Ekbatan Observer

Chronicling Iran's struggle towards political emancipation

5 March 2014

Abdol-Majid Majidi: A Personal Impression

By: Reza Bayegan

What did Majidi mean to us, to Iran, to our past and present? I am not qualified to answer these questions. I am not a spokesman for "we" or Iran, neither am I a historian of the past or a chronicler of the present. Those qualified experts I am sure will write about the significance and true value of Abdol-Majid Majidi to our country. What I can do however is to give my own impression of the man. I met Mr Majidi a handful of times in his later years in Paris. In Iran in the years prior to the revolution I knew of him as Minister of Labour and Director of the Plan and Budget Organisation. He held many other positions including being the Director of Queen Farah Foundation from 1977-1979.

A photo of him smoking his pipe for some reason got stuck in my mind. It was a photo that later on was printed on the cover of his memoirs. In this photo he impressed me as a dashing young intellectual, self-assured and evidently enjoying his job at a time when it seemed that all the economic, human and political forces had coincided to create a rare moment of opportunity in the history of our country. In that photo he looked as if his feet were planted on a solid bridge to a glorious future. By no stretch of the imagination could one detect any suspicion in those bespectacled eyes that this bridge -  as it proved later on - could only be a layer of thin ice formed over a perilous quagmire. 

When I first met Majidi he was still hopeful and to a certain extent dynamic. In his last years however he had none of that self-assurance displayed in that famous photo. Moreover, he came across as fragile and vulnerable. His kind and gentle voice was languid and at times inaudible. Nevertheless he impressed me as a person who talked too little and knew too much. He was a man who had experienced personal tragedy, losing his beloved wife in a terrible car accident and also a patriot who had suffered the excruciating tragedy of political exile. He was fated to stand under the main roof of that monumental edifice when it came down in the time of the greatest political earthquake in the contemporary history of our country. 

It is ironic that Mr Majidi died of lung failure. Three and half decade ago he stopped breathing as an experimental specimen in an Iranian political laboratory. He represented a failed scheme of putatively putting erudite, honest young men in charge of governmental agencies when real decisions were made elsewhere. Hoping to modernize a system that was intrinsically anti-modern and undemocratic could not be anything but a cynical exercise. Majidi and many like him were like fresh healthy organs transplanted into an old and infected organism. They did not fail the system but the system failed them and sucked the life and vitality out of them. These brilliant young victims were thrown at the mercy of hostile and contradictory forces. There is a saying in Persian that one flower does not make spring. Majidi and his technocratic colleagues were flowers planted in a doomed garden; a garden untended and left exposed to the invasion of nefarious pests and noxious weeds. These lovely blooms were trampled upon in an orchard where everyone was climbing over the walls to purloin the fruits.  

Talleyrand's words about the Bourbons and other members of the French aristocracy that "They have learned nothing and forgotten nothing" can be applied with wonderful accuracy to many of our own compatriots who fled the Islamic Revolution in Iran. Although many of them now are trying to claim Majidi as one of their own, it is regrettable but by no means surprising that they have learned next to nothing from such a great and learned teacher. For the present and future generation of intelligent Iranians however he will remain an exemplary patriot and a man of rare integrity.