Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Pop History Moment: Khomeini Returns To Iran

When, in 1964, the Shah of Iran had the chance to kill his most outspoken opponent - Ruhollah Khomeini - he chose the more merciful path, and instead sent him into exile in Turkey; hindsight has shown that while the Shah's decision may have been morally right, it was political suicide.

PhotobucketAfter a year in Bursa, the exiled Ayatollah made his way to the holy city of Najaf, in Iraq, and from there began to develop his ideas on Islamic government. Both cruel and paranoid, his teachings were recorded on audio cassettes and distributed amongst fundamentalists; in most of them he denounced the Shah as 'a Jewish agent' and 'a snake'. Having already ordered the execution of Iranian Prime Minister Hasan Ali Mansur, by 1979 it was clear that Khomeini would stop at nothing to achieve his delusions.

Although he'd been invited back to Iran, Khomeini refused to return while the Shah was there. When the Shah left at the end of January the stage was set; more than 6 million people attended the homecoming of the Ayatollah just two weeks later, on this day in 1979.

The Iranian Revolution was complete, or so it seemed...

Yet upon his return Khomeini moved swiftly to consolidate his power, first by appointing his own Prime Minister Mehdi Bazargan over Dr. Shapour Bakhtiar (who had been responsible for inviting Khomeini back), and then by ordering scores of executions among the old regime, including former Prime Minister Amir Abbas Hoveida and Bakhtiar himself (who had escaped to Paris) - a number which eventually amounted to more than 60.

In October 1979 the Shah was admitted to the United States for the treatment of his cancer; this act of mercy so outraged certain followers of Mohammed that within a week students belonging to the militant group Muslim Student Followers of the Imam's Line stormed the US Embassy in Tehran and took 52 hostages. The ensuing crisis, which lasted 444 days (and remains a contentious issue between the two countries today) was merely the beginning of Khomeini's Cultural Revolution which has left moderate Muslims and Westerners alike fearful of confronting Islamic fundamentalism to this day.
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1 comment:

Wynn Bexton said...

A fascinating account. Thanks.