The Full Wiki



Wikipedia article:

Map showing all locations mentioned on Wikipedia article:

SAVAK (Persian: ساواک, short for سازمان اطلاعات و امنیت کشور Sazeman-e Ettela'at va Amniyat-e Keshvar, National Intelligence and Security Organization) was the domestic security and intelligence service of Iranmarker from 1957 to 1979. It has been described as Iran's "most hated and feared institution" prior to the revolution of 1979, because of its torture and execution of regime opponents. At its peak, the organization had as many as 60,000 agents serving in its ranks.



After removing the left-leaning government of Mohammad Mosaddeq, (which had nationalized Iran's oil industry and weakened the Shah's power), from power on 19 August 1953, in a coup, supported and funded by the British and U.S. governments, the Shah decided he wanted an effective internal security service to strengthen his regime by placing political opponents under surveillance and repress dissident movements. According to Encyclopædia Iranica:

In March 1955, the Army colonel was "replaced with a more permanent team of five career CIA officers, including specialists in covert operations, in­telligence analysis, and counterintelligence,including Herbert Norman Schwarzkopf (father of General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, the commander of all coalition forces for Operation Desert Shield/Storm) who "trained virtually all of the first generation of SAVAK personnel."In 1956 this agency was reorganized and given the name Sazeman-e Ettela'at va Amniyat-e Keshvar (SAVAK). In 1960/61 the CIA trainers left and were replaced by a team of instructors from the Israeli Mossad. These in turn were replaced by SAVAK’s own instructors in 1965. Chief CIA Iranmarker analyst Jesse Leaf in an interview on 6th Jan. 1979 stated that the CIA teaches Nazi torture techniques to SAVAK.

SAVAK had the power to censor the media, screen applicants for government jobs, "and according to reliable Western source , use all means necessary, including torture, to hunt down dissidents."

After 1963, the Shah expanded his security organizations, including SAVAK which grew to over 5300 full-time agents and a large but unknown number of part-time informers.

The agency's first director, General Teymur Bakhtiar, was dismissed in 1961 and later became a political dissident. In 1970 he was assassinated by SAVAK agents, disguised to look like an accident.

Hassan Pakravan, director of Savak from 1961-1965, had an almost benevolent reputation, for example dining with the Ayatollah Khomeini while Khomeini was under house arrest on a weekly basis, and later intervened to prevent Khomeini's execution, on the grounds it would "anger the common people of Iran". After the Iranian Revolution, however, Pakravan was among the first of the Shah's officials to be executed.

Pakravan was replaced in 1965 by General Nematollah Nassiri, a close associate of the Shah, and the service was reorganized and became increasingly active in the face of rising Shia and Communist militancy and political unrest.

Siahkal attack and after

A turning point in SAVAK's reputation for ruthless brutality was reportedly an attack on a gendarmerie post in the Caspian village of Siahkal by a small band of armed Marxists in February 1971, although it is also reported to have tortured to death a Shia cleric, Ayatollah Muhammad Reza Sa'idi, in 1970.According to Iranian political historian Ervand Abrahamian, after this attack SAVAK interrogators were sent abroad for "scientific training to prevent unwanted deaths from 'brute force.' Brute force was supplemented with the bastinado; sleep deprivation; extensive solitary confinement; glaring searchlights; standing in one place for hours on end; nail extractions; snakes (favored for use with women); electrical shocks with cattle prods, often into the rectum; cigarette burns; sitting on hot grills; acid dripped into nostrils; near-drownings; mock executions; and an electric chair with a large metal mask to muffle screams while amplifying them for the victim. This latter contraption was dubbed the Apollo—an allusion to the American space capsules. Prisoners were also humiliated by being raped, urinated on, and forced to stand naked. Despite the new 'scientific' methods, the torture of choice remained the traditional bastinado" used to beat soles of the feet. The "primary goal" of those using the bastinados "was to locate arms caches, safe houses and accomplices ..."

Abrahamian estimates that SAVAK (and other police and military) killed 368 guerillas between 1971-1977 and executed something less than 100 political prisoners between 1971 and 1979 - the most violent era of the SAVAK's existence.

By 1976, this repression was softened considerably thanks to publicity and scrutiny by "numerous international organizations and foreign newspapers." In 1976, Jimmy Carter was elected President of the United Statesmarker and he "raised the issue of human rights in Iran as well as in the Soviet Unionmarker. Overnight prison conditions changed. Inmates dubbed this the dawn of `jimmykrasy.`

After the Iranian Revolution of 1979, former directors Pakravan, Nassiri, and Moghadam were tried by Revolutionary Courts and executed by the Revolutionary Guard.


During the height of its power, SAVAK had virtually unlimited powers of arrest and detention. It operated its own detention centers, like Evin Prisonmarker. In addition to domestic security the service's tasks extended to the surveillance of Iranians abroad, notably in the United Statesmarker, Francemarker, and the United Kingdommarker, and especially students on government stipends. The agency also closely collaborated with the American CIA by sending their agents to an air force base in New Yorkmarker to share and discuss interrogation tactics.

Teymur Bakhtiar was assassinated by SAVAK agents in 1970, and Mansur Rafizadeh, SAVAK's United States director during the 1970s, reported that General Nassiri's phone was tapped. Mansur Rafizadeh later published his life as a SAVAK man and detailed the human rights violations of the Shah in his book Witness: From the Shah to the Secret Arms Deal : An Insider's Account of U.S. Involvement in Iran.

