Friday marks the 27th anniversary of the passing of Imam Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
He has been dead for 27 years, but he continues to leave his mark on Iran and the Islamic world today: Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, leader of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, died on June 3, 1989.
Revolution in Iran
In January 1963, under pressure from the United States, Shah presented his six-point program, the so-called White Revolution. This program was intended to westernize Iran and give it a more liberal face. Imam Khomeini held a meeting in Qum to discuss the situation with the scholars. They decided to send Ayatollah Kamalvand to the Shah so that they could get an idea of the Shah’s intentions. The Shah was not willing to compromise and wanted to go through with his six-point program. Imam Khomeini then wrote a very critical article about the Shah. Two days later, the Shah replied back, insulting the ulama (scholars) of Qum. Imam Khomeini did not back down and collected signatures of scholars against the Shah and his plans. He criticized the spread of immorality and accused the Shah of carrying out the policies of the U.S. and Israel.
On the afternoon of June 3, 1963, Imam Khomeini delivered a speech at the Feyziyeh Madrasa. In his speech, he compared the Shah to the bloodthirsty Caliph Yazid. He warned the Shah to obey false powers. Imam Khomeini’s speech spread very quickly in Iran, so he was arrested and sent to the Qasr prison of Tehran. Large demonstrations against Shah took place in Tehran, Qum, Shiraz, Mashhad and Varamin. The angry demonstrators demanded the Imam’s release. On April 7, 1964, Imam Khomeini was released and allowed to return to Qum.
Shah continued with his pro-American policy and granted complete immunity to American personnel in Iran in 1964. Imam Khomeini continued to criticize him and was imprisoned again on November 4, 1964. This time he was deported to Turkey. Turkish law forbade the Imam from wearing his religious garb and turban, so on Sept. 5, 1965, he moved to Najaf, Iraq. In Iraq, the Imam spent 13 years of his life. He began teaching fiqh at the religious schools in Najaf. Here he developed the idea of the rule of the jurists (Velayat-e-Faqih). Visitors from Iran spread the Imam’s views in Iran.
In June 1975, students began demonstrating in Qum, expressing their sympathy for the Imam in Iraqi exile. Imam Khomeini responded to the demonstrations in Iran with a message of greeting in which he criticized the conditions. In 1978, riots broke out everywhere and were bloodily put down. The crowds demanded an Islamic government and wanted to drive out the Shah. On Sept. 24, 1978, the Shah of Iran signed an agreement with Iraq. The Iraqis were to surround Imam Khomeini’s house and prevent him from engaging in political activities. Eventually, the Imam left Iraq for Kuwait, but there, as in Algeria, Syria, and Lebanon, they would not accept him. So he moved to a suburb of Paris (Neauphle-le-Chateau). This small place became world famous and Imam Khomeini’s house was surrounded by Western journalists.
On February 1, Imam Khomeini landed in Iran on an Air-France plane. Earlier, the Shah had fled Iran. Millions of people welcomed the Imam in the streets. On February 12, the old system completely collapsed.