What would Khomeini do? God willing, he’d protest

Khomeini image via Wikipedia

Khomeini image via Wikipedia

On the streets of Tehran, Iranians were demonstrating en masse against their government. In retaliation, Iran’s armed forces were killing and maiming them – prompting the protesters’ spokesman to say that mass demonstrations would continue indefinitely. “Whenever (government) repression is intensified to an extraordinary degree, the natural and inevitable result will be an explosion,” the spokesman said before adding, “The present movement is an uprising that has brought together all segment of the population and all parts of the country.”

The spokesman was the Ayatollah Khomeini, and the date was December 29, 1978. Khomeini – speaking from his then-home in France, where he lived in exile – was referring to the mass uprising that was taking place in Iran against the Shah. Khomeini despised governments that lied to their people. He made this clear in 1941, in a book called “Kashf al-Asrar,”  in which he wrote, “When a government does not perform its duty, it becomes oppressive.”

Khomeini is the father of modern-day Iran, the religious and political architect of a country whose 1978-1979 revolution he orchestrated with an acumen that took Westerners (and the Shah) by surprise. His death in 1989 left a vacuum that was quickly filled by the Ayatollah Khamenei, but it’s Khomeini whose voice (and image) still rule over Iran – and it’s Khomeini whose own words can be used against the present rulers of the country. It has happened before. In 2003, during the bloody student riots that rocked Tehran and sent shock waves around the country, Khomeini’s grand-nephew said that Iran’s most revered figure would have – if he were alive – joined the students who were protesting for reform.

“If my grandfather would be alive now, he would have joined the rank of all the Iranians opposed to the present regime,” Hojjatoleslam Hoseyn Khomeini said, according to a Dutch newspaper. Khomeini’s nephew articulated what many Iranian scholars have said before – that Khamenei’s lack of religious credentials undermines his authority to even govern Iran. “The ruling clerics,” he said, “are mediocre people who (abuse) the name of Khomeini to legitimize their shameful rule – one of worst forms of religious dictatorship that governs by ruthless oppressive actions.”

The Ayatollah Khomeini left many clues that he would have disrespected Iran’s current regime. The interview he gave on December 29, 1978 was to Hamid Algar, a professor at the University of California at Berkeley whose book, “Islam and Revolution: Writings and Declarations of Imam Khomeini,” is a must-read. Algar documents Khomeini’s words from his entire life, including those that were uttered on January 12, 1979 – just days before Khomeini flew to Iran from France – when he promised “the establishment of an Islamic Republic that guarantees the freedom of the people, the independence of the country, and the attainment of social justice.”

“Social justice” is what Iran’s new protests are trying to achieve. If Khomeini were alive, he wouldn’t have to protest. He could just order a new election that would verify the demonstrators’ claims that last Friday’s presidential vote was severely flawed.

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