overtaking us during the climb. Apparently they ‎did not stop to rest their horses.‎

The windows were closed, perhaps not have been opened all winter ‎long. I opened the window above my head. In prison I was in charge of ‎cleaning the restrooms. I taught the prison guards how to use and clean ‎the modern facilities. Once I disinfected the whole area. A few minutes ‎after I opened the window to let in the cool spring air of the mountain ‎region, protesting murmurs started from those present. I recited a ‎couplet from the our poet Molavi, Mevlana in Turkish, who is a revered ‎poet and saint among the Turks and asked the guide to translate. The ‎poem roughly reads, “The Prophet told his esteemed disciples/ Don’t ‎cover your body from the spring air. ‘Cause it will do your body and ‎soul/ what it does to the leaves of the trees.” They gave in reluctantly; ‎the combination of Mevlana and Mohamad proved irresistible. Fully ‎clothed, I stretched out on a cover-comforter that perhaps had never ‎been washed. I must have slept some. To avoid using the “restrooms” I ‎did not eat.‎

The guide supplied us with a car and we went to the city of Van. We ‎stayed at an inn, similar to a place in Kerman where I had been trapped ‎for a few hours some twenty years earlier. It was unbearable. We said ‎goodby to the guide that by this time had become a good friend. He had ‎stood by all his promises. We took a taxi to reach Diyar-e Bakr. From ‎the frontier onward, several times the Turkish gendarmes stopped and ‎looked over our passports. The closest road to Ankara was through ‎Arzerum. But I wanted to have a historical site seeing. We chose the ‎long way to Diyar-e Bakr, the ancient Amed, which was renowned for ‎its impenetrable walls. Amed had twice withstood the forces of Shapour ‎II, the Sassanian emperor. I wanted to look at the River Tigris from the ‎still formidable remnants of the mighty walls. Mr. Lajevardian, a most ‎accommodating fellow traveler, agreed with my passing fancy. After ‎two thousand years we were in the same place where the Roman archers ‎shot their many arrows at the elderly King of Kings, who wanted to ‎have a closer look at the famous walls. He did not fear the archers, as ‎his officers threw away the arrows with their skillful sword-play. In ‎Diyar-e Bakr we finally managed to have a shower after three days.‎

At the hotel I was able to call my wife and speak to her after such a long ‎time. Later I learned how she had received the news. I do not believe in ‎fortune telling, but this time it involves a very surprising coincidence. ‎The day I left Tehran my wife and our younger daughter were ‎attending the Cannes Film Festival. At luncheon on that day Mrs. Farah ‎Nikbin had read cards for my wife and told her that I would arrive ‎within a week. My wife had called my father immediately. He had ‎answered, “Where have you been? We can’t find anyone at home? We ‎have sent the package.” My wife and daughter managed to get tickets ‎back to Paris. Surprisingly enough I arrived in a week. I have repeated ‎the story to a party of friends in Stockholm in Mrs. Nikbin’s presence a ‎few years ago. ‎

It took two days to reach Ankara from Diyar-e Bakr. We stayed at the ‎Grand Hotel that I knew well, having stayed there many times before. ‎As soon as I registered I was surprised to be informed by the clerk that ‎the President of Turkey was expecting my call. Mr. Ehsan Sabri ‎Chaglyangil was acting president at the time. Two years ago as the ‎Minister of Foreign Affairs, he had hosted a reception for my wife and ‎me. He had become a very close friend with my wife’s brother, Mr. ‎Ardeshir Zahedi, from the time that my brother in law was Foreign ‎Minister and later Ambassador to the United States. It was the kind of ‎friendship that Mr. Zahedi is famous for establishing and nurturing, ‎both at a personal level and to promote Iran’s interests – friendships ‎that he cultivates with great expenses in money and time even today. I ‎asked the hotel employee for a one-hour dry cleaning service for my one ‎and only suit. A car came for me to go and see the President. ‎Afterwards I met Mr. Suleyman Demirel who became the president ‎later. I also had several talk with the President’s advisor whom I had ‎met from my previous trip. Mr. Chaglyangil told me that the Turkish ‎Security Service recognized me from my passport the moment I stepped ‎on the soil of Turkey. After the phone call from my brother-in-law, by ‎the order of the President the security followed me every step of the ‎way, relaying the news to Mr. Zahedi and on to my wife.‎

Speaking with the authorities in Turkey I told them that the regime was ‎in Iran to stay for the time being. There was no alternative for the ‎Turks but to establish relations with them. Some day the regime will ‎come down since the people are not for it as much. Meanwhile Turkey ‎has to help the people of Iran who seek asylum as much as possible. ‎Both leaders of Turkey conveyed their best wishes for the Shah, which I ‎sent through my brother-in-law. ‎

The help came for Mr. Lajevardian and me anyway. A single transit ‎pass was issued for us. The French Embassy gave me a visa. My friend ‎wanting to go to United States, stayed ten more days in Ankara. I ‎finished my visiting and proceeded to Istanbul where Mr. Shokrai and ‎his wife, the daughter of the President, lived. They were so kind. We ‎went to a football game. Our picture was in the paper. This was my ‎last experience with the world of high politics and its rewards. I had to ‎get used to life in exile. I did not know what to do or what was going to ‎happen. My experience and education was geared for work in Iran. I ‎was not ready to take orders. I had hardly any savings. In the first ‎place I had to organize my thoughts, and write. I wanted to live the life ‎of mind. In all I counted on the solid character and high spiritual and ‎ethical standards of my wife.‎

I had an unknown sense that better times were to come. My dis- ‎advantages would be compensated with being able to express myself ‎with greater freedom. I was optimistic for my future and felt well ‎towards the people in general. During that exceptionally tough 15 ‎months no one had betrayed me or disappointed me. Anybody I trusted, ‎ended up to be trustworthy. Whatever I requested from anyone, he put ‎himself and his family on the line for me. I have heard many stories ‎about the disloyalty and treachery from friends, servants, colleagues, ‎and smugglers during the Revolutionary times, but I did not experience ‎any, not even once. And the Iranian people in general, If they had ‎started to recover from their spell of madness and suicide, I could again ‎pin my hopes on them too.‎

I bought a ticket with what money left that I had managed to conceal ‎from the greedy eyes of Pasdaran and the Committeeman. At the ‎airport my wife did not recognize me at first, with the beard and the ‎eyeglass. I don’t know if it was her excitement or my changed looks?‎

Translated from the Persian‎
‎By Nayer M. Glenn Easter (April) 02‎

Publication in Persian (‎زندگی پس از مردن پيش از مرگ‎)
Ketab Corporation
‎1419 Westwood Boulevard‎
Los Angeles, CA 90024, USA


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