Iran Table of Contents
Formed under the guidance of United States and Israeli intelligence officers in 1957, SAVAK developed into an effective secret agency. General Teymur Bakhtiar was appointed its first director, only to be dismissed in 1961, allegedly for organizing a coup; he was assassinated in 1970 under mysterious circumstances, probably on the shah's direct order. His successor, General Hosain Pakravan, was dismissed in 1966, allegedly for having failed to crush the clerical opposition in the early 1960s. The shah turned to his childhood friend and classmate, General Nematollah Nassiri, to rebuild SAVAK and properly "serve" the monarch. Mansur Rafizadeh, the SAVAK director in the United States throughout the 1970s, claimed that General Nassiri's telephone was tapped by SAVAK agents reporting directly to the shah, an example of the level of mistrust pervading the government on the eve of the Revolution.
In 1987 accurate information concerning SAVAK remained publicly unavailable. A flurry of pamphlets issued by the revolutionary regime after 1979 indicated that SAVAK had been a full-scale intelligence agency with more than 15,000 full-time personnel and thousands of part-time informants. SAVAK was attached to the Office of the Prime Minister, and its director assumed the title of deputy to the prime minister for national security affairs. Although officially a civilian agency, SAVAK had close ties to the military; many of its officers served simultaneously in branches of the armed forces. Another childhood friend and close confidant of the shah, Major General Hosain Fardust, was deputy director of SAVAK until the early 1970s, when the shah promoted him to the directorship of the Special Intelligence Bureau, which operated inside Niavaran Palace, independently of SAVAK.
Founded to round up members of the outlawed Tudeh, SAVAK expanded its activities to include gathering intelligence and neutralizing the regime's opponents. An elaborate system was created to monitor all facets of political life. For example, a censorship office was established to monitor journalists, literary figures, and academics throughout the country; it took appropriate measures against those who fell out of line. Universities, labor unions, and peasant organizations, among others, were all subjected to intense surveillance by SAVAK agents and paid informants. The agency was also active abroad, especially in monitoring Iranian students who publicly opposed Pahlavi rule.
Over the years, SAVAK became a law unto itself, having legal authority to arrest and detain suspected persons indefinitely. SAVAK operated its own prisons in Tehran (the Komiteh and Evin facilities) and, many suspected, throughout the country as well. Many of these activities were carried out without any institutional checks. Thus, it came as no surprise when, in 1979, SAVAK was singled out as a primary target for reprisals, its headquarters overrun, and prominent leaders tried and executed by komiteh representatives. High-ranking SAVAK agents were purged between 1979 and 1981; there were 61 SAVAK officials among 248 military personnel executed between February and September 1979. The organization was officially dissolved by Khomeini shortly after he came to power in 1979.
Data as of December 1987