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2 Mohammad Reza Shah
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Interregnum (1941–53)

Royal autocracy collapsed with Reza Shah's abdication in August 1941 and did not reemerge until August 1953 when Mohammad Reza Shah, together with Britain and America, carried out a military coup. Iranians consider this thirteen-year interregnum to be their second constitutional era—the first being the period between 1905 and 1921.

Between 1941 and 1953, Mohammad Reza Shah retained full control over the military—but little else. Like his father, he made all the important appointments as well as decisions in the armed forces—from war minister and chiefs of staff all the way down to field commanders, especially of the armored divisions and tank brigades. Instructions went directly from the Military Office in the Royal Palace to the chiefs of staff and the field officers, bypassing civilian institutions. To keep the military isolated from the government, the Shah handpicked the war ministers and used them as mere grand quartermasters for the armed forces.


To cement his military ties, the Shah lobbied aggressively for the armed forces. He called for higher officer salaries, larger battalions, and, most persistently, more modern weapons. As early as 1948, an exasperated American ambassador advised President Harry Truman to give the Shah "harpoon therapy" to deflate his "extravagant" aspirations and "astronomical figures" for modern weapons—especially tanks and jets.[1] The Shah was demanding jet fighters almost as soon as they came off the assembly lines in America. Moreover, the Shah invariably wore military uniforms for public ceremonies; participated in army maneuvers, academy graduations, and field inspections; protected his father's cronies and promoted his own classmates from the Military Academy; showered trusted officers with privileges and sinecures; and, most important, personally scrutinized all promotions above the rank of major.

The Shah also created within the military the Rokn-e Dovom (Second Bureau) modeled after the famous French Deuxième Bureau. this organization carried out the surveillance work previously done by the urban police (sharbani), which was now under the civilian interior minister. Reporting directly to the Shah, the Second Bureau monitored civilians as well as military personnel. In the words of the British Legation, the Shah, being "doubtful of popular enthusiasm for his dynasty," jealously "guarded his control over the military" and thereby "assumed the title as well as the real authority of the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces."[2] Unaware of these court-military ties, the public formed the notion that the Shah began his reign as a genuine constitutional monarch and was later dragged into politics by circumstances outside his control. Many still harbor this misconception.

While retaining the armed forces, the Shah lost control over the civilian population—especially over the press, the Majles, the cabinet, and the judiciary. The press—after being muzzled for fifteen years—overnight produced some two dozen national newspapers run by muckraking editors eager to take on the royal dynasty as well as the old aristocratic families. The Majles divided into aristocratic parties, with the royalists constituting


only one of the many rival groupings. The cabinet—with the exception of the war minister—was now beholden not to the monarch but to parliament. The interior minister—not the war minister—administered the rural gendarmerie as well as the urban police and the whole prison system. What is more, the judiciary regained its independence. The justice minister—elected by the Majles—made appointments to the Supreme Court, appeals court, provincial courts, and district courts. Similarly, defendants regained the rights to have legal counsel, habeas corpus, access to the media, and open civilian trials. Inevitably, political prisoners, not to mention police torture, became rare. It should also be noted that in these years corporal punishments continued to recede from the public arena.

During the interregnum, the country was stirred by one major charismatic politician, Dr. Mohammad Mossadeq, and one major political movement, the Tudeh party. Mossadeq, a veteran statesman banished to his village by Reza Shah, soon stirred the nation by denouncing the Majles as a "den of thieves," criticizing the royal family for its unconstitutional activities, and advocating strict neutrality in foreign affairs. He insisted that the monarch should neither reign nor rule and that the nation should preserve independence by pursuing a policy of "negative equilibrium"—withholding concessions to all the Great Powers. Although an aristocrat, Mossadeq drew his supporters from the urban middle classes: first from university students; later from other sectors of the middle class once his National Front launched the campaign to nationalize the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. In this, Mossadeq was helped by Ayatollah Abdol Qassem Kashani—one of the few clerics active in national politics. Most others, including the future Ayatollah Khomeini, advised the faithful to keep out of politics—which, in practice, meant staying aloof both from the oil campaign and from the struggle to limit royal power. Apologists for the clergy tend to overlook this.

