TEHRAN, Iran (AP) – Abolhassan Banisadr, Iran’s first president after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, who fled Tehran after being indicted for defying the growing power of clerics as the nation turned into a theocracy, died Saturday. He was 88 years old.
Among a sea of black-robed Shiite clerics, Banisadr stood out for his Western-style robes and such French baggage that it was philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre that he entrusted his belief that he would be the first president of Iran some 15 years before that happened.
Those differences isolated him when he tried to implement a socialist-style economy in Iran backed by the deep Shiite faith instilled by his cleric father.
Banisadr never consolidated his control over a government he allegedly led amid events beyond his control, such as the hostage crisis at the U.S. embassy and the invasion by Iraq, which added to the tumult that followed. the Revolution.
The real power remained firmly in the hands of the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, with whom Banisadr worked during his exile in France and whom he followed back to Tehran in the midst of the revolution. But Khomeini pushed Banisadr aside after just 16 months in office, forcing him to flee to Paris, where he would stay for several decades.
“He was like a child watching his father slowly turn into an alcoholic,” Banisadr later said of Khomeini. “The drug, this time, was power.”
Banisadr’s family said in a statement Saturday that the former president died in a Paris hospital after a long illness.