Iran's Islamic Revolution events (20 &21 Bahman,1357)

The Islamic Revolution

A reported 30,000 strong group of people engage in demonstrations in support of the constitution...

A reported 30,000 strong group of people engage in demonstrations in support of the constitution in Amjadieh stadium in Tehran. Slogans in support of the Shah and Bakhtiar are chanted, and clashes occur between them and revolutionaries outside the complex grounds. News agencies report on extensive participation in the gathering by army officers and their families. Army buses parked outside the stadium come under a hail of stones by those opposing the demonstrators.

The five member strong group of armed forces generals who had been meeting daily with General Robert Huyser and head of the US military mission to Iran, visit Bakhtiar to inform him of low morale among the soldiers and problems with soldiers escaping from barracks. In the middle of the meeting General Nasser Mokadam, head of the secret police, SAVAK, joins the group as well. According to Huyser, this was the first time that the Iranian generals had taken the initiative on an issue without the participation of an American officer. The main topic of the meeting was Kayhan's photo of air force officers saluting Ayatollah Khomeini the day before.

Bazargan announces that he has had no contacts whatsoever with any "Iranian communist party", or the Tudeh party or any other similarly named group.

"I am a sensitive and fragile automobile who has to travel over flat and paved roads - you have to pave this road for me ... The people must now work 48 hours a day in support of the new government". -- Mehdi Bazargan, in his first public speech after appointment to the post of prime minister, Tehran University

Bakhtiar denies rumors of a military coup in the works.

Around 9:00 pm, at the same time that curfew hours begin in Tehran, and following a brief evening news, Iranian TV (most of whose employees were on strike), broadcasts a collage program made out of scenes of Ayatollah Khomeini in France, his flight to Iran, and speech at Behesht-e Zahra cemetery. This was meant as a gesture of reconciliation by the Bakhtiar government toward revolutionary forces.

However, minutes after start of this broadcast, an event occurs in the air force Farahabad barracks. A group of air force cadets chant a 'salawaat" (salute to the prophet and his descendents) after seeing Ayatollah Khomeini on television. Following insults by some attending officers, this leads to a verbal fight and shooting. The night guard in charge then requests backup support from Imperial guard units.

At the same time, and before the arrival of the guards, news of the fighting is announced by a cleric, loudly, in the streets and the curfew is effectively broken. The people, who now have the impression that a massacre of the cadets is on the way, rush to the streets. During these moments, doors of the armory in the barracks are taken down, and an event whose arrival had been expected for months, materializes: people gain access to arms. Meanwhile, heavily armed guard units enter the streets and directly open fire on the people. Fighting continues until 2:00 am, until finally the air force commander, General Rabiei, arrives on the scene and orders evacuation of the dozens of killed and wounded.

Meanwhile, in an emergency message Ayatollah Taleghani asks all military personnel to return to their barracks and to stop fighting.

The situation remains very tense in the early hours of 21 Bahman...

21 Bahman 1357 (10 February 1979)

Various press reports and newspaper headlines:

The streets of Tehran have been sandbagged, turning the city into a virtual war zone. Having heard the news from the night before, people are now driving around on motorcycles with captured guns. They are approaching army soldiers, throwing flowers around them, and asking them to join the uprising. Military trucks and armored personnel carriers are safe from attack only when they carry a poster of Ayatollah Khomeini.

Street battles have begun in some provinces. One million demonstrate in Tabriz in support of Bazargan. Clashes reported in Gorgan, Rasht, and Mashhad.

Tehran University is under the control of guerrillas and armed groups of people who are in turn training others to use weapons and make Molotov cocktails. Mosques have turned into weapon repositories. Several SAVAK safe houses in Tehran have come under attack by the people. Army units are converging on Ayatollah Khomeini and Ayatollah Taleghani's residences for surrender. A large number of armed soldiers are wandering confused in the streets. Traffic is at a standstill due to burning tires and road blocks erected by the people.

Rumors are floating in Tehran about an impending army coup.

"... the communiqué of the military authorities is against the principles of Islam and the people should not pay any attention to it ... I condemn this unhumanitarian aggression by the Guard division. These people wish to keep the hands of foreigners open in Iran by engaging in fratricide ... Although I have not ordered a holy Jihad and would like to keep the peace and have the affairs taken care off in accordance with the law and the wishes of the people, at the same time I cannot tolerate such barbarism, and warn that if these acts of fratricide are not stopped, and the guard units do not return to their barracks and the army commanders do not step in to stop such aggressions, I shall take my final decision God willing, and then the responsibility will be with those committing the aggression and those transgressing."

Ayatollah Khomeini, in a decisive and critical move for the revolution, asking the people to ignore the curfew hours (against the advice of Bazargan and Ayatollah Taleghani who feared a massacre).

"We shall follow our legal duties if the provisional government attempts to take over the ministries by force." -- Shahpour Bakhtiar, on his last day as prime minister of the Imperial Government of Iran" The constitution has allowed any type of change, including the declaration of a republic, but the people must go about this legally through an assembly of experts or a freely elected parliament. The law permits this." -- Shahpour Bakhtiar in interview with Kayhan International, Tehran

"I am ready for talks!" -- Prime minister Bakhtiar, speaking in the Senate before being interrupted by a phone call from General Gharabaghi demanding an urgent solution to the crisis in the streets.

