The Role of Imam Khomeini in the Development of the Third World
One of the greatest revolutions mankind has ever known in the Islamic Republic of Iran. The people of Iran, led by their spiritual guide and founding father of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Imam Khomeini, had been fighting against tyranny, foreign domination of their traditional Islamic way of life and beliefs, mismanagement of Iran’s national economy and corruption of all descriptions .
This was the era of the Cold War, fought out between the two super powers, the United States of America and the former Soviet Union and their allies. The United States wanted to take full advantage of its presence in Iran, in the vicinity of the Soviet Union, to further its economic, strategic and military interests. Another attraction for the Americans in Iran was the country’s rich oil deposits, which the Mohammad Reza Pahlavi had placed at their disposal. Political considerations too played a very important role in the American stranglehold on Iran. For in the region, namely the Middle East, is the state of Israel, a protإgإ of the United States of America and a bone of contention between Arab and Muslim nations of the region, including Iran, on one hand, and the United States and Israel, on the other. Israel was, in 1948, carved out of land belonging to the Palestinian Arabs, mainly at the instigation of the United States of America and its allies in the West, an injustice the Arab and Muslim nations of the Middle East have not forgotten or forgiven.
Israel in order to ensure that none of its neighbors posed a threat to its security; all this with the connivance of the Shah. In other words, American presence in Iran served three main purposes, namely to protect Washingston’s interests in its super-power rivalry with the Soviet Union; to keep an eye on and exercise control over the oil trade in the Persian Gulf and adjacent areas and to watch over as well as offer protection to Israel. All these represented a painful slap in the face of Iranian nationalism and intolerable humiliation at the hands of foreigners who were given a free hand by the Shah to do as they liked in Iran. The few Iranian nationalists, at the time, who dared protest or disapprove of what the Shah did to please his American friends, were ruthlessly suppressed. Many suffered imprisonment and death itself.
As if this was not bad enough, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who had been brought up in the Islamic faith, began encouraging the introduction of social practices on the Western model, which was against the teaching of Islam, such as the much resented " white revolution " or living like Americans or Europeans, which he introduced and encouraged all Iranians to take on. This, to most devout Muslims, was an oddity that bordered on heresy. By it, Iranians were encouraged to belong to clubs on the Western model, go to cinemas, where American of European films that depicted Western moral decadence were shown, girls or young women were discouraged from wearing dresses prescribed for them by the Islamic faith and to wear the Western style of dresses, etc., etc.
Of course, it was the duty of the Iranian Islamic clergy to speak out against these practices that ran counter to the Islamic faith-and they did. Later, they also spoke out against all practices that placed Iran under foreign interests. In the lead was Ayatollah Khomeini (RA), to whom many Iranians, rendered voiceless by the Shah’s excesses, rallied. Even he was arrested and imprisoned. Later, he was banished from Iran into exile first to Turkey and then Iraq, returning 15 years later after a brief stay in France. But he never gave up the fight against the Shah’s misrule, even in exile. He kept on exhorting all Iranians to rise up against the Shah and his rule that was repressive and against Iran’s traditional Islamic faith.
The Shah began to lose ground when more and more people listened to Imam Khomeini (RA) and carried out his instructions. Correspondingly, his rule became more ruthless and cruel, in order to beat the people into submission.
Similar tyrannical governments existed elsewhere in the Third World, such as the minority racist governments in South Africa and in what used to be Southern Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe. Here, as in Iran, foreign interests and local ones faced each other in an mortal strife, with foreign interests appearing insurmountable or, even invincible. Foreign power had outlawed everything that suggested, in any shape or form, human rights for local people who had been relegated to a position of endless servitude. As in Iran, voices were heard from amongst the local people, denouncing and condemning this state of affairs as inexcusable and evil. Southern Africa had raised the Albert Luthulis, the Nelson Mandelas, the Samore Machels, the Robert Mugabes, etc, etc. Latin America had raised Fidel Castro, Che Guevara and others, while Asia, in addition to Imam Khomeini (RA), had seen Mohandas Gandhi, Jawaherlal Nehru, Mao Tse Tung, Ahmed Sukarno and others. These men, in a few cases even women, had one thing in common. They all wanted to see their countries and their people free and independent and accorded human dignity, even though their personal backgrounds, their ethics, their approach to as well as methods of tackling problems were different. They were leaders of their people to what they believed was a better and more respectable way of life. They all faced obstacles; some more formidable than others, but they were all resolved to fight on until final victory or to the bitter end, if needs be. They were all men or women of courage and determination.
