In Part One we read about the Road to the Iranian Revolution. Here, in Part Two, Rowena Abdul Razak describes the return in February 1979 of the Ayatollah Khomeini.
On February 1, 1979, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini descended an Air France jet at Tehran Airport, stepping on his native soil for the first time after 18 years in exile. Looking solemn in his black robes, he arrived to lay the foundations of the new government.
For many years Khomeini had been the figurehead for opposition to the reign of Mohammed Reza Shah. Groups from socialists to nationalists put aside their ideological differences to unite under his leadership. In the previous article, we discussed the dissatisfaction and anger in Iran that led to the 1979 revolution. But how was Khomeini able to spearhead and guide the uprising from his exile in France?
‘Death to the Shah’
Despite the ban on political parties in Iran, revolutionary opposition existed in the form of a number of different groups: the Tudeh Party (a communist party founded in the 1940s), the Marxist Fedaiyan-e Khalq(‘Devotees of the People’), the Maoists, and the Islamic Mojahedin-e Khalq (‘Fighters for the People’). These parties had distinct ideologies but one common goal: the overthrow of the Shah. Their members came from the intelligentsia: some had been exiled, whilst others had been imprisoned or tortured by SAVAK, the Shah’s secret police. These parties had a strong following amongst high-school graduates unable to find a university place, and university graduates unable to find a job.