Khomeini Poet as Legislator
of Political Changes in Iran
Imam Khomeini's Life
Imam Khomeini’s life spanned almost a
century of political changes in Iran. When he was born in 1902
the country was already dominated by foreign influences that
continued until the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Both financial and
economic conditions were at a low ebb and discontented groups
were secretly distributing anti-government leaflets. By the end
of 1905 public protests had led to establishment of a majlis.
First majlis opened. Fundamental laws drawn up to form
the core of the first constitution were not replaced until 1979.
Though formally a constitutional monarchy the Qajar Muhammad Ali
Shah was a cruel autocrat who tried to get rid of the majlis
through his Prime Minister Atabak.
August 31, 1907: Atabak was assassinated after failing to destroy the
majlis. That same day the Anglo-Russian Entente was signed in
secret which divided Iran into three spheres: northern and
central Iran in the Russian sphere, southern Iran in the British
sphere an area in between, the neutral zone, where oil was found
1914-1918: By late 1917 British and Russian forces occupied most of
Iran. Food was scarce and cost of living spiralled up, and up.
1918-1919: Severe famine killed one quarter of the people in the
1919-1920: Britain consolidated its control over Iran with the
Anglo-Persian Treaty of 1919; escalating resistance by the
1920: A government set up under a nationalist, Moshir ad-Dauleh,
suspended the Anglo-Persian Treaty until foreign forces had
withdrawn and the majlis could discuss issues freely. He was
forced to resign and succeeded by pro-British Sepahdar who put
British officers in charge of the Cossack Brigade.
1921: Commander of the British forces in Iran, general Ironside,
encouraged Reza Khan to assume power of the country’s only
well-armed force. Reza Khan used the Cossack Brigade as a power
base for a new government under Sayyid Zia ad-Din, the
pro-British prime minister, and himself as war minister. The
government put down protest movements and suppressed all
opposition. US Standard Oil Company gained concession for oil in
1923: Reza Khan, the strong man in the dying days of the Qajar
monarchy, persuaded the weak Ahmad Shah into exile.
1925-1941: After abandoning his supposed preference for a republic,
Reza Khan founded the Pahlavi dynasty. Military conscription
enacted in 1926 and military expenses were the largest budget
Modern dress decreed for men in 1929. Women to
give up hijab. All opposition suppressed. Reza Khan’s reforms
modelled on Ataturk’s.
1941-1945: Second World War. When Germany invaded the Soviet Union
in June 1941, it wanted to use Iran as a base, Reza Shah’s
hesitation in accepting British-Soviet demands to expel the
Germans sparked off an invasion of Iran on August 25. The shah
was forced to abdicate in September. Soviet forces were in
northern Iran, British in south, Tehran unoccupied.
January 1942: Britain, Iran, and Soviet Union signed an alliance agreeing
to help Iran’s economy during war and to withdraw forces
within six months of end of war. The exiled shah’s son,
Muhammad Reza, was the new monarch. Famine in 1942 paved the way
for US economists. The Tudeh Party with pro-Soviet line formed.
US gained control of all key economic posts. He also puts
forward the concept of an Islamic government, writing ‘A
government of Islamic Law controlled by faqih will be superior
to all the iniquitous governments of the world.’
1945-1947: Democrat Party, a coalition of groups, in Azarbaijan
province elected its own provincial assembly in November 1945.
Iranian forces in area allowed Democrats to take over army
posts. December 1945: a Kurdish autonomous republic established
also supported by the Soviets. July 1946: a general strike
encouraged by the Tudeh Party in Khuzistan’s AIOC oil fields.
British forces ordered to Basra and a British supported exile,
Shaikh Khaz’al, raided Khuzistan. New US ambassador, George V
Allen, had Iranian forces sent to Azarbaijan and Kurdistan to
put down autonomies. Leaders shot, exiled and jailed.
1947-1953: Opposition to AIOC strengthened. AIOC paid more in income
tax to British government than royalties to Iran. Mosaddeq led
opposition to AIOC and majlis adopted his position.
Oil industry nationalised in March 1951.
