On Shapour Bakhtiar
I'm unexpectedly reminded, in the wake of the recent attacks in Paris, of Shapour Bakhtiar.
Bakhtiar was an Iranian who moved to Paris shortly before the Second World War and became involved in the resistance. After the war he returned to Iran and worked with the Shah's regime whilst simultaneously covertly working against it in the hopes of installing a more liberal, progressive rule. He was found out and thereafter imprisoned repeatedly. When the Shah's grip eventually crumbled, however, Bakhtiar unexpectedly found he was made the head of state. He immediately released all political prisoners, removed restrictions on the press and disbanded the Iranian secret police. But his reign had come at the wrong time and was short-lived, lasting a little over a month. Overthrown by Ayatollah Khomeini and his new order of revolutionary Islamism which immediately undid all his social changes, Bakhtiar once again left for Paris. A decade later, still in exile in the suburbs in Suresnes and once again involved in a resistance movement, Bakhtiar was killed, stabbed to death in his kitchen by assassins from the Islamic Republic. And that was the end of Shapour Bakhtiar: another small tributary in the steady tide of history dammed-up and moved on from.
I suppose Bakhtiar comes to mind, not just because his brief life, traversing as it does between Europe and the Middle East, contains something of an echo of our more modern anxieties, but also because it's a life which quietly embodies the national credo of the French - liberté, égalité, fraternité - in a way which seems indivisible from the fact that he was also a migrant and a Muslim.