4:30 pm Tehran: people are in the streets, ignoring the shortening of the curfew hours by the military governor's office.

General Badrei organizes his command headquarters at Lavizan and goes to the prime minister's office. Gharabaghi and others arrive by helicopter, witnessing with their own eyes the lack of any indication that the people are conforming to the curfew hours.

The National Security Council meeting is opened by Bakhtiar who asks for reports from the attending generals. He finally states that he has waited long enough and that "it is now time for attack." However he elicits little trust among the generals, especially Badrei and Habibollahi who are planning a coup. Bakhtiar orders aerial bombardment of the ammunitions factory, and orders Mokadam, head of SAVAK, to arrest an additional 200 people. The list this time includes Ayatollah Khomeini, his comrades at Alavi school, and scores of journalists and national front and leftist activists. At 7:00 pm, Bakhtiar leaves the group to attend a cabinet meeting. The commanders are left to themselves to consult and decide. Badrei and Rahimi leave for Lavizan. Rabiei, piloting a helicopter himself, drops off Gharabaghi at the army high command headquarters.

Thanks to supporters of the revolution who have by now penetrated all rank and file of the army and government, the revolution's command headquarters at Alawi school is fully aware of the events in Lavizan, Badrei's coup plans and telephone calls, as well as Bakhtiar and Gharabaghi's movements and actions.

The coup workgroup headed by Badrei has by now lost all hope of Tehran and is concentrating on the provinces. There is relative calm in other cities, following pro-Bazargan demonstrations. Commanders in the provinces give assurances to the workgroup that they will act according to the coup plan tomorrow. However, they are unaware of the fact that their communications are monitored by revolutionary forces. A major in General Badrei's office, who has finally been given permission to leave at midnight, manages to take copies of all the plans and operational maps with him. Using a public phone, he immediately contacts one of the morning newspapers, saying that he wishes to perform his duty and expose plans for a coup d"etat which will result in the deaths of thousands. Even this information was not unknown to the revolution camp; however its publication deals the fatal blow to it.

A bloody battle between the Guard divisions and the air force continues in Tehran:

Kazwin mechanized battalion ambushed by the people on its way to Toopkhaaneh square from Sepah Avenue.

Guard helicopter crashes in Tehran.

People block Hamadan-Saveh road to prevent dispatch of military units from Kermanshah to Tehran, following news of impending coup orchestrated by provincial army units.

Defenders of the Air Force Academy disable 5 tanks and capture 3, disarming several guards officers.

Police stations in districts 14, 16, 21, 9, 10, 11, Narmak, and Tehran-No fall to people's hands.

A number of tanks and armored personnel carriers are disabled by molotov cocktails on their way to Fowzieh square.

General Rahimi, military governor of Tehran, makes repeated attempts during the night to contact Bakhtiar, waking him up several times. However he does not receive a firm order to resist the attacks by forces loyal to the revolution.

Until noon-time, some 63 corpses have been taken to Tehran's Jorjani and Bu-Ali hospitals.

All police stations fall to the people by 5:00 pm, and a group starts advancing on the Police Academy. At the Academy, Major Nosrati surrenders to the people with a white flag. At the same time a message arrives at Alawi School from General Neshat, commander of the Imperial Guards, requesting a meeting with a representative of Ayatollah Khomeini, and stating that the Guards will not take part in any action against the people. Neshat was the last hope of Bakhtiar and the coup workgroup.

In a report to Washington DC, Ambassador Sullivan reports that tomorrow morning will be an opportune time to reconcile Bakhtiar and Bazargan. He is hopeful that tomorrow, prior to complete destruction of the armed forces, activities regarding transfer of power can be undertaken, so as to preserve the cohesion of the Iranian military.

At midnight the coup workgroup cancels its previous directive regarding positioning of tanks of the Imperial Guard and the army at critical junctures around the city. Army commanders at the provinces are ordered to remain on alert. The south of the country is seen as the best location to initiate the coup.

During this day, apart from Bakhtiar, Mokadam, and Gharabaghi, who were in touch with the revolution camp and were engaged in sensitive talks, General Rabiei, air force commander, General Molawi, Tehran chief of police, Major Nosrati, police command headquarters of Tehran, Admiral Madjidi, deputy commander of the navy, and General Neshat, commander of the Imperial Guards, were each, in their own way, in touch with elements of the revolutionary forces, even though each kept his contacts secret and hidden from the others.

Among the chaos of street fights and backdoor negotiations, the discussion between Gharabaghi and General Hassan Fardoust in the afternoon, was critical. Gharabaghi asks Fardoust about his opinion about Bazargan's proposal regarding declaration of neutrality of the armed forces. He is met with Fardoust's positive reply, and in turn tells him that he will raise this issue in the meeting of the army commanders tomorrow.

By the end of 21 Bahman, except for Badrei, Naji, and the coup workgroup, nobody else was thinking of saving the Imperial regime...

"126 deaths and 634 injured as off 11 pm tonight." -- Spokesperson for the Emergency Medical Response Center of Tehran

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