The Islamic Republic of Iran's first President, Abolhassan Banisadr who was ousted by clerics passed away at age 88 in a Paris hospital after 40 years in exile.
Banisadr who was the Foreign Minister in Iran's interim government that was set up after the 1979 Islamic revolution, was elected President with 10.8 million votes or 76.5 percent of ballots cast (67% of the electorate) in February 1980 and remained in power until June 1981 when hardliners at the Iranian parliament (Majles) ousted him.
Banisadr during his election campaign in early 1980,
The son of a grand ayatollah in Hamadan, he was a student activist during the tumultuous 1950s and early 1960s when he supported Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadeq, who increasingly opposed Mohammad Reza Shah, and finally left Iran for France in 1963 where he studied economics while continuing his political activism against the monarchy.
In 1979, when Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini arrived from his exile in Iraq to Paris, Banisadr and his friends helped him find accommodation and settle in a Paris suburb. Khomeini trusted him as he knew his father very well. Then, Banisadr was seen interpreting for the ayatollah in interviews with international reporters. He came back to Iran with Khomeini in February 1979.
Banisadr kissing ayatollah Khomeini's hand in 1980
His presidency was constantly challenged by powerful clerics in Khomeini’s inner circle led by Mohammad Beheshti, Akbar Rafsanjani and Ali Khamenei who first ousted the "liberal' government of Prime Minister Mehdi Bazargan, and then completed their takeover by striping Banisadr of the presidency.
In an interview with Iran International TV, the Secretary of Iran's National Front Hossein Mousavian characterized Banisadr as "A man of principles." Banisadr was a member of the pro-Mossadeq national Front of Iran before the 1979 revolution. While living in Paris as a young man, Banisadr led the Islamic wing of the National Front that was known at the time as the Islamic Association of Students.
Iran analyst Morteza Kazemian said on Iran International TV that Banisadr was "an independent nationalist figure, who believed in Iran's territorial integrity and strived to strengthen social movements in Iran and fight clerical despotism."
Banisadr at the back of a motorbike in the front during the Iran-Iraq war. Undated.
Kazemian also said that Banisadr adhered to his "principles" and that was probably why the Iranian government attempted to assassinate him in Paris at least twice.
Opposition figure Hassan Shariatmadari said in another interview with Iran International TV on Saturday that "Banisader was a true pro-Mossadeq political figure who supported Iran's independence and fought for justice and freedom."
According to Shariatmadari, Banisadr's testimony at the court investigating the Mikonos case in Germany, where he exposed the regime's state-sponsored terrorism and assassination of opposition figures, caused a major disgrace for the Islamic government."
Shariatmadari said that "Banisadr strongly opposed the Islamic Republic's underlying theory of the Guardianship of Chief Jurisconsult (Velayat Faqih) which led to the totalitarian regime we see as clerical rule in Iran today." He added that Banisadr started a struggle against the clerical rule but had no chance to win, yet he adhered to his principles and left an example of a struggle against dictatorship.
Banisadr's critics say he was mistaken in the early 1980s believing that Khomeini was a democratic leader and failed to realize that the founder of the Islamic Republic was a populist who deceived everyone with his democratic slogans. Critics inside Iran, mainly clerics who always opposed him, including former President Akbar Rafsanjani have said that Banisadr was misled to believe that more than 11 million votes he won in the presidential election made him superior to everyone else, mindless of the fact that this was first of all a vote to the Islamic regime and its leader Ayatollah Khomeini.