Abolhassan Banisadr, who became Iran’s first president after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, died at the age of 88. The family said on Saturday that he had passed away after a long illness in a Paris hospital.
Elected president in 1980, Abolhassan Banisadr was indicted 16 months after taking office for challenging the growing power of the clergy. He fled to France, where for a short time he was part of a group dedicated to trying to overthrow the clergy.
His family reported that he died in a Paris hospital after a long illness. He was 88 years old.
The road to presidency and problems in power
In the 1960s, Banisadr was imprisoned in Iran for opposing the country’s monarch, the Shah. He then fled to France, where he joined Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s retinue, becoming one of his close friends and advisers. During the revolution, they returned to Tehran together.
Banisadr then served as Iran’s minister of economy and foreign affairs, and became president with the help of the Islamic clergy. From the outset, he struggled with enormous difficulties, including the hostage crisis at the US embassy and the Iran-Iraq war, but above all with opposition from fundamentalist clergymen.
Banisadr was against placing clergymen in the political system, and the power struggle led to his impeachment by parliament, which was approved by Khomeini.
Escape to France
A month later, he escaped on board the Iranian Air Force’s Boeing 707 and was granted political asylum in France. He then co-founded Iran’s National Resistance Council, but left it three years later in 1984.
In 2019, he told Reuters news agency that Khomeini, who died in 1989, betrayed the principles of the revolution after his rise to power, adding that it left a “very bitter” taste among some of those who triumphantly returned to Tehran with him. He stated that he was convinced that the Islamic revolution would bring democracy and human rights to the country after the rule of the Shah.
The Associated Press news agency quoted him as saying about the Ayatollah: “I was like a child watching my father slowly turn into an alcoholic … This time the drug was power.”
Announcing the death of Bansidra, his family said they “defended freedom in the face of new tyranny and oppression in the name of religion.”
Main photo source: PAP / EPA / GEORG HOCHMUTH