Iranian Revolution: Telegraph correspondent relives 1979





The Telegraph correspondent who covered the Iranian Revolution remembers the momentous events of February 1979.

They danced on the rooftops and they danced in the streets when back in 1979 national radio announced that the Shah of Iran had left the country. Even though it was ostensibly only for a holiday, no one believed he would be back.

He was the 78-year-old Ayatollah, Ruhollah Khomeini, who was credited with leading a "cassette revolution" by which his vitriolic pronouncements against the Shah were distributed throughout the country via a network of mosques and shrines. His main call was for a government with its basis in Islamic ideology and an end to foreign influence, particularly American, in his country.

And that was exactly what he got but not before much blood had been shed and the civil rights activists and Marxists had been quashed.

He had also to organise his return to Tehran from Paris. This happened on Feb 1 and immediately brought him into conflict with the then prime minister, Dr Shahpour Bakhtiar, who had been appointed by the Shah, to rule in his absence.

Rapidly the violence spread as local civilians joined in the clamour for Khomeini to take over the controls of the country, though Dr Bakhtiar threatened to bomb the area if they persisted. But they did and the premier fled the capital and then the country, turning up in Paris where he was to be assassinated in 1991.

Meanwhile revolutionary committees were springing up in Khomeini's support around the country and they enforced Islamic tenets, like a total ban on alcohol and the stoning to death of women found guilty of adultery.

In some places there were so many cases that tipper trucks were brought in to pile rubble on the heads of women buried in the ground up to their necks. In many cases their degree of guilt was questionable.

Opposition to Khomeini arose in many of the tribal areas, particularly in the oil fields of the Arab dominated south west where neighbouring Iraq was actively stirring up sentiments, jeopardising the main source of income for Iran.

But despite all opposition, Khomeini managed to ride rough shod over all his opponents and push through a new constitution which gave him unfettered powers as president for life and to set his country on an irrevocable path as the Islamic Republic of Iran, which it remains to this day.



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