In the path of the Imam (60)
During the two last years of the despotic regime of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the political struggles of the Iranian nation intensified. The Shah tried to pass this period by taking seemingly reformist measures and then return the conditions to the previous state once the international circumstances were calm.
He had learnt this from the Kennedy administration. In those days, under the pressure of Democrats in the US, he tried to embark on some superficial reforms. But, as soon as J. F. Kennedy was assassinated and the United States invaded Vietnam, pressures were removed from the Shah and he restored despotic rule in the country.
In mid-1970s, with coming to power of Jimmy Carter, the Shah was forced to create a relatively open political atmosphere in the country in a bid to keep the US support. But, this time with the vigilance and intransigence of Imam Khomeini, the Pahlavi regime was overthrown and the Islamic Revolution triumphed with the motto of establishing independence, freedom and maintenance of social justice. No doubt, if Imam Khomeini was a compromising person, the Shah could pass through that period successfully; hence, his dictatorial regime would persist. Yet, the Imam clearly announced that the Shah should go and the dictatorship should be dismantled. He never retreated. Late Fakhr-udDin Hejazi, one of the companions of Imam Khomeini, said, “The Imam said in Paris, ‘We don’t just say that the Shah should go; we rather say that basically, the royal system should go’.”
The clear and brave stances of Imam Khomeini in negation of the tyrannical regime in Iran intensified very much during the years 1356-57 (1978-79). He spoke several times on the necessity of ending dictatorial system in Iran. This stance played a very important role in the victory of the Islamic Revolution.
Journalist of the French daily Le Monde prepared a report from his visit with Imam Khomeini in Najaf where he referring to the Imam’s countenance, wrote, “… with an authoritative expression and a calm tone, he talked with us for two hours. Even when he was repeating the issue that Iran should get rid of the Shah and also when he pointed to his son’s death, there was neither any effect of excitement in his voice nor a movement in the lines of his face. The way he behaved and his power of dominance and self-restraint was wise. Instead of putting stress on the words to suggest his faith and idea to the audience, he did this with his look; a look that was always influential. Yet, when the issue reached a sensitive and great point, his look was sharp and intolerable. The Ayatollah had a resolute and perfect decision; and was not seeking to accept any reconciliation. He is determined to continue his struggle against the Shah till the end.”
The Shah, in the death agony of his regime, resorted to every gimmick to deviate the popular struggles and applied different conspiracies to calm the situation to resume his schemes. This method had been experienced many times in other dictatorial regimes. However, Imam Khomeini, owing to his exemplary courage and political acumen, was never hoodwinked by those methods and advanced the struggles till victory.
Martyr Ayatollah Sadooqi mentioned an interesting memory, saying, “One of the members of the government and the SAVAK came to me and said that he had a suggestion. He said, ‘Let the Shah be present while the entire government structure would be under [Imam] Khomeini’s authority and he would have authority including on the cabinet, army, the whole traditional government structure, provided that the Shah stays and is the ruler rather than the Shah…’. We went to Paris with a few friends and informed the Imam the same suggestion. Mr. Sanjabi and Mr. Bazargan had already spoken of such things. I told the Imam, ‘I know that this is not acceptable to you but they have asked for such a thing.’ He said, ‘Yes, these are satans and the Satan should learn from them in this. Such a movement, that has been unprecedented in the world, has emerged in Iran while they are all trying so that this movement is defeated; and after the fall of this movement, if we want to start such a movement from the beginning, it won’t be feasible for us one hundred percent. Once the movement falls and they dominate over the affairs and conditions, one hundred percent, they will act worse than before.”
During the years of the climax of the revolution, some of the revolutionaries were concerned about the fate of the country and the likelihood of a civil war. They conveyed their concern to the Imam, too. But, he would always soothe them with his unique confidence and trust in God while he was sure of the victory of the revolution.
Mehdi Bazargan was one of the prominent persons who had shown his concern to Imam Khomeini and seen the Imam’s reaction. He said, “I wanted to explain whatever I had seen to Ayatollah Khomeini. I felt that we had been successful. Yet, we had to understand that from all generals and those below them had been mobilized against the revolution. We were facing a civil war and an unprecedented massacre. I explained my fear to Ayatollah Khomeini but he answered, ‘You must not compromise. The sentiments have got to the climax and this is the best guarantee for victory. If you talk about order and law now, the revolution will lose everything.’ I told him that, ‘I want to ask you a question to clarify the matter for myself. Are you convinced that you can continue?’ Can you guarantee our victory before the army, the Americans and Europe?’ Ayatollah Khomeini answered, ‘I have confidence in God.’ I told him, ‘Alright, we have always worked under your leadership and will continue following you. But I have to confess my concern.’”
One of the obvious examples of Imam Khomeini’s intransigence and vigilance was his confrontation with the government of Shapur Bakhtiar. The Shah appointed one of the leaders of the National Front, who was in serious encounter with the regime, as prime minister with the hope that he would safeguard the throne. Bakhtiar’s coming to power caused a kind of dichotomy among the opponents of the regime. The simpleminded people, like Bazargan, thought that with premiership of an opposition element, it is clear that the Shah has accepted to be a ruler and not the king; so we should welcome this measure and decelerate protests and the struggle. But, Imam Khomeini, through adoption of very harsh stances against Bakhtiar’s government, displayed his uncompromising characteristic and forced him to resign.
Bakhtiar made a lot of effort to threaten Imam Khomeini and force him to accept his rule; but the Imam didn’t retreat even a single step and declared Bakhtiar’s government illegal. Some of the leaders of politicians, especially those of the National Front, met with Imam Khomeini in Paris and asked him to accept Bakhtiar’s government. But, the Imam insisted on the illegality of his government. In response to Bakhtiar’s request for meeting him, Imam Khomeini announced that his prerequisite for the meeting is Bakhtiar’s resignation. He said, “I won’t meet him as long as he is prime minister.”
Imam Khomeini would never accept the delegations that came as a sort of intermediary to make him withdraw from his stances. One of those delegations was a group of the Egyptian scholars headed by the minister of endowment. They requested Imam Khomeini to give up his stance on the annulment of kingdom but the Imam didn’t accept it. Hojjat-ol-Eslam Mahdi Pishvai writes on this, “The Imam refused to accept the Egyptian delegation headed by the minster of endowment (who was one of the Egyptian scholars). This delegation had been sent by Anwar Sadat while the Imam was in Paris to make him give up the annulment of kingdom in Iran.”
Imam Khomeini didn’t allow the sister of Jordanian King Hussein to meet him. Undoubtedly, it was this uncompromising and decisiveness of Imam Khomeini that united millions of people on the streets of Tehran and other cities against the regime of Shah resulting in the overthrow of the regime within a few months.