Four Decades After Its Revolution, Iran Is Still Stuck in the Past
For a few tense moments it seemed as if the flight carrying Ayatollah Khomeini back to Iran would not make it. Two weeks had passed since the shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, had left the country amid enormous protests against his autocratic rule. Khomeini’s aides were eager for the ayatollah to return from exile in Paris and fill the power vacuum. But the government left behind by the shah warned them to stay away. As their plane approached Iranian airspace, the air force threatened to shoot it down. Some on board cheered the chance for martyrdom. The Western journalists in tow were more subdued.
The plane eventually landed in Tehran and, after a brief argument between his followers over who would assist him, Khomeini walked slowly down the stairs to the tarmac, helped by an Air France steward (a compromise). He was greeted in the capital by what some believe to be the largest crowd in history. The date was February 1st 1979. Ten violent days later, the shah’s government resigned and the army gave way to the revolutionaries.
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