- Mahmoud Etemadzadeh
Mahmoud Etemadzadeh also known as Behazin (January 13, 1915–2006 in Rasht, Iran) is a writer and translator from Iran.
A boy was born on January 13, 1915 in Rasht and was given the name Mahmoud, whose preceded arrival to school in his early childhood followed the defeat of the Nehzat-e Jangal (Forest movement) in Guilan. Mahmoud reminisced the brutal memory in his mind of the head of Mirza Kouchak Khan, the Commander of the revolution, who was fatally speared and dragged around the neighborhood in Rasht. He occasionally visited the quarter where the soldier's corpses were hanging from the gallows with his classmates. He also recalled the events prior to the visits of the dead bodies, such as the beginning of the end of the First World War, and also the victory of the Russian Revolution which had brought up quite a bit of discussion amongst the community. These historical events in his early life, to which he was a witness to, deeply affected the roots of his spirit and character.
After finishing his six mandatory elementary school years, Mahmoud spent the first three of his high school years in Mashad and the remaining last three years in Tehran. He passed the “Dispatched Students to Europe” exam and thus pursued his engineering studies in Paris in 1932. As he familiarized himself and got accustomed to his new surroundings he pursued his passion for the French language. As part of the standard university curriculum, Mahmoud was not only attempting to perfect his French language skills but was also required to attended university courses which had trivial or no meaning to him. During these years he got acquainted to intellectual works and thoughts of authors of the world. He stated “the magic wonder of Europe has imprinted my mind and has cultivated and shaped me. I read literature, history and politics more and more and occasionally wrote pieces myself.” It was during this period of his critical thoughts that he got acquainted with Marxist ideas. Graduating after more than six years of study in Paris, Mahmoud returned to his fatherland of Iran in January 1939. Upon his arrival, Mahmoud soon found himself working as a Navy engineer after a sequence of events with a rank of Second Lieutenant in Khoram’shahr. After his short two year tour, he was transferred to the Anzali Harbor’s Navy and undertook the management position of the service station. He once stated "the directorship of the Northern Navy service Station was seemingly a prestigious title, but an absolute hollow one."
Mahmoud was later faced with a serious problem arising from an injury during World War II. He was forced to rely only on one arm for the rest of his 65 years of existence after an Allied bombardment on August 28, 1941, which led to the amputation of his left arm. Following the fragmentation of King Reza Pahlavi's dictatorship, people once again were given the opportunity to breathe. The floodgates of diplomacy and political movements were opened and released. Mahmoud Etemadzadeh grew up in the period of the “Jangal movements”, which entailed the Russian communist revolution and the World Wars.
With the backing of his training and association with politics and social matters in his sojourn in France, he was deeply harmonized and shared downheartedly with the common folk the same intellectual thoughts and put his pen into action towards independence, liberty and social justice. Since military officials were generally banned to write any political public journals, his writings were published under his pen name. It was through his first article published in Mardan’e Kar where his writing career and his pen name of Behazin were born. Throughout the next six decades his intellectually controversial and distinguished thoughts have spread all over the world.
At the commencement of his career Mahmoud collaborated with Arsanjani, the chief editor of Daria’s news letter. He stated: “I wrote articles, fiction and gave interviews…all this work without any compensation or gratuity.” By gradually comprehending more of Arsanjani’s thoughts, Behazin kept further distancing himself and eventually broke the relationship off. He was also ultimately forced to resign from the Navy due to liberating his restriction from his commitment. “After more than two years of struggling I halted my Military Service duties in the spring of 1944 and joined the Ministry of Education.”
By reading Marxist books in French, Behazin was frequently reacquainted with the ideology of proletariats. He even considered himself as a communist: “For us it was a guideline that on the absence of a Communist Party, one has to apply for the membership of the most advanced political organization, that’s why I joined the Toudeh party during the latter part of 1944.” Throughout the next six decades of his life, Behazin’s writings were the effort to willingly materialize his believes and oblige his words towards freedom, independence, humanism, justice and towards the search of inner tranquility. While becoming a distinguished political and social celebrity he had effacingly stepped into the challenging path of both, the Pahlavi Regime and Iranian Supreme Leaders. Due to the lack of tolerance towards his discontent, these establishments eventually arrested and tortured Behazin.
