Mehdi Bazargan was born into a devout family of merchants in 1907. He was a French-trained engineer, an Islamic scholar, and a long-time pro-democracy activist. While studying in France he voluntarily entered the French Army and fought against Nazi Germany.
When nationalists came briefly to power in the early 1950s, he served as deputy prime minister during the Premiership of Dr. Mohammad Mosaddeq. Bazargan also participated with Ayatollah Mahmoud Taleqani and others in a reform movement in the early 1960s aimed at democratizing the Shi'ia clerical establishment.
Bazargan was imprisoned several times during the 1960s and 1970s for his non-violent opposition to the Mohammad Reza Shah through groups such as the Liberation Movement of Iran, which he co-founded in 1961, and the Iranian Human Rights Association, which he also co-founded in 1977.
When the Mohammad Reza Shah was forced out of Iran in 1979, Ayatollah Khomeini appointed Bazargan as provisional prime minister, but he resigned within a year, complaining that radical clerics were undermining his government.
Bazargan continued to serve in the Iranian parliament for several years, harassed by his radical opponents, then lived in a sort of political limbo until his death in early 1995. He was a barely tolerated symbol of opposition to the radical elements of Islamic Republic Government.