1. Coup 53, which was digitally screened yesterday, is a good watch, a well made and gripping film with an important story to tell. The film makes the most of the scholarship that has taken place over the 35 years and the documentary evidence that is now in the public domain.
  1. At the heart of Coup 53 is an episode on Iran of the 1985 Granada series End of Empire.  The programme revealed that the 1953 coup in Iran was engineered by MI6 and carried out with the help of the CIA. The programme interviewed embassy officials Sam Falle,  chargé d’affaires George Middleton and other Foreign Office officials and politicians involved at the time who clearly told the story.  The way we worked was to conduct sound only research interviews on a totally off the record basis. These were used to compile the scenario we wanted to film. We then went back to our contributors to persuade them to say the important bits on camera. 95 per cent agreed. One of them, MI6 agent Norman Darbyshire, refused, wanting to preserve his identity.  This was a pity but not a complete loss. We used the information he gave us to inform our questions to Tehran embassy official Sam Falle and many others. The crucial story that MI6 masterminded the coup was clearly revealed in our programme. 
  1. Coup 53 retells the coup story in much detail but their story is wrapped round a completely false narrative  –  claiming that End of Empire filmed Norman Darbyshire  and that the interview was cut out of an early version of the programme at MI6’s or the British Government’s request.  It also contains a clear inference that, even today, neither of the programme’s makers will admit to this.  We categorically refute this.  
  1. This is achieved by some clever editing. Alison Rooper was invited to the Coup 53 editing suite in June 2018 and shown some of the research papers she’d worked on 35 years ago. In her filmed conversation with director Taghi Amirani she clearly states that End of Empire did not film an interview with Norman Darbyshire.  She is then asked “Was there ever a version of the film with Norman Darbyshire in it?” She answers “I don’t remember that” (meaning she didn’t remember that there ever was ) and, as is reasonable for something that happened 35 years ago,  “We have to check”.   The impact of this editing leaves the viewer with the sense that she is being evasive or hiding something. This is grossly unfair.
  1. As “evidence” that she is not telling the truth, Coup 53 comes up with an ingenious device. They invite End of Empire cameraman Humphrey Trevelyn to the Savoy hotel where he filmed several British officials in 1984 to view a re-enactment of what he is told isthe transcript of a filmed interview with Darbyshire. In fact the re-enactment is based on the transcript of the only interview with Darbyshire which ever took place, the off-the -record one, recorded on audio tape in his flat in Kensington. Interviewed, the cameraman recalls his surprise at the candour of the man he remembers filming. “I got the feeling that he was somebody who had had time to reflect and felt that there wasn’t any reason to hide these things”.  The problem is that he was in fact remembering his reactions in 1984 to the interview we filmed with Foreign Office official Sam Falle.  
  1. Coup 53 then interviews End of Empire consultant (Mossadegh’s grandson) to say that he was told by us that an MI6 agent came to a pre transmission screening, was unhappy with his contribution and wanted it removed from the film at the request of the British Government. Darbyshire did not attend any screenings or meetings at Granada or elsewhere. Our consultant has misremembered this.
  1.  Building on their thesis, by now stated as fact in Coup 53’s commentary, that Norman Darbyshire was filmed by End of Empire but the programme was censored by government, Coup 53 claims that a filmed interview with CIA agent Stephen Meade was “also cut” from the programme. We in fact used only 16 of 22 filmed interviews in the programme. Stephen Meade was one of six interviews not used. 
  1. By way of further “evidence” Coup53 explores an Observer article, published the day before End of Empire:Iran’s  transmission on 27th May 1985, quoting an unnamed MI6 agent’s account of his role organising the 1953 coup against Mossadegh.   On camera Amirani telephones the article’s author, Observer reporter Nigel Hawkes, to remind him of the piece he wrote 35 years ago and informs him that the agent didn’t actually appear in the programme. The reporter who has little if any memory of writing the article and can’t confirm any details, comments “That’s very odd”, creating a further sense of intrigue.   What Amirani fails to tell him or viewers is that this same Observer article made it very clear that the MI6 man would not be named or appear in the film because he wanted his identity protected. 
  1. At the end of Coup 53 viewers are left thinking there is a still a mystery about “who leaked” the words of the MI6 agent to the Observer preview of 1985 and where, or if, Darbyshire was filmed.  Two final captions state: “the film makers still do not know who leaked the Darbyshire transcript to the Observer newspaper”  and  “the location or existence of the film of the original Darbyshire interview is also unknown at this time”.
  1. In conclusion the viewer is left with the strong feeling that the producers of  End of Empire: Iran  are trying to hide the existence of a filmed Darbyshire interview – the inference being we are covering up government censorship of Granada Television and Channel 4 – calling into question our professional integrity. 
  1. Coup 53’s filmmakers have failed to show us a cut of the film since it was completed in 2019, despite several requests.  If they had done so we would have provided them with the evidence that Darbyshire never agreed to be filmed; that the cameraman is misremembering the identity of the official who spoke very openly; that Mossadegh’s grandson is muddling Darbyshire with Sam Falle; and that Granada itself shared the Darbyshire interview with the Observer as pre publicity for our programme. 
  1. Coup 53 contains clips from at least 9 of the 22 interviews we conducted and filmed for End of Empire:Iran but gives no onscreen credit to any of them.  They form a large part of the witness evidence in Coup53. We note that Coup 53 uses very little of our interview with Sam Falle who was very open about the British involvement in the coup. 
  1. Consequently the impression is given that none of what we were told in our off-the-record interview with Norman Darbyshire was included in our programme and that Coup 53 is the first to reveal the story. Our interviews were hugely informed by what he told us and our programme made it crystal clear that MI6 had masterminded the coup against Mossadegh and roped in the CIA to help. It is as a result of our revelations and our off the record interview with Darbyshire that, since 2000, authors and academics have been able to identify Darbyshire as the key MI6 agent and, using corroboration from leaked official CIA accounts,  publish the details of Britain’s role in the overthrow of Mossadegh – though Coup 53 is certainly the first documentary to identify his name and quote directly from his words. 

By: Alison Rooper, Mark Anderson and Norma Percy

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: