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Ayatollah Khomeini became the supreme religious leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979, following many years of resistance to Shah Pahlavi.
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He chose the latter. Khomeini moved to Paris, which was to be his last place of residence before his triumphant return to Iran.
During his stay there, he defended himself against critics who accused him of being power-hungry with statements such as, "It is the Iranian people who have to select their own capable and trustworthy individuals and give them the responsibilities. However, personally, I can't accept any special role or responsibility."
The year of his return was 1979,
mere months after his move to Paris. Students, the middle-class, self-employed businessmen, and the military all took to the street in protest. The Shah turned to the U.S. for help, but ultimately had to leave the country himself in the face of the revolution at his doorstep. Despite statements such as the one he made in Paris, Khomeini was widely acknowledged as the new leader of Iran, and came to be known as the Supreme Leader. He returned home to cheering crowds, and began laying the groundwork for the Islamic state he had for so long been imagining.
During this period, he put other clerics to work on writing an Islamic constitution for Iran. He also began iterating more authoritarian sentiments than before: "Don't listen to those who speak of democracy. They all are against Islam. They want to take the nation away from its mission. We will break all the poison pens of those who speak of nationalism, democracy, and such things."
Meanwhile, the Shah needed a place to serve out his exile. It became known that the Shah was ill with cancer. With this in mind, the U.S. reluctantly allowed the Shah to enter the country. In protest, a group of Iranians seized more than sixty American hostages at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran on November 4, 1979. Khomeini saw this as a chance to demonstrate the new Iranian defiance of Western influence.
The new Iranian government and the Carter Administration of the U.S. entered a standoff in that wouldn't end until after Ronald Reagan's inauguration in late January of 1981, under the pressure of sanctions and oil embargoes imposed by the U.S. on Iran. This is now known as the Iranian Hostage Crisis.
Once in power, the Ayatollah Khomeini was no more sympathetic to the cries of the secular left than the Shah had been to Khomeini's cries for reform. Many who protested against his regime were killed, and Khomeini had his doctrines and beliefs taught in public schools. He also ensured that clerics sympathetic to his beliefs filled the government ranks, from the smallest town all the way to his own office.
Moreover, Khomeini believed that the ideas on which the new Iran had been built needed to be, in his words, "exported." Toward this end, he began a war with Iraq that lasted eight years and caused an untold number of deaths. The war only ended with an American military intervention on behalf of the Iraqis, and Khomeini was forced to accept a ceasefire agreement. He called this compromise "more deadly than taking poison."
Khomeini is also well known for releasing a fatwa (a legal document issued by a Muslim cleric) calling for the death of Indian-British author Salman Rushdie for his book The Satanic Verses in 1989. The book is a work of fiction that can be interpreted as depicting the Prophet Mohammed as a false prophet, and casts considerable doubt on many Islamic beliefs.
profile name: Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini profile occupation:
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