MARD-e EMRUZ

MARD-E EMRUZ (Man of today), a controversial and highly popular newspaper published weekly in Tehran, with frequent interruptions, from 19 August 1942 to 14 February 1947, by Mohammad Mas’ud (Moḥammad Masʿud, 1901-1947; q.v.), the noted journalist and the author of several popular, and also controversial social novels.

Capitalizing on the freedom of expression that followed the invasion of Iran by the Allied Forces, and the subsequent fall of Reza Shah Pahlavi in 1941, Mas’ud, whose earlier attempts to obtain a journalistic license had been rebuked, reapplied for the license. The initial title he had asked for was Mard-e āzād (The free man), a daily newspaper published in Tehran from 29 January to 14 November 1923 by ʿAli Akbar Dāvar (1885-1937), who had facilitated Mas’ud’s trip to Europe on a government scholarship to continue his studies. When he was denied the title, he opted for Mard-e emruz, instead (Šifta, p. 13). From 1942 to 1943 Mard-e emruz was published as the organ of Paykār, a political party founded by Ḵosrow Eqbāl (Elwell-Sutton, column 356), and then as an independent journal.

Mard-e emruz was a twelve (occasionally eight) page weekly, measuring 35 x 49 cm, which through fifth issues appeared on Thursdays, and from the sixth issue onward shifted to Saturdays. It was among few journals of the time, which had an officially assigned editorial board: Mohammad Mas’ud, director and author of editorials; Naṣr-Allāh Šifta, managing editor; Parviz Lādbon, translator and political analyst; Ḥosayn Banāʾi, illustrator and caricaturist; along with Ḥosayn Fāṭemi, Abu’l-Faẓl Āl-e Buya, and Esmāʿil Purvāli, as regular contributors to the Journal (Abu’l-Ḥasani, 2006, p. 144). Never absent from the pages of Mard-e emruz were articles on such sensitive issues of the day as oil agreements and railroad industries. The Persian translation of articles published in American and French journals on separatist movements in Azerbaijan and the coverage of World War II also featured in the newspaper on a regular basis. Mention should also be made of Bahrām Šāhroḵ’s passionate articles exposing the despotic atrocities by which Reza Shah’s reign was remembered on those days. Ḥosayn Fāṭemi (1917-1954), the editor of Batar-e emruz, and the minister of foreign affairs in the government of Moḥammad Moṣaddeq published his articles, while he was in Europe, in Mard-e Emruz (Šifta, p. 18). It is interesting to note that Fāṭemi narrowly escaped an attempt on his life carried out by a member of the Fedāʾiān-e Eslām, while delivering a memorial speech at Mas’ud’s tomb on the fourth anniversary commemoration of his assassination in 1947 (Azimi, p. 405).

Naṣr-Allāh Šifta (1918-1995), who was in charge of the metropolitan news of the newspaper, contributed heated and highly popular reports on the city’s brothels, as well as poorly managed hospitals, slaughterhouses and asylums for the mentally ill. Publishing the weekly schedule of movie theaters was also a unique feature of this newspaper. Commercial advertisements appeared on various pages, but the sixth page and the major part of the seventh page were specifically allocated to commercial advertisements. They covered a wide range, from cosmetics and hair coloring products, to the contact information of drug rehabilitation centers, clinics specialized in the treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, and on to the schedule of intercity buses, imported goods new to the market, and newly published journals and magazines.

Mas’ud’s highly charged articles against the Pahlavi court, the occupation of Iran by the Allied Forces, the secessionist movement in Azerbaijan, as well as the Tudeh party and its adherents, soon turned Mard-e emruz into the most widely read journal of the day (Kamshad, p. 66; Mošfeq Kāzemi, II, p. 91; Behzādi, p. 680). The print run of the newspaper exceeded 30,000 for several years. It was often sold out and sometimes even reprinted or re-sold in the black market at a higher price. Mas’ud’s novel idea to print the title of the newspaper in red enhanced its popularity. Editorials appeared on the right side of the front page. The left side, as well as the top of the page was allocated to sensational stories about political figures and events with a scandalous overtone. An edited picture or a caricature of a political figure appeared either on the bottom half of the front page, and/or the last page of Mard-e emruz; a novel idea ignored by many journals of the period (Ḵāmaʾi, p. 696). On occasion, a "comic strip" was published, satirizing oil deals, government riggings of the elections, and the incompetence of a cabinet minister or a member of parliament. In the first issues, Mas’ud oversaw the selection of cover illustrations and back cover caricatures, himself. The task was soon delegated to Ḥosayn Banāʾi, a professional caricaturist who later became the head of Iran’s Scouting Organization (Afšār, p. 743; Šāygān, p. 10).

Following the footsteps of European newspapers, Mard-e emruz had also a sports section. Mas’ud even held bicycle races and for a while appointed one of its winners Parviz Ḵosravāni (the future General and the head of the National Organization of Physical Education) in charge of the sports section (Šifta, p. 55). Mas’ud also introduced the innovative idea of “Ṣafḥa-ye ḥavādeṯ” in Mard-e emruz. There was also a page set for people’s letters, grieving the pitfalls of the system and the misconduct of government officials. To ensure a wider recognition, Mas’ud held ceremonies in celebration of the Journal’s anniversary; an event that noted journalists, artists, and the cultural elite did not forget to attend. He even sent flowers and food to hospitals for the occasion.

