Imam Khomeini and Mobilization of Iranian Nation against the Monarchy

  September 08, 2021   Read time 4 min
Imam Khomeini and Mobilization of Iranian Nation against the Monarchy
Imam Khomeini's emergence to prominence in the political sphere began less than a decade after the overthrow of Musaddiq and the emergence of an intensified form of dictatorship in Iran.

In the period when Ayatullah Burujirdi was the dominant figure in Qum, Imam Khomeini was gradually gaining in importance, but he still lacked the seniority that would have made his views fully authoritative. It may have been in part for this reason that in the period between the downfall of Reza Khan in 1941 and the overthrow of Musaddiq in 1953, Imam Khomeini did not attempt an open denunciation of the regime in the same fashion as he did after 1963. He has more recently expressed regret that he did not earlier begin on the course that for many years now he has seen to be his clear and manifest duty. It has been said, however, that throughout this period he sought to induce a measure of political realism and commitment in Ayatullah Burujirdi.

If his efforts in this respect were largely frustrated, there is no doubt that he exercised his influence upon a large number of the younger ulama in Qum and elsewhere who later came to form part of the directive force of the Revolution. Long before the beginning of the revolutionary movement, he had built up a considerable following among the younger ulama in Qum, many of whom are now among the important leaders of the Revolution. It is highly probable that the Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iran consists largely of the pupils of Imam Khomeini. In other words, they are people whom he has been training for years, in both the traditional religious sciences and the tasks of political struggle and guidance and leadership. A list of the major students of Imam Khomeini would take many pages. We can mention briefly simply two names that come to mind — Imam Musa Sadr, the leader of the Shi'i community in Lebanon; and Ayatullah Muntaziri, who was one of the major strugglers against the Shah's regime in Iran.

Imam Khomeini's emergence to prominence in the political sphere began less than a decade after the overthrow of Musaddiq and the emergence of an intensified form of dictatorship in Iran. The first issue on which the Imam confronted the Iranian government was its proposal in the fall of 1962 to issue new laws governing elections to local and provincial councils, laws which were liable to permit Baha’is openly to hold office for the first time. More significantly, early the following year, the Shah inaugurated what became known in the western press, and of course in domestic propaganda, as the White Revolution. It has been appositely said of the White Revolution that the only white thing about it was that it was conceived in the White House. It was certainly not white in the sense that it was bloodless, and it was hardly a revolution. On the contrary, it was an attempt to forestall revolution and make it impossible.

The so-called White Revolution consisted of a package of measures allegedly designed to reform Iranian society to promote the welfare of the peasantry and the industrial workers and to “emancipate” the women. Among the various measures included in it there were two that assumed particular prominence in the propaganda of the Shah's regime and his foreign supporters — land reform and women's rights. It may be appropriate to dwell a little on the nature of these two measures before continuing with my narrative of Imam Khomeini's activities.

The slogan of land reform in Iran was the disguise for the total disruption of the agrarian economy in a manner designed to assure maximum profit for the royal family; a certain oligarchy tied to the royal family; and foreign agribusiness interests, including companies headquartered in the United States, Europe, and Israel. It is true that a certain amount of property was distributed among the peasantry, but the land that was distributed was not always of cultivable nature and, moreover, it was not distributed free of charge; it was distributed against monetary payments that had to be made to banks controlled by the royal family. Moreover, large tracts of land were totally excluded from the scope of the law and were passed instead either to the direct ownership of the royal family under the title of the Pahlavi Foundation, which was the cover for the financial operations of the royal family, or certain foreign agribusiness interests that used the agrarian land of Iran for the cultivation of crops that were not consumed in Iran but were destined for the foreign market. For example, areas were given over to the cultivation of asparagus, an item totally missing from the Iranian diet. At the same time, Iranian-produced butter became increasingly unavailable, so that in a Tehran supermarket you could find only Danish butter.

This destruction of the agrarian economy caused massive depopulation of the countryside and migration to the cities of peasants forced to seek work. The former landowning class was transformed into speculators on urban real estate and importexport merchants, and in pure financial terms they generally gained from the transformation rather than lost from it.

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