Sadeq Tabatabaei ( 25 March 1943 – 21 February 2015) was an Iranian writer, journalist, TV host, university professor at the University of Tehran and politician who served as Deputy Prime Minister from 1979 to 1980. He was also Deputy Minister of the Interior and oversaw the referendum on establishing an Islamic Republic in March 1979. He was Iran’s Ambassador to West Germany from 1982 until 1986.
Tabatabaei was born on 12 December 1943 in the city of Qom. He is son of Ayatollah Mohammad-Bagher Tabatabaei and nephew of Musa al-Sadr. His sister, Fatemeh is married to Ahmad Khomeini, son of Ruhollah Khomeini and so, he is also uncle of Hassan Khomeini. After completing his elementary education, he moved to Germany along with his uncle, Musa al-Sadr and began studying in chemistry at Ruhr University Bochum.
After graduating, he became a professor at the university and also a member of Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG). He was also a researcher of Far East Broadcasting Company and many of his works were published at the company’s magazine.
In 1961, Sadegh Tabatabai went to Aachen to study biochemistry and later received his doctorate from the University of Bochum. While in Aachen, he organized a student group that campaigned against Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. In 1967 he handed Ulrike Meinhof material about Iran, which was used in a famous column in Konkret magazine opposing the Shah’s visit to West Germany in 1967.
Tabatabai gave a speech at the grave of Benno Ohnesorg, an unarmed university student who was shot during a demonstration against the Shah’s visit to the Deutsche Oper in Berlin by Karl-Heinz Kurras, a police officer later discovered to be an agent of the East German secret police, the Stasi.
During studying, he met with Mehdi Bazargan and joined his party, Freedom Movement. He became a supporter of Ruhollah Khomeini and published many article about him and his movement in German newspapers. He had served many coordination meetings with Khomeini at Paris.
After Iranian Revolution victory, he became Head of Department of Political and Social at Ministry of Interior and assumed the task of holding the 1979 referendum which resulted in the establishment of the Islamic Republic.
After that, he was appointed as Deputy Prime Minister by Mehdi Bazargan just hours before his resignation. He was also spokesman of the caretaker government and held the post until Mohammad-Ali Rajai became new prime minister. He was also a candidate in the 1980 presidential election, placing fifth among one hundred and twenty-seven candidates.
Tabatabaei was with Khomeini during his exile in Paris, in the suburb of Neauphle-le-Chateau, accompanying him on his return to Iran on the Air France plane on 1 February 1979, along with Sadegh Khalkhali and Peter Scholl-Latour, a Franco-German journalist. By his own admission Tabatabai had “been one of eight people in Europe and America, who had prepared revolution abroad and kept in contact with Khomeini.”
From 1979 to 1982, Tabatabai worked in various government offices, first as deputy interior minister and government spokesman.
From November 1979 to September 1980 he served as Secretary of State in the Prime Minister’s office. On 21 March 1980, Tabatabai met Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher, to discuss a possible ending of the hostage crisis in Tehran in Bonn in 1980. The conversation remained without concrete results. Tabatabai remained in touch with the German government and informed German authorities of the state of discussions in government and in parliament.
This took place on 26 October 1980 in a telephone conversation between Tabatabai and Foreign Minister Genscher, in which Tabatabai informed about the debate in Parliament. On 16 and 18 September 1980 Tabatabai met Foreign Minister Genscher and US Deputy Secretary of State Warren Christopher in Bonn to discuss the next steps in the hostage issue.
Subsequently he was responsible for the procurement of arms and travelled abroad as a special envoy of the Iranian Government.
In this regard, he was involved in arms trade scandals and drug smuggling in Germany in 1982 and 1983. In 1982, Tabatabai retracted to his own statements from the policy, but on 8 January 1983, he was held with 1.65 kg of raw opium in his suitcase at Düsseldorf airport by customs officials, and released on bail. His status as a special envoy was confirmed in 1983 by the Iranian government.
He was also a possible candidate for 2009 election which he withdrew in favor of Mohsen Rezaee and later became one of his advisers and campaign members. He was also his deputy manager of campaign in 2013 election and possible vice president candidate.
On 21 February 2015, he died in Düsseldorf, Germany, where he had resided for the last six months. He was suffering from lung cancer. His body was transferred to Iran and was buried at Ruhollah Khomeini’s mausoleum in Tehran after a public funeral that held on 26 February.
He was married to his cousin, Fatemeh Sadrameli in 1965. Fatemeh is graduate of psychology and sociology of education. The couple have one daughter Ghazaleh, born 1973 who is a physician and neurologist and one son named Adnan, born in 1979 and a Political Economy Ph.D. He was nephew of Musa al-Sadr. Ahmad Khomeini was also his brother-in-law (his sister was married to Ruhollah Khomeini’s son Ahmad) and Hassan Khomeini is his nephew.