Mosaddeq became premier and headed the National Front. US
opposed nationalisation of oil and organised international
boycott of Iranian oil. AIOC retaliated with gunboats
maintaining the oil had been stolen from them. Iran’s oil
revenue was thus cut off. British put restrictions on Iran’s
trade and bank assets in Britain. AIOC, new British government
under Churchill and foreign advisers had shah dismiss Musaddeq.
Mass demonstration brought him back to power. CIA prompted by
British intelligence organised his overthrow in August 1953
after he attempted to get control of the army still in US hands.
1953-1960: Iran increasingly dependent on west; US the dominant
power. Expensive military hardware, fancy consumer goods and
prestige projects were profitable to the US. SAVAK, the secret
police, set up in 1957 under the CIA with the Israeli Mossad’s
assistance. Repression stepped up: imprisonment, torture and
killings to stifle opposition; agents infiltrated society to
create a police State.
1960-1963: Until his death in 1961 Ayatullah Boroujerdi of Qum was
the marja’e taqlid (source of imitation). By 1963 Ayatullah
Ruhullah Khomeini’s name was coming to the fore as a leading
opponent to the shah’s regime. His theological courses in Qum
attracted large numbers of students, fascinated by his criticism
of government policies while teaching ethics. He was one of
Boroujerdi’s successors to the function of marja’e taqlid.
In March 1963 the Faiziyeh in Qum was attacked by paratroopers
and SAVAK on the anniversary of the martyrdom of the sixth Imam,
Ja’far as-Sadiq. Students were killed and Ayatullah Khomeini
Released after a short detention he continued
with his criticism of US control of Iran. On June 3 he said,
‘The constitution has been bought with the blood of our
fathers, and we will not permit it to be violated.’ Imam
Khomeini was arrested and detained until August.
The day following his arrest, the anniversary of
the martyrdom of Imam Husain, demonstrations erupted calling for
his release in Tehran, Isfahan, Mashad, Shiraz and Kashan.
Security forces shot 15,000 demonstrators. Upon his release, he
told his followers to boycott the October elections and was
1964-1970: Ayatullah Khomeini was released from prison in May 1964.
In October the majlis passed a bill giving diplomatic immunity
to US military advisers followed by accepting a US$200 million
loan from the US for military hardware purchases. Ayatullah
Khomeini attacked the bills in a pamphlet.
He was exiled to Turkey in 1964 from where he
went to Iraq in 1965. His home for the next 13 years was the
holy city of Najaf where he established himself as a leading
religious figure. His criticisms of the Pahlavi regime were
secretly circulated in Iran and his messages to the Muslim world
were distributed in Makkah at Hajj.
His criticism of Iranian government policies
were well founded. Land reform proved to be a disaster. The bill
excluded orchards, pastures, plantations, and mechanised farms
and gave landlords time to make fictitious sales and gifts to
relatives to lessen their legal holdings or to convert their
lands to fall into the exemption category. Only nine percent of
Iran’s peasants received land and even they did not get help
for increasing production.
Meanwhile, after the June 1967 Arab-Israeli war
Ayatullah Khomeini conferred with Sayyid Baqir as-Sadr on the
possibility of launching a joint effort against Israel.
1970-1977: With oil prices redoubled the shah announced that Iran
would soon become one of the world’s five great powers. He
ignored the reality of food shortages, traffic jams,
overcrowding and street fighting in Tehran. The west recycled
his petro-dollars into arms purchases. Iran had more British
Chieftan tanks than Britain itself. The US sold the shah fighter
planes before they were in production or known to be reliable.
US military suppliers took up key positions in the economy.
Cement and building materials were used for military bases and
created a shortage for house building. Westernisation of Iran
was challenged by Dr Ali Shari’ati but oil, banking, and
armaments were firmly in US hands.
The 1971 coronation and huge celebration of the
shah fantasising that the Persian monarchy dated back 2 500
years showed up the gulf between the rich and the poor. It was
severely criticised by Ayatullah Khomeini.