Against this background or on that basis, the role played by Imam Khomeini (RA) in the development of Third World nations, Political or economic, was essentially that of a fighter or liberator, who fought from a religious perspective against, primarily, what he viewed as evil, as is reflected in a congratulatory message he sent to the people of Iran, after they had sent the Shah packing, never to return. I quote: "You have thrown away the real enemy of yourselves and the country from the scene and buried into the graveyard of history, the greatest and the most treacherous enemy of the country. With your resolved and resolute uprising, you have proved to the deprived people of the earth that modern weaponry and satanic powers cannot permanently resist the will of a people to bravely defend their faith and their rights." In other words, Imam Khomeini (RA) regarded the uprising by the Iranian people against the rule of the Shah, which he led, as essentially a struggle between the forces of evil, represented by the Shah and his rule, on one hand, and the forces of that which is good, represented by the people of Iran, guided by their Islamic faith. And, in the words just quoted, he shows his belief that forces of evil cannot resist the forces of good. In other words, he saw the victory by the people of Iran, over the Shah and everything he stood for, as a moral victory. That is, the people were fight, which, of course, they were, and the Shah was wrong; or the people’s fight, which he led, was morally justifiable, which it was, while the Shah’s rule was morally unjustifiable and, therefore, wrong.
The Iranian people got rid of the Shah, in order to bring to an end a despotic rule that had turned them into virtual slaves of one man who, in turn, was a slave of foreign interests himself, so that they could decide and determine the form of government that would best serve their interests. They reached a consensus and set up an Islamic republic, which was supported by the fact that the overwhelming majority of the Iranian people are Muslim. In other words, the government reflects the wish of the overwhelming majority, which, of course, explains why the Shah, with the might of his heavily armed security forces, including the deadly SAVAK, failed to beat them down. That is to say, the Islamic Republic of Iran represents and speaks for the overwhelming majority of the people who put it there.
To assert otherwise, as the Americans and their allies in Europe try to, is to ignore facts, something the Americans had done for many years, in support of the Shah or trying to play the Imam’s influence among the Iranian people, or the respect they have for him, as, indeed, they did with regard to the influence many Third World nationalist freedom fighters had among their people or how much their people respected them. The Americans and their allies in the West always suggested that men like Castro, Mao Tse Tung, or Nelson Mandela and many others in the Third World, imposed themselves on the people they claimed to lead. However, in both Iran and South Africa for instance, the otherwise forgotten ordinary people greeted the birth of the Islamic Republic and that of the new democratic South Africa with ecstasy, because the saw that the many and long years of self-sacrifice they had endured and the perilous struggle against tyranny that they had waged, had not been in vain. Their hopes and expectations, rendered almost forlorn by the daily bragging and derision of the enemy, suddenly became reality. For neither the Shah nor apartheid was there to torment them. At long last, they were free and masters of their destinies. It was unbelievable, yet true.
History has shown that no man, however powerful, that abuses and denigrates the dignity and sacredness of human life by persecuting, depriving other human beings of freedom or by taking human life, gets away with these. The successful conclusion of the freedom struggle in Iran, launched and directed by Imam Khomeini (RA), and in South Africa, led by the Africa National Congress, for example, vindicated further the long-held belief that man’s quest for freedom is invincible and laid bare the folly and futility of tampering with this.
Imam Khomeini (RA), will long be remembered, the world over, after all prejudice and cynicism is overcome, for the outstanding role he played in the Third World freedom struggle, which demonstrated that freedom is a moral principle and a God-given right. It is, therefore, wrong or evil, to abuse or interfere with man’s freedom, and those who do so, no matter how powerful they may be and regardless of how long they may appear successful and no matter how weak and helpless their victims might be, their efforts always and in miserable failure. The Shah of Iran and, nearer home, the advocates of apartheid in South Africa or, indeed, the advocates of colonialism everywhere in the Third World, are a case in point. The Shah of Iran and the advocates of apartheid in South Africa, as we all know, were supported by every powerful forces, wielding the most deadly weapons of war, against poor people, armed largely only with their determination to resist injustice and evil. But both the Shah of Iran and the advocates of the philosophy of apartheid in South Africa failed, principally because they transgressed God’s own law regarding man’s freedom, his dignity and the sacredness of his life, which is derived from God’s own life.
Imam Khomeini (RA) added a new dimension to the freedom struggle in the Third World, namely the spiritual or moral dimension, why which Wrong or Evil had to be resisted, whatever the resource. Those who resisted Wrong or Evil, armed with Right of Good, could not be defeated, as he and the people of Iran demonstrated. For Right or Good was founded on God’s law, and, if God with us, who can be against us?
By M.M. Assadi