Imam Khomeini’s key role in triumph of the Islamic Revolution (Part 3)
Residence in a non-Muslim land was no doubt experienced by Imam Khomeini as irksome, and in the declaration he issued from Neauphle-le-Chateau on October 11, 1978, the fortieth day after the massacres of Black Friday, he announced his intention of moving to any Muslim country that assured him freedom of speech. No such assurance ever materialized. In addition, his forced removal from Najaf increased popular anger in Iran still further. It was, however, the Shah’s regime that turned out to be the ultimate loser from this move. Telephonic communications with Tehran were far easier from Paris than they had been from Najaf, thanks to the Shah’s determination to link Iran with the West in every possible way, and the messages and instructions the Imam issued flowed forth uninterrupted from the modest command center he established in a small house opposite his residence.
Moreover, a host of journalists from across the world now made their way to France, and the image and the words of the Imam soon became a daily feature in the world’s media.
In Iran meanwhile, the Shah was continuously reshaping his government. First he brought in as Prime Minister Sharif-Imami, an individual supposedly close to conservative elements among the ulama. Then, on November 6, he formed a military government under General Ghulam-Riza Azhari, a move explicitly recommended by the United States. These political maneuverings had essentially no effect on the progress of the revolution. On November 23, one week before the beginning of Muharram, the Imam issued a declaration in which he likened the month to “a divine sword in the hands of the soldiers of Islam, our great religious leaders, and respected preachers, and all the followers of Imam Hussein, Seyyed al-shuhada’.” They must, he continued, “make maximum use of it; trusting in the power of God, they must tear out the remaining roots of this tree of oppression and treachery.” As for the military government, it was contrary to the Shari’ah and opposition to it a religious duty.
Vast demonstrations unfurled across Iran as soon as Muharram began. Thousands of people donned white shrouds as a token of readiness for martyrdom and were cut down as they defied the nightly curfew. On Muharram 9, a million people marched in Tehran demanding the overthrow of the monarchy, and the following day, ‘Ashura, more than two million demonstrators approved by acclamation a seventeen-point declaration of which the most important demand was the formation of an Islamic government headed by the Imam. Killings by the army continued, but military discipline began to crumble, and the revolution acquired an economic dimension with the proclamation of a national strike on December 18. With his regime crumbling, the Shah now attempted to co-opt secular, liberal-nationalist politicians in order to forestall the foundation of an Islamic government. On January 3, 1979, Shahpur Bakhtiyar of the National Front (Jabha-yi Milli) was appointed prime minister to replace General Azhari, and plans were drawn up for the Shah to leave the country for what was advertised as a temporary absence. On January 12, the formation of a nine-member regency council was announced; headed by Jalal al-Din Tihrani, an individual proclaimed to have religious credentials, it was to represent the Shah’s authority in his absence. None of these maneuvers distracted the Imam from the goal now increasingly within reach.
The very next day after the formation of the regency council, he proclaimed from Neauphle-le-Chateau the formation of the Council of the Islamic Revolution (Shaura-yi Inqilab-i Islami), a body entrusted with establishing a transitional government to replace the Bakhtiyar administration. On January 16, amid scenes of feverish popular rejoicing, the Shah left Iran for exile and death.
What remained now was to remove Bakhtiyar and prevent a military coup detat enabling the Shah to return. The first of these aims came closer to realization when Sayyid Jalal al-Din Tihrani came to Paris in order to seek a compromise with Imam Khomeini. He refused to see him until he resigned from the regency council and pronounced it illegal. As for the military, the gap between senior generals, unconditionally loyal to the Shah, and the growing number of officers and recruits sympathetic to the revolution, was constantly growing. When the United States dispatched General Huyser, commander of NATO land forces in Europe, to investigate the possibility of a military coup, he was obliged to report that it was pointless even to consider such a step.
Culmination and Victory of the Islamic Revolution
Concept Behind the Islamic Republic of Iran
Shah of Iran flees into exile
Ideology of Iranian Revolution
Dey 19th Protest in Qom (Part 1)
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