The Ayatollah Khomeini

Whatever may be history’s verdict on the Ayatallah Khomeini, there can be no doubt that he has forced us to question some of our most fundamental assumptions about power in the twentieth century.

Ayatallah Khomeini returned to Tehran on February 1st, 1979, the centre of world attention. The disintegration of the centralised Pahlavi state with its modern, sophisticated security systems surprised its friends and foes alike. The lounge-suited figure of the technologically-minded Muhammad Reza Shah had been familiar to Western eyes. Even in his ruritanian military uniforms he belonged to a recognisable world. In his place there now appeared the utterly un-Western figure of the Islamic cleric. The visual contrast could not have been greater. It symbolised the new mood in Iran, where the referendum in March, 1979, overwhelmingly endorsed the Islamic republic.

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