333. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs (Talbot) to Secretary of State Rusk0


  • Agitational Activities of Anti-Shah Iranian Students in the United States. Action Requested—To Proceed with Deportation Action

This is in response to your request of September 30 for information on the above subject.1


A hard core of about 25 of the 5,000 or more Iranian students in the United States has for several years severely embarrassed our relations with Iran by engaging in violent anti-regime activities. These have included picketing visiting Iranian officials (including the Shah on his last visit here in April 1962), picketing the White House, calling for an end to U.S. aid for Iran, publishing an anti-regime periodical, and engaging in sit-down and hunger strikes in the Iranian Embassy and Consulates. Thirteen of the hard-core group are under suspended sentence for unlawful entry into the Iranian Embassy in January 1963.

The dissident students claim to follow the line of the Iranian National Front, the anti-Shah followers of Mosadeq, but their positions are much more extreme than those of the National Front. Leadership of the dissident group in the U.S. appears to be centered in the relatives of Mosadeq’s Foreign Minister, Hosein Fatemi, who was executed for treason following Mosadeq’s overthrow in 1953.

Since late 1961 the Iranian Government and the Shah have pressed us repeatedly, both here and in Tehran, to bring the student problem under control. In mid-1961 the Iranian authorities declined to renew the passports of two of the most notorious ringleaders of the hard-core group—Ali S. Fatemi and Sadeq Qotbzadeh—in the impression that this action, coupled with their questionable status as students, would require us to institute deportation proceedings against them. Since that time, we [Page 724] have approached the Immigration and Naturalization Service on an official basis, and the Attorney-General’s Office on an informal basis, in an attempt to secure such action. In order to meet part of the legal requirement for such action, we sought and obtained assurance from the Government of Iran in May 1962 that the two students, if returned to Iran, would not be prosecuted for acts committed up to that time. The Immigration and Naturalization Service denied the request of the two students for a continuation of their stay but stated that it did not intend to enforce their departure. They are thus being treated in the same manner as refugees from Communist Cuba and such a status could be continued indefinitely. As of July 1963 the Department of Justice did not consider it necessary to institute deportation proceedings.

The harassments by these few Iranian students have continued up to the present and are embarrassing our relations with Iran at a time when it is in our interest to indicate in every way possible our support for the fundamental reform program which the Shah has undertaken against opposition from powerful conservative elements in his country. The Shah’s twin sister, Princess Ashraf, was picketed by these students upon her arrival in New York in June 1963 to attend an international women’s conference. Foreign Minister Aram and the Iranian Consul General were harassed by these same students on September 23, 1963, when they attempted a sit-in strike at the Iranian UN delegation’s office, picketed the Foreign Minister’s hotel, and shouted obscene insults as he left the hotel.

We have not been able to verify whether Fatemi and Qotbzadeh were personally involved in these most recent activities in New York, but they are key figures (President and Treasurer, respectively) in the Iranian Students’ Association, which organizes the activities. Legally justified action by the U.S. Government against them would help disrupt the activities of that organization and would go a long way toward ameliorating Iranian bitterness and allaying the Shah’s suspicions of our motives in what he views as continued protection of elements working for his overthrow.

In addition to the Foreign Minister’s approach to you on September 30, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has raised the September 23 incident with Ambassador Holmes in Tehran. The Ambassador recommended, on September 23, that the latest incident makes it timely for us to press again for deportation action against the two students.


That you approve the Department’s requesting the Attorney General to take the necessary legal steps to effect the departure from the United States of Fatemi and Qotbzadeh, since their continued presence [Page 725] has a serious adverse impact on our relations with Iran. A suggested letter from you to the Attorney General is attached.2

  1. Source: Department of State, NEA/NE Files: Lot 68 D 100, POL. 13-2-b, Students, Youth Groups (not in Iran). Secret. Drafted by Tiger on October 4 and cleared by Wehmeyer, Manning, Lee, and Schwartz. Sent through the Executive Secretariat. A handwritten note on the source text indicates that Secretary Rusk saw the memorandum.
  2. Iranian Foreign Minister Aram had raised Iranian concerns about the activities of Iranian students in the United States during a meeting with Secretary Rusk during the U.N. General Assembly session in New York on September 30. A memorandum of the conversation is ibid., Central Files, POL IRAN-US.
  3. The last sentence is handwritten. A handwritten note at the bottom of the source text indicates that Secretary Rusk rewrote the letter that was sent to Attorney General Robert Kennedy on October 11. In it, the Secretary spoke generally about the problems created by a “hard core” of approximately 25 Iranian students in the United States and requested that the Justice Department send a representative to discuss the situation with Talbot. (Ibid.) On December 24, the Commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, Raymond F. Farrell, and other officials from the Justice Department and the Department of State, met with Fatemi and Qotbzadeh at the Department of State to deliver a warning from the Attorney General that unless their behavior was moderated, they would no longer be exempted from U.S. regulations that enforced the departure of foreigners without valid passports. The memorandum of conversation is ibid., POL 25–1 IRAN. For text, see the Supplement, the compilation on Iran.