The seminar included academics from around the world, who had researched and studied the documentary evidence of the 1953 events in Iran. It was both enjoyable and illuminating as the experts on the subject presented their arguments and conjectures based on the different aspects of the evidence and archived documents they had studied.
Siavush Ranjbar-Daemi gave a brief presentation of what the various newspapers at the time had reported and in particular which political groups had called for a Republic in the two day aftermath of the initial failed attempt to bring down Mossadeq on 16th August, 1953.
Shahram Kholdi, from Western University in Canada, gave a presentation of the Iranian legal constitution at the time, its origins and what the legal authority of the Shah and the Prime Minister were. An important study to determine whether the toppling of Mossadeq was a coup or a legal constitutional move.
The American scholar, Mark Gasiorowsky, talked about the evidence he had gathered from the people he had interviewed, which included CIA operatives at the time.
Darioush Bayandor criticised Gasiorowsky for not having taken into consideration the declassified information that has been available since 2000 and that what most bothered him was an attempt by Gasiorowsky and his co-author, Malcolm Byrne at splashing some sensational headlines that new evidence proved the role of a CIA coup on 19th August as undeniable and argued that they were much sensationalism about nothing. A point that Gasiorowsky himself later admitted.
Regarding the mystery of who brought out the crowds on 19th August that toppled Mossadeq, Bayandor offered his theory and the reasons as to why in his view, it was actually the influential Ayatollah Boroujerdi.
Oliver Bast, on the second day of the seminar, listed the popular myths propagated into the public consciousness by the media and the role of academics in this. Some of these myths were:
Mossadeq nationalised the Iranian oil industry - it was nationalised before Mossadeq became PM
Mossadeq was democratically elected by popular vote - He was appointed by the Shah
The Shah was reinstated after a CIA backed coup - He never abdicated
The 1953 was a huge national trauma for Iranians- there have been many more events that can be described as a national trauma in recent Iranian history
That Mossadeq was brutally dealt with - Bast compared what happened to Hoveyda after 1979 revolution and the trial he got with that of Mossadeq
and finally the East German born scholar ridiculed Madeline Albright for having apologised to the Islamic Republic of the 1953 coup, describing her as ill informed and badly advised on the subject.
I was very much in agreement with Oliver Bast as to what he had to say about the media myths about Mossadeq. A recent report by CNN on Malcolm Byrne's sensational headlines for example, mentioned how Iran had gained its independence from Britain and Mossadeq had been sentenced to death for nationalising the Iranian oil!
Oliver Bast also mentioned that in terms of tangible results, Mossadeq's success was almost zero and that there were other Iranian Prime Ministers, before and after Mossadeq, who were far more successful in achieving real results.
There was also an interesting glimpse into the few Russian documents that are available on the subject. Next to nothing has been declassified by the KGB as this is not the norm in Russia but some diplomatic correspondence that were made available to one Russian born academic, showed contacts were established between Ayatollah Kashani and the Soviets who regarded Ayatollah Kashani as the only player able to bring the crowds into the streets.
It was a lively debate and perhaps, there were only two points that all sides agreed on:
a) There was nothing new in Malcolm Byrne's sensation headlines
b) Until more documents are released and declassified, what actually happened on 19th August, 1953 will remain debatable.
I hope in writing the above notes, I have given a flavour of what happened during the two day seminar at Manchester University, which is in far contrast to the simplistic and biased report aired by BBC Persian television. See below: