The Death of an Ayatollah

bkyser on Apr 16th 2012

Here is a New York Times article released after Ayatollah Khomeini’s death in June 1989. This article discusses key events in Khomeini’s life including the Iran-Iraq War and the fatwa he issued against Salman Rushdie. It also discusses his rise to power including the dismissal of Ayatollah Hussein Ali Montazeri and the fact that there was nobody left in Iran to challenge his authority after his return in 1979. His anti-American and anti-Western sentiments were a large part of his political career and are also included in this article. One anti-American event that is mentioned is the chanting of “Death to America!” and “Death to Israel!” that took place in the 1987 Hajj by Iranian pilgrims.
What is interesting about Khomeini’s life is that many details are missing. For example, the exact year of his birth is unknown. However, many believe that he was born in either 1900, 1901, or 1902. Many details from his childhood are also missing. One key event from his childhood remains well-known and that is his father’s murder. He is reported to have been murdered regarding a land dispute with his landowner; however, many of Khomeini’s supporters attributed his murder to that of Reza Khan, also known as Reza Shah.
This article also discusses Khomeini’s opposition to the Shah’s, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, White Revolution. The White Revolution called for the emancipation of women as well as seizure of lands by the government from the clergy.  He criticized the Shah for this and students at Tehran University published 200,000 copies of his statements condemning the Shah for the White Revolution.  That same year, while preaching to students in Qom, Khomeini was arrested. He was kept under house arrest for a short period of time and then eventually, after criticizing a law allowing American servicemen to receive immunity from Iranian laws, he was sent into exile. His first stop on his journey in exile was Turkey, and then later he went to Najaf, Iraq, where he spent a majority of his time in exile. He later went to Paris before returning to Iran in February 1979 after the Shah left for exile. After his return he called for compulsory veiling of women as well as for as well as for the removal of non-Islamic workers in many industries. Iran also began financing terrorist groups in the Persian Gulf in countries such as Kuwait, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia.
It was believed by many that Ayatollah Khomeini’s son would assume his role as Supreme Leader; however, on the day after his death, President Ali Khamenei was named the new Supreme Leader.

RAYMOND H. ANDERSON, “Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, 89, Relentless Founder of Iran’s Islamic Republic,” The New York Times, June 5, 1989, http://www.nytimes.com/1989/06/05/world/ayatollah-ruhollah-khomeini-89-relentless-founder-of-iran-s-islamic-republic.html (accessed April 16, 2012).

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