Mas’ud’s editorials in Mard-e emruz were often colored by the disclosure of the classified, and not always based on substantiated information (Irāni, p. 30). His editorial on the assassination of Mirzāda ʿEšqi (1894-1923; see ʿEŠQĪ, MOḤAMMAD-REŻĀ MĪRZĀDA), entitled “Az parvandahā-e maḥramāna-ye Šahrbāni” (From the classified files of the Police Department), offers a telling example (Mard-e emruz, 16 Ordibehešt 1323Š./ 7 May 1944). The language and structure of the article, as disputed by a critic of the next generation, leaves little room for its plausibility as an officially classified document (Qāʾed, p. 336).

As noted by Naṣr-Allah Šifta, a close friend and colleague, Mas’ud’s strong voice in betraying corrupt politicians, although cost Mard-e emruz frequent suspension, was not always disliked by government authorities. Instead, they tried to benefit from his journalistic appeal and bold language in suppressing the opponents, as demanded by the daily course of the political events (Šifta, p. 153).

Mas’ud’s engagement with journalism coincided with one of the most critical periods of Iran’s recent history. His uncompromising rejection of Russian encroachments in Iran brought him into harsh conflicts with Aḥmad Qavām (Qavām-al-Salṭana, 1873-1955), and his pragmatism in handling the intertwined predicaments of the Azerbaijan crisis, the Soviet oil deal, and the refusal of the Soviet forces to leave Iran. Throughout years, which partly coincided with Qavam’s longest term as prime minister from February 1946 to September 1947, Mas’ud published over twenty-eight articles against Qavām. In his attempts to earn Mas’ud’s silence, Qavām offered to either purchase one thousand copies of Mard-e emruz each week, or to pay Mas’ud twenty thousand rials each month (Šifta, p. 378).

Mas’ud not only turned down the offer, but in an editorial on August 17, 1947, when the Soviet oil deal was with the parliament for ratification, offered to pay one million rials “to any person or his beneficiary” who would assassinate Qavām while still in office (Mard-e emruz, 25 Mehr 1326Š./6 October 1947; ʿĀqeli, 1, pp. 406-8). Subsequently, he was under legal prosecution for three months, and his paper was suspended. However, he published it secretly (TaherehShokuhi).

Mard-e emruz had a high circulation, and billed its clients a sizable sum for publishing their commercial advertisements. During its life span of six years and a half, stretching from 19 August 1942 to 14 February 1947, Mard-e emruz was suspended 48 times, and only 138 of its issues saw the light of the day (Šifta, p. 44), of which around 25% were published under the license of other journals such as Nasim-e šomāl, edā-ye Irān, Nabard and Nedāy-e āzādi. While Mas’ud was in hiding, stencil copies of Mard-e emruz were circulated (Šifta, p. 92).

Mas’ud paid a high price for his harsh language, “which stopped at nothing and spared no one who had any influence in the affairs of the state (Kamshad, p. 66). On 11 August 1945 five men made it to his office and tried to beat him to his death. Mas’ud’s loud screams brought the neighbors into the scene of the event. Four out five intruders managed to escape, while the fifth one was arrested and taken into custody (Asnād-e mabuʿāt, IV, pp. 838-39: Madr-e emruz, 3/45, 17 August 1945).

It did not take long, however, that subsequent to complex political wheeling and dealing between the leftist and rightist groups, he was fatally shot while sitting in his car in front of Maẓāheri Publishing House on Ekbātān Avenue in Tehran, on Thursday evening, February 11, 1948. At the time, the circumstances surrounding the death were shrouded in mystery. Years later however, a clearer picture emerged. His knowledge of the relationship between the Tudeh Party and Hajj ʿAli Razmārā (1901-1950), the military leader who became prime minister in 1950 and was assassinated at the same year, proved an effective catalyst in his murder. The published confessions of Ḵosrow Ruzbeh, arguably the most controversial member of the Tudeh Party’s military wing, who was executed on 11 May 1958, revealed his involvement in Mas’ud’s murder plot (For further details see MAS’UD, MOHAMMAD; Abrahamian, 1999, pp. 94-95; Esmāʿili, p. 208).

Five issues of Mard-e emruz were published after his assassination by Naṣr-al-Allah Šifta, before it was confiscated in February 1947 (Šifta, p. 384). The second serial of Mard-e emruz, with a pro-Moṣaddeq overtone, was published in 1952 by Hušang Šams Mostowfi, a colleague of Mas’ud, and saw its end after the overthrow of Moṣaddeq in 1953 (see COUP D’ETAT OF 1332 Š./1953). It reappeared for a short period of time (22 February-24 November 1979) after the Revolution of 1979. The entire run of the journal’s articles from 1942 to 1948 has been published with an introduction (Tehran, 1984) by Moḥammad ʿAli Sepānlu, the noted poet and literary critic. The first volume of the collection sold out in just three months. The second volume is still awaiting publication. Copies of Mard-e emruz, in addition to libraries inside Iran, are available at the Library of Congress, libraries of Princeton and Michigan universities, as well as the Russian Academy of Science. 

Bibliography:

Ervand Abrahamian, Tortured Confessions: Prisons and Public Recantations in Modern Iran, Calif., 1999.

ʿAli Abu’l-Ḥasani, “Zamāna va kārnāma-ye Moḥammad Masʿud,” Tāriḵ-e moāṣer-e Iran, 10/40 Winter 1385 Š./2006, pp.115-180.

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Moḥammad ʿAli Sepānlu, “Contemporary Trends in Iranian Publishing,” www.shahbazi.org/Articles/Sepanlou.pdf, accessed at 05/18/2011.

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(Ḥasan Mirʿābedini)

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