Asadollah Alam

Asadollah Alam
68th Prime Minister of Iran
In office
19 July 1962  7 March 1964
Monarch Mohammad-Reza Shah
Preceded by Ali Amini
Succeeded by Hassan-Ali Mansur
Minister of Royal Court
In office
1 February 1967  7 August 1977
Prime Minister Amir-Abbas Hoveida
Preceded by Hossein Ghods-Nakhai
Succeeded by Amir-Abbas Hoveida
President of Pahlavi University
In office
1 July 1950  9 February 1962
Preceded by Ali Shirazi
Succeeded by Habib Maraghee
Personal details
Born 1 April 1919
Birjand, Iran
Died 14 April 1978(1978-04-14) (aged 59)
New York City, United States
Political party People's Party (1957–1975)
Resurgence Party (1975–1978)
Spouse(s) Malek Taj Ghavam (1940–1978, his death)
Children Rodabe

Amir Asadollah Alam (1 April 1919 – 14 April 1978) was an Iranian politician who was Prime Minister from 1962 to 1964. He was also Minister of Royal Court, President of Pahlavi University and Governor of Sistan and Baluchestan Provinces.

Early life

Alam was born in 1919 in Birjand and was educated at a British school in Iran. By a royal order from Reza Shah, Alam married Malektaj, the daughter of Qavam Al-Molk Shirazi. The son of Qavam ol-molk was then married to a sister of the Shah, Ashraf Pahlavi. Shortly after deposing the Qajar dynasty, Reza Shah intended to unite Iran's non-Qajar nobility through inter-marriage.

At the age of 26, he was appointed governor of Sistan and Baluchistan provinces. At the age of 29, he became Minister of Agriculture in the cabinet of Mohammad Sa'ed. He early displayed what an American acquaintance describes as a combination of native toughness and Y.M.C.A. dedication.[1]

Assadollah Alam became the main landowner of Birjand after his father's death. He was one of Iran's first big landowners to distribute his holdings to the peasants, insisting that his servants eat the same food as his family. Once, when a would-be assassin was nabbed outside his door, Alam gave the man $40, then had him thrashed and sent into the street without his pants.[1] Amir Asadollah Alam was the longest serving minister of the Pahlavi era. The title "Amir" (also transliterated "emir") is Arabic for ruler or governor. The name Alam means a banner or a flag in Arabic. Alam's father Amir Ebrahim Alam (AKA Shokat ol-molk) was the governor of the region of Qa'enaat. In the era of Reza Shah Pahlavi he was the minister of telecommunications.

Prime ministership

Alam speaking in his campaign during legislative election of 1961

In 1953, Alam helped organize the counterrevolution that overthrew Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh. Alam was the director of the Pahlavi Foundation, a charitable trust worth at least $133 million, set up by the Shah to finance social-welfare plans out of the profits from royal holdings in banks, industries, hotels. In 1962, he became Prime Minister at the age of 43.

As prime minister, Assadollah Alam pledged to undertake "an anticorruption campaign with great diligence and all severity." Though the cynical snickered, Alam got free rein from the Shah, and carefully began building airtight cases against suspected grafters among Iran's leading bureaucrats and government leaders. His first major target was General Mohammed Ali Khazai, the Iranian army's chief of ordnance, who had parlayed his $6,000 salary into three houses in the suburbs of Tehran, four apartment houses in France, five automobiles, $100,000 in European banks and $200,000 in cash. A military court convicted Khazai of taking a cut out of government contracts and sentenced him to five years of solitary confinement.[2]

In May 1963, Alam's anticorruption drive was in full swing. In Tehran, a military tribunal sentenced General Abdullah Hedayat, Iran's first four-star general and once a close adviser of the Shah, to two years in prison for embezzling money on military housing contracts, brushed aside his plea for appeal with the brusque explanation that "more charges are pending." The former boss of the Tehran Electricity Board was in solitary confinement for five years; cases were in preparation against an ex-War Minister and twelve other generals for graft.[2]

Alam (second from left) with Queen Soraya Esfandiari

Riots of 1963

The most important event in Alam's premiership were the riots that took place in June 1963 in response to some of the reforms enforced by the Shah and Alam. It was the clerics who triggered the riots during the Muharram holy days. As the faithful jammed the mosques, the clerics assailed "illegal" Cabinet decisions and urged their followers to "protect your religion." Small-scale riots quickly broke out in the clerical capital of Qum, led by the Rouhollah Khomeini, and in several other cities. Police struck back, arrested Khomeini and some 15 other ringleaders. With that, both sides declared open war and the battle was on.[3]

Screaming "Down with the Shah," 10,000 people, swept through the capital, carrying pictures of Khomeini. Though the whereabouts of the Shah was kept secret, rows of white-helmeted troops, backed by tanks, immediately sealed off access to royal palaces in the city and suburbs. In the heart of town green, they fired for 40 minutes. When the mobs entered government buildings, the troops opened up at point-blank range. The crowd fell back in confusion, regrouped, and raced down main avenues.[3]

Nearly 7,000 troops were called out by Alam's government to restore peace, albeit an uneasy one, in Tehran; by then damage was estimated in the millions, at least 1,000 were injured, and the officially reported death toll was 86. It was undoubtedly higher, but since the public cemetery was closed and under heavy guard to prevent further clashes at the gravesides, the real number remained unknown.[3] In his memoirs, Alam notes the number of the dead to be about 200, saying that he immediately arranged for their families to receive a pension from the government.[4] For the first time in a decade, martial law was imposed on the city, along with a dusk-to-dawn curfew. Hoping to preserve quiet for a while, Alam also announced that troops would remain on emergency duty. Their orders: shoot to kill.