Suppression of all free speech, press, and even
potential opposition led to a concentration of dissidents
establishing themselves overseas They were encouraged by the
circulation of Ayatullah Khomeini’s messages on cassette. He
called upon the ulama in Iran to denounce political terror and
the ruin of Iran’s resources.
When the shah visited Washington to see
president Carter in 1977 he faced a huge hostile demonstration.
In Iran women students started to wear hijab again, and a
religious opposition began to assert itself. In October 1977
Ayatullah Khomeini’s son, Mustafa, was killed in Iraq by SAVAK
1978: In January at the instigation of the shah an article was
published in Ettala’at newspaper violently attacking Ayatullah
Khomeini. The next day theological students in Qum organised a
peaceful protest and sitting which was violently set upon by
security forces leaving many martyred. Demonstrations
progressively spread throughout the country.
Ayatullah Khomeini urged the people to strive
for the overthrow of the monarchy in favour of an Islamic
government. Memorial demonstrations for the martyred took place
every 40 days with more and more Muslims being killed by
security forces. Demonstrations facing armed soldiers demanded
the return of Ayatullah Khomeini.
August: 377 were killed in a cinema fire in Abadan.
September: The shah requested Iraq to expel the Ayatullah, hoping
that without a base his leadership would diminish. Ayatullah
Khomeini said he was prepared to leave for a country not subject
to the shah’s dictates but no country offered him asylum and
the assurance that he could continue his activities
September: At the end of Ramadan, a huge protest demonstration led
to the imposition of martial law in Iran. When the people
gathered in Jaleh Square the next morning, unaware of the
imposition, the security forces opened fire killing thousands. A
horrified nation rose against the shah. Strikes closed down
bazaars, schools, universities, offices, factories and oil
fields. The shah’s wealthy relatives and friends escaped to
the west with US$1.5 billion over three months. From Paris
Ayatullah Khomeini sent messages on cassette freely into Iran
for distribution. Arrived in Neauphle-le-Chateau near Paris.
December 10 and 11 (Muharram 9 and 10): Nearly four million people went into the streets
demanding an Islamic government under Imam Khomeini’s
leadership. Thousands of unarmed demonstrators were killed.
Detainees were tortured and the wounded were massacred in their
hospital beds. The inexorable pressure of public opinion forced
the US to persuade the shah to appoint a prime minister, Shahpur
Bakhtiar, to deflect the influence of Ayatullah Khomeini.
Jan 16, 1979: The shah fled the country for Egypt leaving a powerless
government but ecstatic crowds on the streets.
Feb 1: From Paris Imam Khomeini flew into Iran to a tumultuous
He had a provisional Islamic government set up
by Mehdi Bazargan and the Revolutionary Council negotiated with
the security forces. After hundreds of air force personnel
expressed support for Imam Khomeini, a Tehran military
establishment was suddenly attacked by the shah’s Imperial
Guard. The air force’s call for help was answered by masses of
unarmed people who forced the guards to return to their
barracks. With most of the security forces acknowledging Imam
Khomeini’s leadership, police stations, prisons, army bases
and government offices were all taken over by revolutionaries.
Feb 11: Shah’s regime finally collapsed.
Four of ex-shah’s guards shot.
March 1: Imam Khomeini’s declaration of Islamic government made
it clear that there was no place for democracy.
April 1: The Islamic Republic proclaimed by Imam Khomeini to
April 7: Ex-premier Hoveida executed.
May 1: Ayatullah Mutahhari, chief of the Revolutionary Council,
July 5: Big industries in private hands nationalised.
July 9: Imam announced an amnesty for all jailed under the
ex-shah except murderers and torturers.
Oct 23: Ex-shah admitted to New York hospital.
Nov 4: Iranian students in New York demonstrated against the
deposed shah’s presence in US.
US embassy in Tehran, known as the ‘nest of
spies,’ taken over by the students following the Imam’s
line. They held 52 people for 444 days against the return of the
ex-shah and stolen assets.
Nov 6: Mehdi Bazargan left office.
Economics and Foreign minister Bani Sadr declared all
Iranian foreign debts null and void.
Dec 4: Adoption of a constitution, entrusting Imam Khomeini with
supreme power; it was adopted after a referendum.