The Tudeh party was founded at a closed meeting in September 1941—a few days after the release of the first batch of political prisoners. The founders—numbering less than thirty—knew


each other mostly from their days in Qasr. The meeting was convened primarily by Iraj Iskandari, Arani's close disciple. Ovanessian later wrote that Iskandari's intention was to bring Marxists together with the melli (nationalists) and the melliyun (patriots) to create a broadly based progressive movement—not necessarily a pure communist party.[3]

Iskandari convened the meeting at the home of his uncle Solayman Iskandari, the grand old man of the Iranian left. A radical prince expelled from the Dar al-Fanon by Nasser al-Din Shah, Solayman Iskandari had barely escaped execution in the Constitutional Revolution—he had been praying when court footmen had come to hang him as a "Babi heretic." His brother, Iraj's father, had not been so lucky. In the 1910s, Solayman Iskandari had been prominent in the Democratic party. In World War I, he had served on the Committee of National Resistance formed to oppose the Anglo-Russian occupation. And in the 1920s, he had chaired the Socialist party and had been forced out of politics because of his opposition to the establishment of the Pahlavi dynasty. Although an aristocrat, he lived in a modest apartment in Tehran. Some think he would have rivaled Mossadeq in popularity had he not died in 1944.

Also attending the founding meeting was Imanallah Ardalan (Hajj Az al-Mamalek), Solayman Iskandari's friend since the days of the Committee of National Resistance. A former minister and Kurdish aristocrat, Ardalan himself had not been imprisoned, but some of his close relatives had spent much of the 1930s in Qasr. The others at the meeting included Bozorg Alavi, Bahrami, Yazdi, Radmanesh, Boqrati, and Tabari, all from the Fifty-three; Noshin, the theater director who had escaped the 1937 roundup; Hossein Khairkhah and Hassan Khas'e, two of his theater colleagues; and Pishevari, Reza Rusta, Cheshmazar, Nikravan, Amir-Khizi, Asadi, Sharifi, and Farhi, all veteran communist prisoners.

The others were Abbas Iskandari, Iraj Iskandari's cousin and the editor of Siyasat (Politics); Shaykh Mohammad Yazdi, the brother of Dr. Yazdi from the Fifty-three; Amir-Khizi's elder brother, who had fought in the Constitutional Revolution; Ali


Kobari, a civil servant who had been active in the early Communist party in Gilan; Hossein Jahani, a carpenter and labor organizer from the early Communist and Socialist parties; and Ahmad Razavi, an engineer from a prominent Kermani family who later served in Mossadeq's cabinet. Two other former inmates from Qasr also attended the meeting: Azad, the maverick politician who had just launched a newspaper under his name; and Azod, the landed aristocrat who had been imprisoned for his article in a French newspaper. Both had served time in the same block as the wealthier members of the Fifty-three. Some believe that the Iskandaris had also invited Mossadeq to participate in this founding meeting of the Tudeh party.

At Iraj Iskandari's suggestion, the group adopted the label Hezb-e Tudeh-e Iran (the Party of the Iranian Masses), elected Solayman Iskandari the organization's chairman, and named Abbas Iskandari's Siyasat its official organ. It pledged to get the other political prisoners released; hold a memorial service at Arani's grave in Abdul Azim Cemetery to mark the second anniversary of his "martyrdom"; and campaign actively in the forthcoming parliamentary elections—in fact, it won nine seats. It also drafted a party platform stressing the importance of constitutional and "individual rights." The platform spoke of protecting "democracy" and "judicial integrity" from fascism, imperialism, militarism, and the vestiges of the fallen despotism. It stressed "the importance of safeguarding democracy as well as all social and individual freedoms—the freedom of language, speech, press, thought, and social activity"; "the necessity to make the judiciary fully independent of the executive branch"; and "the creation of a special high court to punish those who had violated social and individual rights during the twenty-year dictatorship."[4]

