Mohammad Derakhshesh, 88, a former teacher, member of parliament and minister of education in Iran, died of a stroke June 2 at Suburban Hospital. Imprisoned in the 1960s by the shah's secret police and again after the Iranian revolution by Ayatollah Khomeini's secret police, he fled Iran in 1981. He was a resident of Chevy Chase.
Dr. Derakhshesh was born in Tehran and received his undergraduate degree in 1938 and his PhD in political history in 1941, both from a Tehran teachers training college. He became president of the institution's alumni group and then president of the Iran Teachers Association, a group that advocated education reform and democracy.
He also was at the center of the Mehregan in Tehran, a political and cultural organization that attracted writers, poets and activists. He started a newspaper of the same name, which, as the official publication of the Iran Teachers Association, became an important voice of reform.
An ardent nationalist who believed in a secular democratic government for his nation, Dr. Derakhshesh was elected to parliament in 1953. In 1954, he spoke on the floor of parliament for seven hours straight in opposition to concessions that the government of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was offering foreign oil companies. He often spoke out against government corruption.
In 1961, he led the first teachers strike in Iran's modern history. After a teacher was killed while demonstrating, the strike spread to other sectors of the economy, and the government fell. Dr. Derakhshesh was thrown in jail but was released after three days, and was appointed minister of education in a new cabinet. During his 14-month tenure he was able to set in motion several reforms, including teacher pay raises, more scholarships for poor students and programs that allowed young Iranians to study abroad. He also helped found the University of Shiraz.
He continued to speak out against government corruption. In 1963, he was arrested by SAVAK, the shah's secret police, and charged with seditious comments in his lectures and his publications. He endured eight years' of house arrest and occasional imprisonment.
In 1980, he was arrested after student radicals who took over the American embassy found his name among the papers of U.S. Ambassador William Sullivan. The two men had conferred on numerous occasions. One of his former students helped get him out of prison and then drove him to the Tehran airport. He boarded a plane for Paris, where his two daughters were studying. He and his family lived in Paris for two years before immigrating to the United States and settling in Chevy Chase.
The ITA participated in the 1979 revolution against the Shah but was suppressed two years later when Dr. Derakhshesh and other leaders refused to become part of the Khomeni regime. In 1982, he incorporated ITA in Washington.
In 1992, Dr. Derakhshesh revived "Mehregan" as a magazine in exile, publishing works from writers, poets and intellectuals both inside and outside Iran. Under his direction, the journal published 37 issues in the period between its 1991 inaugural issue and its final issue in 2004. He also was the author of four books and numerous articles.
Dr. Derakhshesh contended that the Islamic Republic of Iran was the first government in modern times to legitimize terrorism. In an unpublished article he completed shortly before his death, he maintained that the current regime continues to sponsor terrorist operations both at home and abroad, and he urged other countries to "follow the money" and ban Iran's oil exports.
Survivors include his wife of 50 years, Mina Derakhshesh of Chevy Chase; and two daughters, Derayeh Derakhshesh and Setareh Sieg, both of Chevy Chase.