SAVAK (Persian: ساواک, short for سازمان
اطلاعات و امنیت کشور Sāzemān-e Ettelā'āt va
Amniyat-e Keshvar, literally "Organization of National Intelligence
and Security") was the secret police, domestic security and
intelligence service of Pahlavi dynasty. It was established by Iran's
Mohammad Reza Shah with the help of the U.S. Central Intelligence
Agency (CIA) and the Israeli MOSSAD.
SAVAK operated from 1957 until
Iranian Revolution of 1979, when the prime minister Shapour
Bakhtiar ordered its dissolution during the outbreak of Iranian
SAVAK has been described as Iran's "most hated and feared
institution" prior to the revolution of 1979 because of its practice
of torturing and executing opponents of the Pahlavi regime. At
its peak, the organization had as many as 60,000 agents serving in its
ranks according to one source, although Gholam Reza Afkhami
SAVAK staffing at between 4,000 and 6,000.
1.2 Siahkal attack and after
4 Fardoust and security and intelligence after the revolution
5 See also
7 External links
After removing Mohammad Mosaddeq, who was originally focused on
nationalizing Iran's oil industry but also set out to weaken the Shah,
from power on August 19, 1953, in a coup, the monarch, Mohammad Reza
Shah, established an intelligence service with police powers. The
Shah's goal was to strengthen his regime by placing political
opponents under surveillance and repressing dissident movements.
According to Encyclopædia Iranica:
A U.S. Army colonel working for the
CIA was sent to Persia in
September 1953 to work with
General Teymur Bakhtiar, who was appointed
military governor of
Tehran in December 1953 and immediately began to
assemble the nucleus of a new intelligence organization. The U.S. Army
colonel worked closely with Bakhtīār and his subordinates,
commanding the new intelligence organization and training its members
in basic intelligence techniques, such as surveillance and
interrogation methods, the use of intelligence networks, and
organizational security. This organization was the first modern,
effective intelligence service to operate in Persia. Its main
achievement occurred in September 1954, when it discovered and
destroyed a large communist
Tudeh Party network that had been
established in the Persian armed forces
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
Herbert Norman Schwarzkopf 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). These in turn were replaced by SAVAK's own
instructors in 1965.
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 5,300 full-time agents and a large but
unknown number of part-time informers.
In 1961 the Iranian authorities dismissed the agency's first director,
General Teymur Bakhtiarand he later became a political dissident.
SAVAK agents assassinated him, disguising the deed as an
General Hassan Pakravan, director of
SAVAK from 1961 to 1966, had
an almost benevolent reputation, for example dining on a weekly basis
Ayatollah Khomeini while Khomeini was under house arrest, and
later intervened to prevent Khomeini's execution on the grounds that
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 by the Khomeini regime.
Pakravan was replaced in 1966 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
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 guerrillas including the leadership of the major urban guerrilla
organizations (Organization of Iranian People's Fedai Guerrillas,
People's Mujahedin of Iran) such as
Hamid Ashraf between 1971–1977
and executed up to 100 political prisoners between 1971 and 1979 –
the most violent era of the SAVAK's existence.
One well known writer was arrested, tortured for months, and finally
placed before television cameras to 'confess' that his works paid too
much attention to social problems and not enough to the great
achievements of the White Revolution. By the end of 1975, twenty-two
prominent poets, novelist, professors, theater directors, and film
makers were in jail for criticizing the regime. And many others had
been physically attacked for refusing to cooperate with the
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
States and he "raised the issue of human rights in Iran as well as in
the Soviet Union. Overnight prison conditions changed. Inmates dubbed
this the dawn of "jimmykrasy".
During the height of its power,
SAVAK had virtually unlimited powers.
It operated its own detention centers, such as Evin Prison. In
addition to domestic security, the service's tasks extended to the
surveillance of Iranians abroad, notably in the United States, France,
and the United Kingdom, and especially students on government
stipends. The agency also closely collaborated with the
CIA by sending
their agents to an air force base in New York to share and discuss
Teymur Bakhtiar was assassinated by
SAVAK agents in 1970, and Mansur
United States director during the 1970s, reported
General Nassiri's phone was tapped.
Mansur Rafizadeh later wrote
of 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.
Mansur Rafizadeh was
suspected to have been a double agent also working for the CIA.
According to Polish author Ryszard Kapuściński,
Censorship of press, books and films.
Interrogation and often torture of prisoners
Surveillance of political opponents.