At Solayman Iskandari's urging, the party initially barred women from membership, organized Moharram processions, and designated a special prayer room in its main clubhouse. It also celebrated Constitution Day. Years later, Iraj Iskandari admitted that they had intentionally not created a conventional


communist organization in part because of the 1931 law, in part because of the traditional environment, in part because of the need to create a broad front, but mostly because the preeminent issues of the day were democracy, freedom, political rights, and constitutional government.[5] In short, the Tudeh began as a liberal rather than a radical party.

The Tudeh, however, moved rapidly to the left in the next few months—especially after the release of Ovanessian and Kambakhsh. These two, helped by Reza Rusta, systematically eased out those deemed to be either too unpredictable, such as Pishevari, Asadi, and Azad, or too "corrupted" by wealth, such as Azod, Ardalan, Razavi, Abbas Iskandari, and Mohammad Yazdi. Ovanessian, who lived in a one-room apartment and often had to forgo meals, tolerated aristocrats with radical commitments but not those with grand lifestyles. He managed to supplant them with members of the Fifty-three whom he had befriended in Qasr—Marxist intellectuals such as Maleki, Khamehei, Jahanshahlu, Makinezhad, Omid, Qodreh, Shahin, Etiqechi, Tarbiyat, Ibrahimzadeh, and the Alamuttis.

By the time the Tudeh convened its first party congress in August 1944, the militant Marxists dominated. Of the 168 delegates at the congress, 24 were from the Fifty-three, 10 were their close friends, and 2 were former officers imprisoned with them. Fourteen others were older communists from Qasr. Another fifteen were labor organizers who had been in and out of prison during the previous two decades.

The congress—presided over by Ovanessian—elected a central committee and an inspection commission. The central committee included seven from the Fifty-three (Nuraldin Alamutti, Bahrami, Iskandari, Radmanesh, Kambakhsh, Boqrati, and Tabari); two from the old Communist party (Ovanessian and Amir-Khizi); and two newcomers, Dr. Fereydoun Keshavarz and Parvin Gonabadi. The former was the brother of the elder Keshavarz imprisoned for communist activities in the 1930s. A French-educated professor at the Medical College in Tehran, Keshavarz had a considerable following in his hometown, Enzeli, where his father had been a famous merchant-


philanthropist active in the Constitutional Revolution. He himself was a novice to politics. Gonabadi was a well-known literary figure in Mashed where he edited a newspaper, published poetry, and ran the main girls' high school. In the 1920s, he had been active in the local trade unions and the Socialist party. His father had been a prominent cleric in central Khorasan. In later years, Gonabadi helped the famous writer Dehkhoda produce his famous Loghatnameh (Lexicon).

The inspection commission was also packed with Qasr alumni. It included Yazdi, Maleki, and Ziya Alamutti, all from the Fifty-three; Noshin, the theater director; and Reza Rusta, the veteran communist. The others were young well-educated militant Marxists—Dr. Nuraldin Kianuri, Dr. Hossein Jowdat, Ahmad Qassemi, and Ali Olavi. Kianuri—who was to lead the Tudeh during the Islamic Revolution—was a German-trained architect teaching at Tehran University. His grandfather was the conservative Shaykh Fazlallah Nuri who was executed in 1909. His father, however, had fought on behalf of the constitutional revolutionaries. Kianuri's wife, Maryam Firuz, was also active in the Tudeh and was the sister of Prince Firuz Mirza, who was murdered by Reza Shah. Kianuri's sister was married to Kambakhsh and had been active in leftist circles since the late 1920s.