Minister of the royal court

Alam speaking with Mohammad-Reza Shah

In 1964, he was appointed as Chancellor of Shiraz University and served host to the King of Belgium in his visit to Fars Province a few years later. Afterwards he was the minister of court for many years, beginning in December 1966. Furthermore, he was the head of the Pahlavi Foundation and bursar. He was also a supporter of the campaign of Richard Nixon, during the United States presidential elections.

As the minister of the royal court he was the closest man to the Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who now ran the country autocratically. Therefore, Alam became the channel through which most of the daily affairs of the country passed. Alam's memoirs, published posthoumously, are exceptionally detailed documents on the life and the deeds of the Shah as perceived by an insider.

List of positions held

As written by Alam himself in his memoirs[5] in 1972.

  1. Manager of Imam Reza's shrine in Mashad, AKA "Aastaan-e Qods-e Razavi"
  2. The Shah's inspector of all universities
  3. Chairman of the board of trustees of the Pahlavi University
  4. Chairman of the board of trustees of the Aryamehr University
  5. Chairman of the board of trustees of the Pars school for higher education (Madreseye Aalyi-e Pars)
  6. The shah's special liaison with foreign ambassadors (for issues too confidential to pass through the foreign ministry)
  7. Head of the board of trustees of the Mashad University
  8. Indispensable member of the board of trustees of the University of Tehran
  9. Indispensable member of the board of trustees of the University of Tabriz
  10. Chairman of the Royal horse institute (The crown prince Reza Pahlavi was the honorary head)
  11. Chairman of the royal institute of the rural culture houses (The crown prince Reza Pahlavi was the honorary head)
  12. Chairman of the National Scouts committee
  13. Head of "Kaanun-e Kaar" (Labor institute)
  14. Deputy chairman of the Imperial Organization of Social Services (Princess Ashraf Pahlavi was the head)
  15. Deputy chairman of the Red Lion and Sun Society (Princess Shams Pahlavi was the head)
  16. Chairman of the Council for support of mothers and infants
  17. Deputy chairman of the Kaanun-e Parvaresh-e Fekri-e Kudakaan va nojavaanaan (Institute for the Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults). Empress Farah Pahlavi was the head)
  18. Direct chief of the Legion of service to humanity
  19. Person in charge of the construction in the island of Kish
  20. Head of the board of trustees of the Pahlavi Foundation
  21. Deputy chairman of the Iranian Culture Foundation (for research and publication of classic Persian texts)
  22. In charge of the shah's personal and monetary affairs.
  23. The minister of court.
  24. cooperation in establishing university of birjand

Illness, death and legacy

Asadollah Alam was diagnosed with cancer in late 1960s. He was never told of the nature of his illness and was only informed about an 'imbalance' of blood cells in his body.

In 1977, his illness worsened and he had to resign his post as the Minister of Court. He died at New York University Hospital in New York City on 1978, less than a year before the Revolution in Iran.

Alam, the Shah's best friend, wrote about every detail of his life for the last ten years of his reign. These memoirs were posthumously published several years after Alam's death. Because of the level of its detail, this book is probably the greatest source of information about the life and deeds of the Shah. Alam admired the Shah greatly and his writing is therefore not impartial, but at least he expresses the Shah's perception of the national and international politics accurately. This results in the closest possible look at the way the Shah thought and how he made his decisions.

The book is edited by Alam's friend Alikhani, who was also a minister in Alam's cabinet. Judging by the few hand-written diary pages reproduced in the book, the editor seems to have cut out numerous sentences anywhere he pleased with no apparent reason. In some cases he explains the reasons as privacy concern for the Alam family or the safety of some people who may still be living in Iran. However, such explanations are very rare and the book is filled by ellipses, not drawn from Alam's notes.

The book has another deficiency: Alam had originally enclosed drafts of the letters by the Shah to foreign heads of state and letters to the Shah from international dignitaries with his diary notes. Very few of these have been published in the diaries and the reader is therefore denied access to this great source of information.

Amir Hossein Khozeimé-Alam was a cousin of his.

See also


  1. 1 2 The Reformer's Lot, Time (magazine), Friday, 27 July 1962
  2. 1 2 No Longer for the Corrupt, Time (magazine), 24 May 1963
  3. 1 2 3 Progress at a Price, Time (magazine), Friday, 14 June 1963
  4. [ Yaddasht-haye Amir Assadollah-e Alam], Bethesda, 2003
  5. [ Yaddasht-haye Amir Assadollah-e Alam],, edited by Alinaqi Alikhani, Vol. 2, P. 398 ISBN 978-0-936347-58-5.,Bethesda, 2003
  • 'Alí Rizā Awsatí (عليرضا اوسطى), Iran in the Past Three Centuries (Irān dar Se Qarn-e Goz̲ashteh - ايران در سه قرن گذشته), Volumes 1 and 2 (Paktāb Publishing - انتشارات پاکتاب, Tehran, Iran, 2003). ISBN 964-93406-6-1 (Vol. 1), ISBN 964-93406-5-3 (Vol. 2).

Further reading

External links

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Asadollah Alam.
Political offices
Preceded by
Ali Amini
Prime Minister of Iran
Succeeded by
Hassan Ali Mansour
Preceded by
Hossein Ghods-Nakhai
Minister of Royal Court
Succeeded by
Amir-Abbas Hoveida
Party political offices
Preceded by
Leader of People's Party
Succeeded by
Party Dissolved
Academic offices
Preceded by
Ali Shirazi
President of Pahlavi University
Succeeded by
Habib Maraghee
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