Former diplomat and innovator, Ghafour Youssefiani has died of natural causes at the age of 90.
Based in Washington, D.C., Youseffiani passed away during a visit to Tehran.
Youssefiani was born in 1928 in Hamadan, Iran, to an Iranian family of Kurdish descent. His last
post before the Iranian Revolution was Governor of OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) from 1974-1979.
Following the Revolution, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Court sentenced him to an eight-year prison term, charging him with crimes which included implementing energy policies under Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, deputizing on behalf of former Prime Minister Jamshid Amouzegar, maintaining intimate relations with Western imperial powers, and devising the formula for JP-4 jet fuel.
On Christmas Eve 1975, Youssefiani was taken hostage, in Vienna, Austria, by Carlos the Jackal, along with former Iranian Prime Minister Jamshid Amouzegar, Saudi Oil Minister Sheikh Zaki Yamani and 11 other OPEC Oil Ministers. After releasing all of the other hostages, Carlos held on to Amouzegar, Yamani and Youssefiani, threatening them with public execution. They were eventually released after 72 hours of negotiations and a reported ransom of $60 million, paid by the governments of Iran and Saudi Arabia.
As a diplomat in the early 70’s,Youssefiani served as chief representative and executive of the National Iranian Oil Company’s Far East division, inaugurating that operation in Tokyo in 1970 while overseeing the expansion of Iran’s oil, gas and petrochemical activities in the Far East.
In 1958, while heading Iran’s Abadan Refinery Petrochemical Engineering Center, Youssefiani was credited with several game-changing scientific and engineering innovations, including: the formulation of “JP-4,” the high-grade jet propulsion fuel which until 1995 was used by military jet aircraft worldwide; and the design and integration of computer systems in oil, gas and refinery systems.
An accomplished equestrian, a sport he mastered in his native Kurdistan, Youssefiani bred and trained championship horses and formed teams that took part in international competitions. He particularly loved dressage and steeplechase, and captained several national polo club tournaments.
Youssefiani’s university studies were conducted in Europe. He secured degrees in petrochemical and oil and gas refinery systems and computer modeling and systems integration from the Delft Institute of Technology (Netherlands), and a doctorate of chemistry from the University of Manchester, England. Prior to his studies abroad, Youssefiani got an engineering degree from Abadan Petroleum University (Daneshkah Sanaat Naft Abadan) and graduated from the American College of Tehran, a preparatory school that was later named Dabirestan Alborz.
Ghafour Youssefiani is survived by two sons, Mehrdad and Ali and a 20-year-old grandson, Dariush Raymond, who live in the United States.