Jowdat was a Sorbonne-educated physics professor at Tehran University. Four decades later he was to be executed by the Islamic Republic. Qassemi, a prolific pamphleteer and Marxist theorist, was a former school principal who had given up a promising career for full-time party activities. He knew some of the Fifty-three from his days at the Law College. Olavi came from a Turkish-speaking family that had emigrated from the Caucasus to Iran in the 1930s via Germany, where he had obtained a civil engineering degree. Olavi was executed after the 1953 coup.

Immediately after the congress, the central committee named Iraj Iskandari, Nuraldin Alamutti, and Bahrami as its co-chairmen to replace Solayman Iskandari, who had died recently. It also named a politbureau composed of Nuraldin


Alamutti, Iraj Iskandari, Bahrami, Ovanessian, and Amir-Khizi. Thus of the twenty top leaders, ten were from the Fifty-three, two were their close associates, and three were veteran communists. Only five were newcomers. Fifteen of the twenty knew each other from Qasr. Not surprisingly, some felt left out by this inner core from Qasr.

In terms of professional background, the leadership included six professors, three in medicine; one judge; one lawyer; three high school principals; two high school teachers; two civil servants; one pharmacist; one theater director; one factory manager; one engineer; and one full-time writer. In terms of ethnicity, the group was composed of twelve Persians; five Azeris; two Qajars; and one Armenian. Their average age was thirty-seven. Like the Fifty-three, they represented the young generation of the Persian-speaking intelligentsia from fairly privileged but not necessarily wealthy families.

The congress resolutions reflected the ongoing shift to the left. While continuing to mention constitutional and individual liberties, it increasingly stressed the rights of women, ethnic and linguistic minorities, and, most important of all, the "laboring classes"—"workers, peasants, craftsmen, and progressive intellectuals." It called for social justice, economic development, land reform, eradication of feudalism, wealth redistribution, health care, and labor legislation—especially the eight-hour day. The party handbook explained:

In August 1941 many thought that Reza Shah's abdication had overnight ended the dictatorship. We now know better; for we can see with our own eyes that the class structure created by him remains intact. What is more, this class structure continues to create petty Reza Shahs—oligarchy in the form of feudal landlords and exploiting capitalists, who control the state through their ownership of the means of production.[6]

Thus the party was initially a hybrid of socialism and communism, parliamentary liberalism and revolutionary radicalism, Marxism from Western Europe and Leninism from the


Bolshevik Revolution. Years later Iraj Iskandari wrote that some labeled him a "rightist" because he recognized the importance of individual rights, parliamentary politics, and constitutional laws.[7] But even Iraj Iskandari was willing to contemplate the use of arms to protect party buildings and personnel from physical attacks launched by tribal chiefs, local landlords, and hostile government officials. The central committee asked Kambakhsh—who had contacts in the military from his own days in the air force in the 1930s—to set up an informal network within the armed forces as a precautionary measure to keep an eye on right-wing groups there.

The central figure in this network soon became Captain Khosrow Rouzbeh—probably the most controversial as well as the best-known martyr of the communist movement in Iran. A popular teacher at the Military Academy, Rouzbeh was the author of a number of pamphlets on chess, artillery warfare, and, together with Ovanessian, the country's first political lexicon, Vocabulary of Political and Social Terms. Rouzbeh deemed some of the Tudeh leaders "mere reformers," "bourgeois liberals," and "parliamentary lobbyists." In his memoirs, Ovanessian praises Rouzbeh as a sincere but impatient radical in need of a firm hand.[8] The removal of this firm hand in 1946 was to have dire consequences.

