It is with the deepest sadness that I have learned of the death of Manoucheir Kalantari, a dear friend and valiant comrade with whom I worked closely for several years. He was an Iranian socialist who worked for many years as a leader of the opposition in Britain and Western Europe to the Shah’s regime. Kalantari, a lawyer in his middle forties, belonged to the Fedayi-i Khalq guerrillas, who have been fighting the Khomeini government since June 1981. He was killed in a Tehran prison after being captured during a clash with Islamic Guards in the southeastern Iranian city of Zahedan in April 1982.
Kalantari lived in Britain from 1968 until the fall of the Shah in 1979. He organized several committees publicizing the fate of Iranian political prisoners, and he supervised the translation and publication in English of many documents of the Iranian opposition. He ran the Iran Committee which, under the auspices of the late Peggy Duff, operated from the offices of the International Conference for Disarmament and Peace in London. Manoucheir Kalantari was also prominently engaged as a member of the Gulf Committee from 1970 to 1978 in internationalist work in support of the peoples of Iraq and the Arabian Peninsula. He played a special role in building support among both British and Iranian progressives for the struggle of the Omani people under the leadership of the People’s Front for the Liberation of Oman.
Kalantari suffered a particularly heavy blow in 1975, when the Shah’s secret police, SAVAK, killed nine Fedayi leaders in jail: among the nine were his brother, Mashouf, and his nephew, Bijan Jazani, the leading Fedayi theoretician. In protests that followed this event, 21 Iranian students were arrested for entering the Iranian embassy in London, and Kalantari organized a hunger strike on the steps of St. Martin’s in the Fields Church in London.
Apart from the Shah’s regime, Kalantari had two particular objects of contempt—the Tudeh Party and the akhunds, or Islamic clergy. He had been associated with the Tudeh youth organization and he had participated in the giant rallies of the immediate post-war period when Tudeh activity was legal. Like many Iranians of his generation, he blamed the Tudeh for their passivity during the oil nationalization crisis of 1951-1953. He also blamed them for their lack of preparation for the repression which followed the August 1953 coup. He often told the story of the meeting held soon afterward under the guise of a marriage party: Despite the cultivation of a festive air, the Tudeh organizers had forgotten to arrange for a bride and groom. When the police arrived and discovered this, they threw all the “guests” in jail for several weeks, where some gave away valuable information.
Kalantari later worked with the followers of Mossadeq. In the mid-1960s, he formed part of the group which established the Fedayi guerrillas, radical socialists opposed to both Moscow and Peking and committed to the mobilization of opposition to the Shah by acts of guerrilla warfare. He had an enduring contempt for Khomeini and the Islamic forces opposed to the Shah. He chose for his thesis topic at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies the 1967 Family Protecton Act, through which the Shah sought to reform Iranian marriage laws. Khomeini and his associates denounced the act as un-Islamic and made its repeal one of their first priorities on coming to power. Kalantari criticized it for not going far enough, although he recognized it as an improvement for women on the Islamic prescriptions which had been in force.
On his return to Iran, he threw himself into the work of the Fedayin. Although he had some disagreements with the organization, he sided with the anti-Khomeini “Minority” part when the organization split in 1980. Kalantari was particularly involved in the production of the underground Fedayi paper, Kar (Labor).
Comrade Kalantari was an exemplary revolutionary—dedicated and professional in his work, warm and encouraging to his friends, clear and careful in his political judgements. He set this example to Iranian and British comrades alike, and they will always remember him for the great contribution he made to the cause of truth and socialism for which he ultimately gave his life.