Home > Iran, Islam, Pakistan > April is the crue(l)lest month

April is the crue(l)lest month

At least, so it is to T.S. Eliot in “The Waste Land,” one of the most extraordinary poems ever written. I don’t know about the entire month of April but this week is certainly the cruelest to me, and has been for the last 34 years. April 4th 1979 was when Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, father of Benazir and former Pakistani Prime Minister, a brilliant and controversial man, was hanged by order of Zia-ul-Haq, the President. I had met Bhutto in the early 1970s, when he visited my father, then Iranian ambassador to Paris. He made a deep impression on me with his cogent, knife-sharp assessment of Iran, Pakistan, and of the way our world was evolving.

Though I was not personally affected by his death, it gave me an instinctive sense of doom related to my country of origin, Iran. Remember, after the Islamic Revolution of February 1979, Iranian jails were filled with thousands of political prisoners, both officials of the former regime—such as my father—and ordinary citizens who didn’t fancy living in a theocracy. Despite Andrew Young’s assessment of Khomeini as “a saint,” the cleric was revealing himself to be a cruel brute and executions, dozens at a time, took place every day.

On April 7, Amir Abbas Hoveyda who had been a long-time prime minister of the Shah, was executed. The next days, photographs of his body surrounded by grinning imbeciles appeared in media the world over. More than a decade earlier, I had been his assistant for almost three years. A courteous and cultured man, he was as knowledgeable about the world of thought and literature as about economy and policy, profoundly loyal to the monarchy, and devoid of personal ambition. My admiration for these aspects of his character didn’t prevent me from being occasionally enraged by what I saw as the inertia of this highly civilized man regarding democratization and liberalization. His execution stunned me as I was—and remain—naïve in my belief that human beings are decent more often than not and things usually turn out better than expected. I have to add that Hoveyda, wily politician though he may have been, was even more naïve than myself as he requested legal assistance—which he didn’t get—and argued on points of detail with the judges of the Islamic Tribunal, not realizing that his fate had been sealed from day one.

Then, on April 11, a date seared on the collective mind of my family, my father, Hassan Pakravan, and ten of his colleagues appeared before the same tribunal which gave each man a few minutes before handing down a death sentence. Shortly afterward, at two a.m., my father was taken out to the courtyard of Qasr Prison and shot with a single bullet to the heart.

So, every year, the days between April 4 and April 11 are a hiatus but not quite a void as memories, the briefly renewed sound of voices not heard in decades, superimposed images of grief and terror but also of the better days of long, long ago, flow and ebb in me in a welter of emotions that will gradually subside as life takes over once more.

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  1. April 6, 2013 at 5:26 pm

    Saïdeh…my heart weeps for the pain you have known.

  2. April 6, 2013 at 6:38 pm

    May courage and strength continue to be with you after having suffered
    such great loss. You have my respect and deepest sympathies.

  3. April 6, 2013 at 8:56 pm

    criminal scum wielding power…. your loss and a loss to humanity, khanom.
    I remeber the day we learnt the horrific news of this vile murder and imagined the grief of your family…. (I am khavaharzadeh to PARVIZ).

  4. April 6, 2013 at 9:26 pm

    I am so sorry to read this. Here in the US when we hear of such crimes, the victims somehow remain anonymous. This puts a more clear human face on the tragedy for me. I will will share it with others. Bless you, Saideh.

    • April 6, 2013 at 9:32 pm

      Thank you. Yes, please do share. As you say, countless victims remain anonymous. These, whom we loved, should be remembered.

  5. Jonathan
    April 7, 2013 at 3:09 am

    Iran is the new Evil Empire, run by hypocritical cowards who sully God’s name by evoking Him to justify their vicious, cowardly deeds. Like all bullies, they won’t stop pushing people around until they are confronted by someone stronger. Hope it happens soon!

  6. Steven Waxman
    April 7, 2013 at 4:45 am

    I’m so sorry. I cannot imagine your sorrow. But I can now better understand your courage.

  7. Ed Levy
    April 8, 2013 at 3:16 am

    Very powerful.

    • Melinda Barnhardt Jud
      April 13, 2013 at 12:29 pm

      Inexpressibly poignant. Beautifully written, and all the more powerful for its calm rationality in contrast with these barbarous acts. The consideration of the murders of these three outstanding figures within a single piece sheds light in a way that almost nothing else could on the tragedy of the current Middle East. Such loss.

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