Dec 15: Ex-shah left US for exile in Panama after being refused
entry in Mexico.
Jan 4, 1980: UN secretary general Kurt Waldheim cut short a mission to
Iran when he was refused a request to see US hostages.
Jan 25: Bani Sadr appointed president.
Feb 7: Bani Sadr given power to deal with hostage issue.
Feb 17: UN secretary general completed formation of a commission
to examine ex-shah’s activities.
March 10: A spokesman from the Imam’s office said when UN
commission published its results showing ‘it is in favour of
Iran and they prove they are truthful they can come back to Iran
and meet the hostages.’
March-May: First majlis election.
March 23: Ex-shah left Panama for Cairo just 24 hours before Iran
was due to serve a request for his extradition.
April 9: US diplomatic ties with Iran broken.
April 25: US commando raid to rescue hostages failed in a
sandstorm. Imam Khomeini said the mission was ‘an act of
April 30: Arab gunmen seized 20 hostages in Iran’s embassy in
May 5: SAS stormed the embassy killing four of five gunmen.
Press Attaché Lavasani had been killed by the terrorists.
May 11: Tomb of Reza Khan, ex-shah’s father, smashed near
Ex-shah died in Cairo. Funeral shunned by western
Aug 11: Muhammad Ali Raja’ appointed prime minister.
Sept 22: Iraq invaded Iran despite its announced commitment to the
UN charter and contrary to clause one of article 33 of the
charter referring to peaceful settlements in disputes between
Sept 24: Iraq attacked Abadan and Khorramshahr setting fire to
Abadan’s oil refinery.
Nov 2: Majlis approved four conditions laid down by Imam
Khomeini for release of US hostages.
Nov 16: More than 500 Iranians killed in Iraqi attack on
Jan 20, 1981: US hostages released on very day US president Carter’s
term of office ended.
June 10: Imam Khomeini dismissed Bani Sadr as head of armed
June 20: Impeachment proceedings began against Bani Sadr.
June 21: Bani Sadr dismissed from presidency.
June 28: 72 high-ranking officials martyred when a bomb explode in
the Islamic Republican Party’s headquarters in Tehran.
July 24: Muhammad Ali Raja’I elected president.
July 29: Bani Sadr given refuge in France.
Aug 30: Bomb explosion killed president Muhammad Ali Raja’I and
minister Javad Bahonar.
Sept 29: Four of Iran’s military chiefs killed in plane crash.
Oct: Ali Khamenei elected president and Mir Hossein Mousavi
appointed prime minister.
March 28, 1982: Iran gained ground in heaviest fighting of war.
May 24: Revolutionary guards entered Khorramshahr. Regained most
of the territory taken by Iraq in early stages of the war.
July 14: Imam Khomeini broadcast an appeal for Iraqis to rise up
and overthrow Saddam Hussain. Iranian forces invaded Iraq and
reached within nine miles of Basra.
Sept 15: Ex-foreign minister Sadeqh Qotbzadeh found guilty of
plotting to overthrow government.
Oct 1: Iran launches an offensive against Iraq as war enters its
Oct 2: 60 killed and 700 injured in terrorist bomb blast in
Feb 1983: Leaders of (communist) Tudeh Party arrested.
May 4: Eighteen Soviet diplomats expelled; Tudeh Party
June 11: Operations launched to liberate more territory; 50,000
Iraqi troops taken prisoner.
July 23: Iranian onslaught drove Iraqis out of Haj Omran in
April 1984: Elections held for second majlis. Hujjatul-Islam Ali
Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani had 1.5 million votes.
UN secretary general Perez de Cuellar’s call on Iraq to
halt its attacks on Iran’s residential areas.
March 18, 1985: Iranian forces broke through Iraqi lines in offensive
north of Basra threatening road to Baghdad.
Aug 14: President Ali Khamenei reelected to office for second
Ayatullah Montazeri appointed Ayatullah Khomeini’s
Feb 19,1986: In an 11-day offensive Iranian forces captured the Faw
Peninsula; Iraq used mustard gas to hold them back.