The Tudeh program had instant appeal—especially among the young intelligentsia and the urban working class. By early 1945, the party had managed to create the first mass organization in Iran's history. According to secret police records, it had more than 2,200 hard-core members—700 of them in Tehran.[9] It also had tens of thousands of sympathizers in its youth and women's organizations and hundreds of thousands of sympathizers in its labor and craft unions. The Central Council of the Federated Trade Unions claimed 33 affiliates and a membership of more than 275,000.[10] When Reza Rusta, the chairman of the Central Council, was arrested for leading unauthorized strikes and demonstrations, more than 230 well-known writers, professors, and newspaper editors volunteered to join him in the dock. They included luminaries such as


Sadeq Hekmat, the unofficial poet laureate Malek al-Sha'ar Bahar, and the historian Sa'ed Nafisi. The courts soon released Reza Rusta—as they did most labor and party organizers arrested in this period.

The Tudeh appeal was somewhat tarnished in 1944–46 by two concurrent events: the Soviet demand for an oil concession in northern Iran and the Soviet sponsorship of ethnic revolts in Kurdestan and Azerbaijan. Despite strong reservations, the Tudeh leaders supported the Soviets on grounds of "socialist solidarity," "internationalism," and "anti-imperialism." The oil issue was especially embarrassing because the Tudeh Majles deputies had been vociferous in demanding the nationalization of the whole petroleum industry. Ovanessian was so outraged that he had a shouting match with the Soviet ambassador at an embassy reception. Khamehei writes that he was locked up in the embassy and not released until the Tudeh central committee intervened.[11] Although the trade unions organized a street demonstration in support of the Soviet oil demand, most of the party leaders were conspicuously absent from the event. One party organizer writes that this crisis made the Tudeh vulnerable for the first time to being smeared as a beganeh-parast (worshiper of foreigners).[12]

The Azerbaijan and Kurdish revolts were also damaging. In September 1945, Pishevari, who until then had been oblivious to the whole ethnic issue, suddenly, on a visit to Tabriz, discovered the Azeri card. Helped by some veteran communists who had remained aloof from the Tudeh, Pishevari formed the Ferqeh-e Demokrat-e Azerbaijan (Democratic Party of Azerbaijan) and championed the inalienable right of Azerbaijan to have its own schools, newspapers, and provincial autonomy. He also took the Tudeh to task for "failing to represent the people of Azerbaijan." In prison he had called for the revival of the old Democratic Party of Iran; he now created the Democratic Party of Azerbaijan. The immediate reaction of the Tudeh leaders in Tehran was to denounce him as an "irresponsible adventurist." But the Soviet authorities intervened to muffle their denunciation and persuade them to support the "legitimate


rights of the downtrodden nationalities." Parallel events occurred in Kurdestan.

Although the revolts were initially successful in establishing autonomous governments, both collapsed a year later as soon as the Soviets evacuated the region and the Iranian army reoccupied the two provinces. Post-1979 memoirs reveal that the subsequent reprisals were far bloodier than previously thought. Overruling the premier, who recommended leniency, the Shah placed the region under tight martial law, set up military tribunals, and signed 178 execution warrants—including those of 58 military deserters and 3 veteran communists from Qasr (Taqizadeh, Shakiba, and Zavlun).[13] Another 95 died in skirmishes and summary executions. It is estimated that more than 7,000 fled to the Soviet Union.[14] Ovanessian and Iraj Iskandari—both of whom had opposed the uprisings—were now officially blamed for them and charged with high treason and armed insurrection. They fled the country and were sentenced to death in absentia.

In the aftermath of these setbacks, three members of the Fifty-three—Maleki, Khamehei, and Makinezhad—led a group of intellectuals out of the party. This weakened Tudeh influence over the intelligentsia and provided the future National Front with a circle of anti-Soviet Marxist intellectuals. Despite these setbacks, the Tudeh survived to convene a second congress, woo back some lost members, recruit new ones, and gradually rebuild the labor movement. The British Embassy was soon reporting that the Tudeh had regained "the sympathy of the general public," recovered from the 1946 debacles, and survived the Shah's attempt to destroy it. It concluded that there had been a "marked swing in opinion" and that many members of the "middle class" were openly asking why they should not support the Tudeh.[15] In February 1949, the Tudeh held its first public meeting in three years when it revived the annual memorial service at Arani's grave.