Behazin’s constant distress regarding financial security led him to privately tutor French for several years, teach mathematics in high schools and also to work in the department of newsletters and journals in the National Library. During the employment period under Dr. Keshavarz Ministry of Education, Behazin attained the Ministry of Education Assistance position in Guilan in 1946. Following the 1953 Iranian coup d'état he was fired and deprived of working in the Ministry of Education.
In his undemanding, yet dynamic and energetic life, Behazin was active in several aspects. Journalism was one of the earliest areas in which he had the opportunity to communicate with people his open mind and individual liberty. Besides cooperating with Mardan’e Kar and Daria in the 1950s, prior to the Iranian Revolution, Behazin was chief-editor of the social-literary journal called Sadaf, a weekly journal called Ketab’e Hafteh and also the publication Payam’e Novin. Then following the Revolution of 1979 he was chief editor of Sogand the weekly Journal, Etehad’e Mardom and the Iranian writers and Artists Association’s publication.
Beyond everything Behazin was passionate for writing. He said: “I wished to be an author; the authorship is the painful fascination of my existence.” His first literary work consists of some stories called “Parakandeh” and was been published in 1944. The next piece was Towards Nations which was a non-fiction piece that had contents of social themes. His first novel was “The Peasants Daughter”, which entailed themes of The Jangal Movements, whereas “Silk’s Design” conveyed themes of hope and beauty of life. “The Family Aminzadegan” remained an uncompleted work, but whose 2 chapters were published in the Sadaf Journal. “The Bed of Snake”, “God’s City” and “Beyond the Wall” are all pieces against war and written prior the revolution of 1979. “Phoenix’s Death”, “Mangdim va Khorshid’chehr”, “The Garden’s Shades”, “Chaal” and other short pieces published in Chista Journal are a few mentioned literally works after the Iranian Revolution.
Behazin has also experimented in the area of play writing. “Kaveh” (1977) is an epic piece which was expressed with an artistic and contemporary style. Many hope that someday it would appear to the public.
Among Behazin’s activities, research was one of his significant efforts. In “The Iranian Carpet” (1965) he drew a glimpse to the history of carpets and artistically observed designs, region specific carpets, the technique of hand-woven carpets and the prospect of the Iranian carpet industry. During his research on the “Speech on Liberty” (1978), Behazin investigated the different aspects of liberty and acquainted the reader with views of the world’s essential philosophers. He also expressed his personal philosophies and ideologies in “Bar Darya Kenar’e Massnavi” (1982).
Chronicles and narrative is another Behazin’s domain where he implemented his realistic and refined writing. After being released from the Shah’s prison, he wrote “The Invitee of these Gentlemen” (1961). “Testimony of Eye and Ear” (1981) is the result of his trip to the then Democratic Republic of Afghanistan. “Letters to my Son” (2002) is a collection of letters which have been written to his eldest son, Zardosht as the Iranian Revolution of 1979 took place and some years thereafter. His greatest work is entitled “Az har Dari”, which is an autobiographical series of memoirs based on his social and political life. This work consists of six volumes, only two of which have been published and the rest of which are not authorized for publishing.
Despite Behazin’s continuous perseverance of social and political issues, he retains his passion for writing. He inadvertently distances himself from his literary work and by a stroke of chance stepped into the stern world of translation. “I was laid off. I inevitably accepted to translate.” Prior to these sequence of events while he served as the director of Navy services in Khoram’shahr, Behazin had translated the “Letters of San Michael” by Axel Munthe, which remained unfinished for 16 years after its commencement. Another project of his, “Father Goriot”, by Balzac, was finished in less than two months. He stated: “I received thousands of tomans (Iranian currency) for that translation. It was a success. I was grateful…I was tied up to the translation wagon.” Furthermore, Behazin went on and translated a number of other literary works, including “Lily in the valley”, “Cousin Bett” and “Leather of grief” by Balzac; “Othello”, “Hamlet” and “King Lear” by Shakespeare; “John-Christophe”, “Enchanting Soul” and “Internal Journey” by Romain Rolland; “Quiet Don” and “Revive Ground“ by Michael Sholokhov; “Exception and Regulation” by Berthold Brecht; “Legends and Adventures of Ulenspiegel” by Charles De Coster and “Faust” by Goethe. With the days passing and the amount of effort that was put into his work, Behazin became the most prolific and eminent Iranian translator of world-known literary masterpieces. His resume also entailed a variety of other translations, such as “They Have Fought for the Fatherland”, “The Subject of Translation”, “Some Memories of Maiakovski”, “Science of Genetic and Life’s Problem” and “Ologh Bayk”.