First year of operation
Last year of operation
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
Federation of American Scientists
Federation of American Scientists 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
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
Fardoust and security and intelligence after the revolution
Human rights in Iran
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; However, it is believed that Khomeini may have
changed his mind and may have retained them into the new SAVAMA.
Hossein Fardoust, a former classmate of the Shah, was a deputy
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
Fardoust later switched sides during the revolution and managed to
salvage the bulk of the
SAVAK organization. According to author
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." 
SAVAK was replaced by the "much larger" SAVAMA, Sazman-e Ettela'at
va Amniat-e Melli-e Iran, also known as the Ministry of Intelligence
and National Security of Iran. After the victory of the Iranian
revolution, a museum was opened in the former
Towhid Prison in central
Tehran called "Ebrat". The museum displays and exhibits the documented
atrocities of SAVAK.
Second Bureau of Imperial Iranian Army
Human rights in Iran
Ministry of Intelligence
Ministry of Intelligence and National Security of Iran
Mohammad Reza Pahlavi
^ Iran, Library of Congress Country Studies (pp 276). Retrieved August
Federation of American Scientists
Federation of American Scientists "Ministry of Security SAVAK"
Archived 2012-10-04 at the Wayback Machine.
^ a b Intelligence (international relations) : Iran. (2008). In
Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved July 26, 2008.
^ Dilip Hiro, Iran under the ayatollahs (1987), p. 96.
^ Gholam Reza Afkhami, Life and Times of the Shah (University of
California Press, 2009, ISBN 978-0-520-25328-5), p. 386.
Nikki R. Keddie
Nikki R. Keddie and Yann Richard, Modern Iran: Roots and Results of
Revolution (Yale University Press, 2006), p. 134.
^ M. J. Gasiorowski, eds., Neither East Nor West. Iran, the United
States, and the Soviet Union, New Haven, 1990, pp. 148–51
^ a b Central Intelligence Agencyin Persia Archived 2009-06-22 at the
Wayback Machine. Encyclopaedia Iranica. Retrieved 26 July 2008.
^ N. R. Keddie and M. J. Gasiorowski, eds., Neither East Nor West:
Iran, the United States, and the
Soviet Union (New Haven, 1990), pp.
154–55; personal interviews.
^ Profile: Norman Schwarzkopf Sr. History Commons
^ New York Times, 21 September 1972.
^ a b Ervand Abrahamian, Iran Between Two Revolutions, p.437
^ a b "National security". Pars Times. Retrieved 24 August 2013.
^ Harvard Iranian Oral History Project Transcript of interview with
Fatemeh Pakravan conducted by Habib Ladjevardi 3 March 1983.
^ Momen, Moojan, An Introduction to Shi'i Islam (Yale University
Press, 1985), p. 255.
^ Bill, James A., Tragedy of American-Iranian Relations(Yale
University Press, 1989), p. 181–182
^ Ervand Abrahamian, Tortured Confessions (University of California
Press, 1999), p. 106.
^ Abrahamian, Tortured Confessions, p. 106.
^ Abrahamian, Tortured Confessions, pp. 103, 169.
^ Abrahamian, Iran Between Two Revolutions, pp. 442–43.
^ Abrahamian, Tortured Confessions, p. 119.
^ Fisk. Great War for Civilisation, p. 112.
^ Kapuściński, Ryszard, Shah of Shahs, pp. 46, 50, 76
^ SAVAK: "Like the CIA". Feb. 19, 1979.
^ Ministry of Security
SAVAK Archived 2012-10-04 at the Wayback
Machine., Federation of American Scientists.
^ Tragert, Joseph (2003). The Complete Idiot's Guide to Understanding
Iran. Alpha. p. 101. ISBN 978-1592571413.
^ Robert Dreyfuss, Hostage to Khomeini 1981 and The Devils Game: How
United States Unleashed Fundamentalist Islam, 2004
^ Charles Kurzman, The Unthinkable Revolution (Harvard University
^ Abrahamian, History of Modern Iran, (2008), p.176
^ 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.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to SAVAK.
Ministry of Intelligence
Ministry of Intelligence and Security VEVAK – Iran Intelligence
Agencies at website of Federation of American Scientists
Teymur Bakhtiar (1957−61)
Hassan Pakravan (1961−65)
Nematollah Nassiri (1965−78)
Nasser Moghadam (1978−79)
Deputies of director
Hassan Alavikia ( −1962)
Hossein Fardoust (1962−73)
Ali Mo'tazed (1973−78)
Nasser Moghadam (1978)
Parviz Sabeti (1978)