On the same day, a lone gunman tried to shoot the Shah while the latter was visiting Tehran University. The Shah promptly declared martial law, pointed his finger at the Tudeh,


closed down many opposition newspapers, and banished from the capital numerous politicians, including Mossadeq and Ayatollah Kashani. Even before the assassination attempt, the U.S. and British embassies had suspected that the Shah was seeking an opportunity to strengthen his position vis-à-vis the opposition, including the parliamentary opposition.[16]

The Tudeh bore the brunt of the crackdown. Citing the 1931 law and accusing it of attempted regicide, the government banned the Tudeh, confiscated its assets, dissolved affiliated organizations, especially the Central Council, and rounded up some two hundred leaders and cadres. They were taken to a new block built in Qasr. One prisoner writes that first impressions were deceptive because the clean cells with their toilet facilities were designed to place the inmate in maximum security and total isolation: "Once inside one realized one had been buried alive in a vault."[17] This period of isolation did not last long. They were soon moved to a large communal ward and permitted to socialize in the courtyard. Years later, one of the imprisoned cadres remarked that conditions in Qasr were relatively tolerable in those days since "SAVAK [Persian acronym for State Organization for Security and Intelligence] had not yet been created and the forms of torture practiced in the Reza Shah era had ceased."[18] Like others, he had an exaggerated notion of Reza Shah's prisons.

Most of the two hundred were released within a few months, but fifty were formally charged with undermining the constitutional monarchy, advocating collectivism, supporting secessionists in Azerbaijan and Kurdestan, organizing illegal strikes and demonstrations, and publishing articles in praise of Mirza Kermani and Haydar Khan (the former had assassinated Nasser al-Din Shah in 1896, and the latter had tried to blow up Mohammad Ali Shah in 1907). Finding no credible links between the Tudeh and the lone gunman at Tehran University, the government quietly dropped the original charge of attempted regicide.[19]

The fifty were tried in early 1949. For the sake of symbolism, the Tudeh put their number at fifty-three and billed them as


the second "Fifty-three."[20] They were tried in small batches in military courts, but in the presence of independent journalists and proper defense attorneys. The military magistrates often reached split decisions. These sentences, in turn, were often reversed or reduced by higher courts. The defense attorneys included Amidi-Nuri, the flamboyant lawyer who had defended some of the original Fifty-three; Manou, a member of the Fifty-three who had given up politics for the bar; and Dr. Ali Shayegan, Mahmud Nariman, Dr. Mehdi Azar, and Abdul-Ali Lofti—four Mossadeq associates. Azar, who later became Mossadeq's minister of education, was the brother of a leading Tudeh army officer who had defected to the Azerbaijan rebels. Lofti, Mossadeq's justice minister, was a sharia-trained lawyer who had been imprisoned briefly by Reza Shah for speaking up on behalf of constitutional liberties. He too had close relatives in the Tudeh.

Fifteen leaders and thirty-five party organizers comprised the fifty. Top leaders, such as Boqrati, Kianuri, and Qassemi, each received ten years. Less important ones, as well as the party organizers, received lighter sentences; a few were even acquitted. (See table 3.) But leaders who had escaped abroad, such as Ovanessian, Kambakhsh, Iraj Iskandari, Amir-Khizi, Tabari, and Reza Rusta, or gone underground, such as Radmanesh, Bahrami, Keshavarz, Forutan, and Mrs. Kianuri, were sentenced to death in absentia.[21] These verdicts clearly lacked consistency. Bozorg Alavi, a member of the central committee, was even released without trial; his new father-in-law was the Shah's personal adviser. Obviously, the Shah did not take seriously the regicide charges.