The commitment of Behazin’s multi-faceted intellect evolved through several aspects of journalism, tutorship, authorship and translator. He was once asked: “What is your motivation for writing?” He said: “Well, my social and political position has induced me to write and that motivation in the whole still lingers in me”. Behazin was not trapped in the ivory tower throughout the entirety of his brilliant social/political life, but rather came from a small number of intellectuals whose works represented an example of prominent unity of their deeds and thoughts. In the years of the suffocated atmosphere following the coup d’état, he found a way to fight against injustice and gain humanitarian rights for the masses. He stated that “artists, who act as if they are observers and have no political and social engagement, simply lie. By endless possibilities made available by the regime in power, the artist willingly or unwillingly upholds the government’s politics, and his presence provides a political commitment.” He added: “Within the dark and gloomy years following the coup d’état, if our authors and poets instead of being influenced by confusion and fear, provided well-documented, artistic and cohesive works and moved cautiously forward, they would in the present undoubtedly have a powerful energy amongst the Iranian people, and could also benefit from their respect and camaraderie.”
Behazin, along with Jalal Ale Ahmad and other intellectuals was one of the founders of the “Association of Iranian Authors.” Within the second half of 60’s they created the main charter based on “Liberty of Pen and Expression”. Alas, the association lasted no more than two years. However after some years and a long break, the Association was regenerated in May 1977, of which Behazin played the principal role and as members of the provisional board of directors compiled a text for the “Stand of the Association of Iranian Authors” that would serve as a criteria of the transition period until the opening of the general meeting’s session. The text required not only liberty of thought, expression and pen but also the necessity of liberty of editing and publication of intellectual works without censorship, and independence of the Association. In addition, all the existing political organizations and those that would likely be created in the future were also included. The Provisional Committee fully accepted the entire text and later served it as a base of the Association program and charter.
On the brink of victory of the Iranian Revolution in February 1979 the “Association of Iranian Authors” organized an event titled “Nights of Poetry” in the Goethe institute with the intention of bridging artists and writers demanding freedom of expression, while also asking for the removal of censorship to people’s outrage which started to conjure up in the country. During the beginning of events’ last night, Behazin stated in an exhilarating speech that “we demand freedom for everyone, and freedom is everybody’s right, everybody, without exceptions.”
On November 24, 1978, a few months prior to Behazin’s speech at the Nights of Poetry event, Behazin’s along with his son Kaveh, were arrested and taken to “Comiteh’, a prison for political and non-political offenders inmates. He was later quoted as saying that “to them, the emphasis of my interrogations was the contents of my speech, not the documents that proved my kinship to a determined and peaceful political movement.”
Behazin and his son were released on bail on December 16, 1978 and once again returned to the social struggle scene for the emergence of freedom of expression and publication, in which he also tried his best to assemble the popular movements and urge to citizens to fight for independence, freedom and social justice. He said: “I started to visit political personalities, hoping to generate the united front where the current Marxists will also find a place.”
On May 21, 1978 a general meeting of the Association of the Writer’s was held, in which Behazin was elected into the board of directors with a majority vote, along with the approval of the statement of the provisional board of directors. The intent of the Association’s existence was a clear one for the directors and members. It was characterized as a cooperative organization that would function independently, far from the susceptible and impressionable areas of influential political groups, parties and government institutions.
Throughout the middle part of 1980 a sequence of violent events took place in the regions of Kurdistan and Torkman-Sahra which entailed a conflict between supporters and opponents of the rising political power of Khomeini. In reaction to the resistance, the majority of the Association of Writer’s directors decided to prepare a program to support the conflict. Regardless of the majority vote, few members, including Behazin, were against the decision to support the violence and found to be contradictory to the charter of the Corporative Association.
