Things Change: From Ayatollah Khomeini to the Present Day Iranian Revolution

In the late 70's, then Ayatollah Ruhollah Musavi Khomeini, was beloved by millions of Iranians for his leadership in the 1979 Iranian Revolution. This led to the eventual overthrow and ousting of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. Khomeini's power and stature within the theocratic government hierarchy was absolute as Supreme Leader. His anti-Western and American rhetoric was so beguiling that is served as the inspiration for a student takeover of the American embassy which led to a 444 day hostage crisis.

In those days these very same students were often seen as the faces of Islamic tyranny and fanaticism. To say they were hated in the United States is making light of the true feelings most Americans had towards them because of the embassy takeover.

A Brief History Lesson:

Kohmeni possessed vast education in Islamic law, ethics, and spiritual philosophy. In his early years he was trained under the supervision of Ayatollah Abdul Karim Haeri-ye Yazdi, first in Arak, a town near Khomein his birthplace, and later in Qom.

Kohmeni was a staunch fundamentalist who had come to believe to the constitutional nature of the Iranian government was forcing a move towards a non-secular country, rather than an a traditional Muslim state. Although he believed that clerics should become politically active it was not until 1962 did he enter the fray. He led an effort against the Shah's regime which inspired the June 5th, 1963 religiopolitical rebellion, known as the Movement of 15 Khordad. The rebellion was bloodily suppressed by the Shah and after this Kohmeni was exiled. He was hosted by several countries until finally settling in France for the better of fifteen years.

On January 16, 1979 Kohmeni then returned to Iran after the Shah went on "vacation," a trip from which he never returned. Upon his return Kohmeni instituted a revolutionary government which gained populist support and on March 30th and 31st, 1979 a referendum was passed to replace the Iranian monarchy with an Islamic Republic. Subsequently, the referendum passed with 98% support.

On October 22nd, 1979 the United States admitted the Shah to the country. This resulted in Khomeini instructing Iranian students on November 1 to "expand with all their might their attacks against the United States" in order to force the extradition of the Shah back to Iran. This decree was the inspiration which led to the hostile student takeover of the American embassy which lasted for 444 days.

After an unsuccessful military rescue, code named Operation Eagle Claw, which resulted in the deaths of United States military personnel and one Iranian civilian the Algiers Accords were signed. One of the major highlights of the accord is Point one, in which the United States pledges to "no longer interfere" in Iranian domestic issues.

These hostile acts and the continual denouncement of the United States led to a deep hatred for the students and Kohmeni among the citizenry of America.

Present Day:

Flash forward to a little over thirty years to present day. Much has changed in perception towards the present day Iranian student protesters and the political dynamic of the now Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Khamenei, it seems, is close to exhausting his political capital. From the New York Times.

I’d say the momentum is with them for now. At moments on Saturday, Khamenei’s authority, which is that of the Islamic Republic itself, seemed fragile. The revolutionary authorities have always mocked the cancer-ridden Shah’s ceding before an uprising, and vowed never to bend in the same way. Their firepower remains formidable, but they are facing a swelling test.

For the students there is growing support for their quest to change their regime. Tweets of support from Americans and others to Iranian protesters abound across the Internet. Coverage of the events unfolding in Iran by populist bloggers, on both sides of the political aisle, has been surprisingly positive. Although American politics still enters the fray from time to time.

Either way, the phenomenon of support for the protesters is an interesting one. Considering that just thirty short years ago the American and Iranian people had little in common except a languishing hatred for one another. Now it seems we have found common ground on the precept of choice in governance. The result is sympathy and support, from overseas and a million cultures away, for those men and women fighting in Iran to effect some positive progress in their lives.

My, how times have changed.



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