July 2: Iran captured border town of Mehran.
Nov 4: Irangate’ arms for hostages deal disclosed.
Jan 18, 1987: Iranian forces reached Basra.
May 17: Iraqi missiles hit US frigate killing 37 but not an
July 17: French embassy in Tehran closed down.
July 20: UN security council Resolution 598 called for immediate
ceasefire. Not accepted by Iran which demanded Iraq be named the
July 31: More than 400 pilgrims killed in Makkah of whom 275 were
Sep 29: Iran stepped up its patrol of the straits of Hormuz as US
helicopter patrol intercepted and boarded Iranian ship, the Iran
Oct 18: Four US destroyers blasted two Iranian offshore platforms
with 1,000 shells, leaving them ablaze and badly damaged.
Feb 28, 1988: War of cities intensified with 135 missiles landing on
March 17: More than 5,000 killed by Iraqi chemical weapons in
Halabjeh and over 8,000 critically wounded.
April 18: US sank Iranian vessels in Gulf. US helicopter gunships
supporting Iraqi assault on Faw.
June 2: Majlis speaker Hashemi Rafsanjani appointed acting
commander of armed forces.
July 3: US cruiser shot down Iranian airbus killing all 290
July 18: Iran reluctantly accepted UN Resolution 390. Imam
Khomeini said for him the decision was more deadly than taking
Aug 20: Ceasefire on warfront. Negotiations opened between Iran
and Iraq. Prime minister Mousavi said Iran’s doors would
remain closed for western trade and influence.
Feb 15, 1989: Imam Khomeini declared Salman Rushdie should die for his
blasphemy against Islam in The Satanic Verses.
March 7: Diplomatic links cut between Britain and Iran.
Hujjatul-Islam Rafsanjani declared a candidate for
Ayatullah Montazeri’s resignation as future leader of
Iran accepted by Imam Khomeini.
April 24: Committee appointed to draft constitutional reform.
May 23: Imam Khomeini underwent operation for internal bleeding.
June 3: Imam Khomeini passed away.
* * *
* * * *
Blacks in Hispanic Literature: Critical Essays
Blacks in Hispanic Literature is a
collection of fourteen essays by scholars and
creative writers from Africa and the Americas.
Called one of two significant critical works on
Afro-Hispanic literature to appear in the late
1970s, it includes the pioneering studies of
Carter G. Woodson and
Valaurez B. Spratlin, published in the 1930s, as
well as the essays of scholars whose interpretations
were shaped by the Black aesthetic. The early
essays, primarily of the Black-as-subject in Spanish
medieval and Golden Age literature, provide an
historical context for understanding 20th-century
creative works by African-descended, Hispanophone
writers, such as Cuban
Nicolás Guillén and Ecuadorean poet, novelist,
Adalberto Ortiz, whose essay analyzes the
significance of Negritude in Latin America. This
collaborative text set the tone for later
conferences in which writers and scholars worked
together to promote, disseminate, and critique the
literature of Spanish-speaking people of African
descent. . . .
Cited by a
literary critic in 2004 as "the seminal study in the
field of Afro-Hispanic Literature . . . on which
most scholars in the field 'cut their teeth'."
* * *
Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in
By Melissa V.
According to the
author, this society has historically exerted
considerable pressure on black females to fit into one
of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the
Matriarch or the Jezebel. The selfless
Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to
white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of
those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the
relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable
temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as
an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the
characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television
shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.
points out how the propagation of these harmful myths
have served the mainstream culture well. For instance,
the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for
black females to feel a maternal instinct towards
As for the source
of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their
own bodies during slavery given that they were being
auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless,
it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate
the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate
* * * * *
The White Masters of the
The World and Africa, 1965
By W. E. B. Du Bois
W. E. B. Du Bois’
Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization
* * *
Ancient African Nations
* * * * *
If you like this page consider making a donation
* * * * *
Negro Digest /
Browse all issues
* * * * *
The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan
The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll
Only a Pawn in Their Game
Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for
George Jackson /
* * *
The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg
Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804
January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of
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posted 29 June 2005