According to Polish author Ryszard Kapuściński, SAVAK was responsible for
  • Censorship of press, books and films.
  • Interrogation and often torture of prisoners
  • Surveillance of political opponents.

SAVAK Directors
Name First year of operation Last year of operation
Teymur Bakhtiar 1957 1961
Hassan Pakravan 1961 1965
Nematollah Nassiri 1965 1978
Nasser Moghadam 1978 1979


Sources disagree over how many victims SAVAK had and how inhumane its techniques were. Writing at the time of the Shah's overthrow, TIME magazine described SAVAK as having "long been Iran's most hated and feared institution" which had "tortured and murdered thousands of the Shah's opponents." Federation of American Scientists (FAS) also found it guilty of "the torture and execution of thousands of political prisoners" and symbolizing "the Shah's rule from 1963-79." The FAS list of SAVAK torture methods included "electric shock, whipping, beating, inserting broken glass and pouring boiling water into the rectum, tying weights to the testicles, and the extraction of teeth and nails." According to a former CIA analyst on Iran, Jesse J. Leaf, SAVAK was trained in torture techniques by the CIA.An example of the public image of the SAVAK in Iran as all-pervasive and fear-inducing, is "a much enjoyed joke" during the Pahlavi regime, where an Iranian Muslim is questioned by angels on the first night after his (the Muslim's) death:

However, according to more recent research by a political historian of the era, Ervand Abrahamian, deaths numbered in the dozens rather than the thousands under the SAVAK, far fewer than the several thousand prisoners are estimated to have been killed in the Islamic Republic that followed. While some prisoners during the Shah's era were tortured, prisoners' letters were much more likely to use words such as "boredom" and "monotony," to describe their confinement than "fear," "death," "terror," "horror," and "nightmare" (kabos), the common descriptors found in letters of prisoners of the Islamic Republic.

Fardoust and security and intelligence after the revolution

SAVAK was closed down shortly before the overthrow of the monarchy and the coming to power of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in the February 1979 Iranian Revolution. Following the departure of the Shah in January 1979, SAVAK's 3,000+ central staff and its agents were targeted for reprisals; almost all of them that were in Iran at the time of the Iranian Revolution were hunted down and executed, only a few who were on missions outside of Iran managed to survive.

SAVAK was replaced by the "much larger" SAVAMAmarker, Sazman-e Ettela'at va Amniat-e Melli-e Iran, also known as the Ministry of Intelligence and National Security of Iranmarker.

According to author Charles Kurzman, SAVAK was never dismantled but rather changed its name and leadership and continued on with the same codes of operation, and a relatively unchanged "staff." Britannica also state the new organization retains many of low- and mid-level intelligence personnel from the SAVAK.

Hossein Fardoust, a former classmate of the Shah, was a deputy director of SAVAK until he was appointed head of the Imperial Inspectorate, also known as the Special Intelligence Bureau, to watch over high-level government officials, including SAVAK directors. Fardust later is rumoured to have become director of SAVAMAmarker, the post-revolution incarnation of the original SAVAK organization.

Entrance to the museum Ebrat, located in a former prison of SAVAK
After the victory of the Islamic revolution, a museum was opened in a former prison in central Tehranmarker called "Ebrat". The museum displays and exhibits the documented atrocities of SAVAK.

See also


  1. SAVAK: "Like the CIA", Time Magazine Website. Monday, Feb. 19, 1979
  2. intelligence (international relations) :: Iran. (2008). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved July 26, 2008,
  3. Modern Iran: Roots and Results of Revolution by Nikki R. Keddie, Yann Richard, Published by Yale University Press, 2006, ISBN 0300121059, 9780300121056, Page 134
  4. N. R. Keddie and M. J. Gasiorowski, eds., Neither East Nor West. Iran, the United States, and the Soviet Union, New Haven, 1990, 154-55; personal interviews
  10. New York Times 21 September 1972
  11. Iran Between Two Revolutions by Ervand Abrahamian, p.437
  12. Harvard Iranian Oral History Project: transcript of interview with Fatemeh Pakravan conducted by Dr. Habib Ladjevardi 3 March 1983
  13. Momen, Moojan, An Introduction to Shi'i Islam, Yale University Press, 1985, p.255
  14. Tortured Confessions by Ervand Abrahamian, University of California Press, 1999 p.106
  15. Abrahamian, Ervand, Tortured Confessions by Ervand Abrahamian, University of California Press, 1999 p.106
  16. Abrahamian, Ervand, Tortured Confessions, University of California Press, 1999 p.103, 169
  17. Abrahamian, Ervand, Tortured Confessions by Ervand Abrahamian, University of California Press, 1999 p.119
  18. Fisk. Great War for Civilisation, p. 112
  19. Kapuściński, Ryszard, Shah of Shahs, pp. 46, 50, 76
  20. SAVAK: "Like the CIA". Feb. 19, 1979
  21. Ministry of Security SAVAK, Federation of American Scientists (FAS)
  22. Torture excerpted from the book: Rogue State (A Guide to the World's Only Superpower) by William Blum
  23. The Weapons of American Terrorism: Torture at DEAD LINK
  24. Abrahamian, Tortured Confessions (1999), p.135-6, 167, 169
  25. Abrahamian, History of Modern Iran, (2008), p.176
  26. The ministry is also referred to as VEVAK, Vezarat-e Ettela'at va Amniat-e Keshvar, though Iranians and the Iranian press never employ this term, using instead the official Ministry title.
  27. Kurzman, Charles The Unthinkable Revolution, (Harvard University Press), p?

External links

Embed code:

Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address