In reaction to the support of the directors, Behazin consequently wrote an article that condemned the manner in which the Association was used as a political organ. Following Behazin’s article, a decision was made to have an extra session that would conclude that Behazin and four other members were to be expelled from the Corporative Writers Association. Later that year in the fall of 1980, along with the assistance of some artists and writers, Behazin found the “Council of Iranian Writers and Artists”. Parallel to the other front, Behazin continued his political endeavors to publish principle fundamentals of the “Democratic Union of the Iranian People” and proclaims its foundation on September 16, 1979.
It is during the creation of this organization that caused the segue into Behazin’s engagement, alongside by other political forces, to overthrow the oppressive regime of the Shah. The intention of the organization was naturally to propose the recreation of liberated, independent and prosperous Iran. In the first issue of the communiqué Behazin wrote: “The Democratic Union of the Iranian People is a response to an urgent necessity for the Iranian people. This historical period will expose the problems which will hopefully overthrow the despotic and militaristic regime, restore people’s dignity, freedom and independence across the country by cutting the root of political, military and economic submission to Imperialism.” Due to the autocratic nature of the Shah’s regime, such comments were evidently not tolerated and ultimately lead to Behazin’s political conviction and incarceration from October 23, 1978 until January 13, 1979.
After his release, Behazin continued to be deeply involved in political activities and never looked back. It came to a point where Behazin’s political clout could no longer be tolerated by the reactionary members in power and therefore led to his second arrest alongside other leaders of the communist “Tudeh Party of Iran”, who all were taken to the torture chambers of “Tohid” on February 6, 1983, after the Islamic revolution. During his confinement in Tohid he regularly sustained hours of unfathomable and agonizing corporal and mental torture for ultimately eight years in order to capitulate his passionate voice and intellectual thought which stood for justice and liberty.
Despite his elder age, his sorrowful experiences of losing his son and beloved granddaughter and his torments during his imprisonments, it was quite evident that his works following his period in captivity that the opponents of his progressive thoughts were incapable of breaking his convictions of hope and justice.
Throughout the years following the revolution of 1979, apart from his social and political activities, Behazin became the leader of the “Union Democratic of Iranian People”, the executive secretary and the chief-editor of the quarterly published magazine “Council of Iranian Writers and Artists”, and also the executive secretary of the “Association of Iranian Peace Supporters”. In the peaceful, progressive and justified outreach that stemmed from his thought and through his diligent actions he still plays, to this day, an important role amongst intellectuals and the younger generation in Iran.
In the end of second volume of his biography “Az Har Dari”, which took place during the time of the Shah’s despotic regime, Behazin wrote: “The easiest stage of this revolution is suffering, pain, tears and drops of blood which is all behind us…Could we stay tranquil and take a breath? No brothers…We have to unite, we have to have feed off each other's energy... An immense workload is ahead of us… There are years and years of reconstruction in front of us that has to occur in a cohesive unanimity atmosphere of common efforts…But what do we perceive? Already, the temptations are foreseeable…What do we have to do? Unity is the only solution. The strength is in unity and victory depends on the unity.”
In the last years of his life, due to his global concerns regarding the destiny of human beings, trouble and suffering, Behazin sent this message to the people: “My greatest apprehension in the last years is the fate of our globe which is driven towards destruction at an alarming pace. Unemployment has threatened hundreds of thousands of people…The unknown and vanished malady reappears…War and slaughter caused by the dispute of borders, and the ethnological hostility which has only been to serve the flourishing market of no longer valid weapons of developed countries has been raised. Our planet is almost out of breath. It barley breathes. Before it’s too late, we have to stop the destruction of our planet… in order for that to happen, a broad movement is required. All over, no matter where, we have to control and prevent the mass production of weapons and put a stop to the squandered erroneous of consumption. Alas, I will not be there…but you… prevent our planet’s self destruction. Rise and make haste!” Three years ago, due to his dire health and corporal exhaustion which led him limited consciousness he was not able to communicate with ease. But in his lucid moments he persisted on his convictions and his involvement with his sociopolitical journeys throughout the decades by responding to journalist’s question: “If you get a chance to be in this world over again, would you pick the same route?” He responded: “Dear friend, forgive me, do not swagger the mirage of another life. Do not ask me a question in which there is no response. I cannot be other than I was.”
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