Iran’s first president since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Abul Hassan Banesdar, has died in a Paris hospital at the age of 88, following decades of exile in France following his ouster from parliament.
“After a long illness, Abul Hassan Bani Sadr died Saturday in the southeast of Paris (Petty-Salpertier Hospital),” the official IRNA official said, citing sources close to the former president.
In France, his family confirmed his death.
“We would like to inform the esteemed people of Iran and all freedom and freedom fighters that … Abul Hassan Banisdar has passed away after a long illness,” he said in a statement.
The family statement called Banisadar a “defender of liberties.”
But it was criticized because of Iran’s ruling.
“In all these years, in the shadow of French and Western intelligence, it has left no stone unturned to discredit the people and the system of the Islamic Republic,” said a statement published on the Meezan online website.
Benisadir won Iran’s first free election in 1980 to run for president after last year’s Islamic Revolution.
But he was fired by the Iranian parliament in 1981 because of his strained relations with the late Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Since then, he has been living in exile in France.
– ‘Khomeini’s spiritual son’ –
Born on March 22, 1933, in a village near Hamdan in western Iran, Banisdar was a staunch supporter of liberal Islam.
A practicing Muslim, at the age of 17, he became active in the movement of Iran’s nationalist, nationalist leader Mohammad Mossadeh.
After studying theology, economics and sociology, Banisadhar became a staunch opponent of Shah’s government.
Wanted by the police, he was forced to flee Iran in 1963 and settled in Paris. In 1970, he advocated a coalition of Iranian opposition groups around Khomeini, then in exile in Iraq.
In October 1978, Khomeini went to France, and Benisadar became part of his inner circle, referring to him as “Dear Father.”
Benisader will later regret that he did not acknowledge Khomeini’s “taste for power.”
On February 1, 1979, Banisdar was on a plane that brought Khomeini back to Iran.
He served as Iran’s Minister of Economy and for a few days as Foreign Minister.
The man, sometimes referred to as “Khomeini’s spiritual son,” was elected President of the Islamic Republic of Iran on January 26, 1980.
– Exile and return –
From the very beginning of his tenure, Benisadar faced immense difficulties: the American hostage crisis, the Iran-Iraq war, economic difficulties, and, above all, opposition to powerful clerics.
As President of the Armed Forces from February 1980 to June 1981, he reorganized Iran’s military and spent much of his time on the front lines of the eight-year war with Iraq.
But supporters of a “third Islamic path” who respect democratic principles have come under intense pressure from the most conservative clerics.
After more than a year of conflict with Shiite clerics and some senior members of the Islamic Republican Party, which controls parliament, democracy has stalled.
On June 21, 1981, Benisader was fired by parliament for “political incompetence” with Khomeini’s approval.
After hiding for a week, he was smuggled into an Air Force jetliner hijacked by a supporter and fled to France, where he was given refuge and police protection.
Once in exile, Banisadar founded the National Council of Iranian Resistance, along with Masoud Rajavi, leader of the Iranian People’s Mujahideen Organization, and representatives of minority communities such as the Iranian Kurds.
Banisadar fell with Rajavi, however, and later left the council.
He wrote a book accusing Iran’s Ayatollah of plotting sixteen powers, and testifying to the killing of Iranian opponents, which he blamed on mullahs.
He has lived in Versailles since May 1984.
For many Iranians born after the 1979 revolution, Benisadar was an unknown.
“He was president for a very short time, then he moved to France,” said a 40-year-old activist in Tehran, who declined to be identified. “There was no echo of his activity here.”
“I don’t know,” said Ali, a 40-year-old salesman. “Recognition happens when that person is here and working.”