Iran’s first president after 1979 revolution dies aged 88

Abolhassan Banisadr, Iran’s first president after the country’s 1979 Islamic Revolution, has died at the age of 88.

Mr Banisadr fled Tehran 16 months after taking office after being impeached for challenging the growing power of clerics as the nation became a theocracy.

Among a sea of black-robed Shia clerics, Mr Banisadr stood out for his western-style suits and a French background.

He confided to philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre that he believed he would be Iran’s first president some 15 years before it happened.

Mr Banisadr speaks at the Martyr’s Square in Tehran in 1980 (AP)

Those differences isolated him as the nationalist sought to instil a socialist-style economy in Iran underpinned by his deep Shia faith, instilled by his cleric father.

Mr Banisadr would never consolidate his grip on the government he supposedly led as events far beyond his control, like the US embassy hostage crisis and the invasion of Iran by Iraq, only added to the tumult that followed the revolution.

True power remained with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, whom Mr Banisadr worked with in exile in France and followed back to Tehran amid the revolution.

But Khomeini would toss Mr Banisadr aside after only 16 months in office, sending him fleeing back to Paris, where he would remain for decades.

“I was like a child watching my father slowly turn into an alcoholic,” Mr Banisadr later said of Khomeini. “The drug this time was power.”

The family of Mr Banisadr said on Saturday that he died at a Paris hospital after a long illness.


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