The defendants reflect the social composition of the Tudeh party. The professions of the fifteen leaders were as follows: three professors, three school principals and teachers, one theater director, one engineer, one civil servant, one oil worker, one railway worker, one carpenter, one tailor, one mechanic, and one stonecutter. All were males from Muslim homes. Eleven were Persians; the other four were Azeris. Their average age was forty-five.


Table 3
Tudeh Leaders on Trial, 1949





Previous Activities


Boqrati, Mohammad

School principal




10 years

Omid, Ali

Oil worker



Communist prisoner

10 years

Kianuri, Nuraldin




Joined 1942

10 years

Qassemi, Ahmad

School principal



Joined 1942

10 years

Shandramini, Ali





7 years

Shureshyan, Mohammad





7 years

Yazdi, Morteza





5 years

Jowdat, Hossein




Joined 1942

5 years

Alamutti, Ziya

Civil servant




3 years

Olavi, Ali




Joined 1941

3 years

Mohazeri, Ibrahim




Prisoner 1931–34

2 years

Sharifi, Mohammad




Communist prisoner

1 year

Noshin, Abdul

Theater director



Joined 1941

1 year

Jahani, Hossein




Trade unions 1921–29

6 months

Hakimi, Samad

Railway worker



Prisoner 1937–41



Among the thirth-five cadres and second-ranking leaders were four office employees, four workers, four street vendors, three journalists, three housewives, three students, two lawyers, two coffeehouse owners, two booksellers, two engineers, one teacher, and one doctor. Most resided in Tehran; a few were from the Caspian provinces. Ony two came from Armenian homes. The average age was twenty-seven. Four were women—the first in a political trial. They were incarcerated in a special cell at the Central Jail.

Few of the fifty remained in prison for long. In fact, ten of the top leaders made a sensational escape from Qasr in December 1950: Yazdi, Boqrati, Jowdat, Kianuri, Noshin, Qassemi, Olavi, Hakimi, Shandramini, and Rouzbeh, who had been court-martialed separately. The escape was facilitated by Kianuri, who, before his arrest, had won an architectural prize to design a royal hospital and, on his frequent trips from Qasr to the construction site, had ample opportunity to communicate with the other party leaders. On a designated day, a Tudeh captain, together with a military truck and ten party members wearing army uniforms and carrying rifles—but no ammunition so as to avoid bloodshed—presented the Qasr warden with forged instructions to transfer the ten to the Central Jail in downtown Tehran. Noshin was reluctant to join the escape as he had almost completed his sentence and was busy reinterpreting Ferdowsi's Shahnameh to show that, despite conventional belief, it was not a royalist epic. Once out of Qasr, the ten hid in safe houses dispersed throughout the city.

This dramatic escape—one of the few in Qasr's history—fueled the rumor that General Razmara, the premier, had lent a helping hand so as to undermine the Shah. Forutan—the Tudeh leader in charge of the whole venture—ridicules this rumor, pointing out that the escape embarrassed the whole military establishment—the general as much as the Shah.[22] The Shah got his revenge two decades later when he executed the captain who oversaw the escape after giving him a free pass to return from his Soviet exile.

The inmates left behind in Qasr soon organized a hunger


strike to demand more books, longer visiting hours, and the transfer of all political prisoners to Tehran. Meanwhile, the party set up a defense committee to collect contributions and wage an international campaign on their behalf. This campaign achieved success once Mossadeq was elected prime minister and his Supreme Court—much to the chagrin of Britain, the United States, and, of course, the Shah—overruled the 1949 sentences on the grounds that the defendants should have been tried in civilian courts. The courts soon became revolving doors, with lenient judges releasing demonstrators and strikers as fast as the military authorities arrested them. What is more, the justice minister and some members of the Supreme Court questioned the legal standing of the 1931 decree as well as the 1949 ban on the Tudeh. They paid a high price for this after the 1953 coup. Lofti, the seventy-year-old justice minister, died in a military hospital after being beaten up by a royalist goon squad. The judges themselves were put on trial.

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2 Mohammad Reza Shah
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