Thirty years after the Revolution began — and twenty years after the death of her husband — the wife of the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini has died at the age of 93, reports the Associated Press.
Khadijeh Saqafi was known as the “mother of the Islamic revolution.” She died Saturday in Tehran. “Thousands of people, including Iran’s president and supreme leader, attended her funeral at Tehran University on Sunday….”Saqafi, who married Khomeini in 1931, stayed out of the public eye during much of her life,” reports AP. “Former Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjani described her as the ‘closest and most patient’ supporter of her husband and his struggle against the U.S.-backed shah’s government, according to the state-run IRNA news agency….Saqafi is survived by three daughters. One of her son’s, Ahmad, died in 1995 at the age of 50 after suffering a massive cardiac arrest. Another son, Mostafa, was killed in 1977 in Iraq.”
The death of Khomeini’s widow will now open the door to renewed and more pointed analysis of the impact of the Islamic Revolution inside Iran. President Obama released a video on Friday reaching out to the leaders of Iran and holding out an olive branch I am convinced won’t be accepted and which reflects the administration’s disturbing lack of understanding of the eschatology — End Times theology — of the current Ayatollah and the President of Iran. Yet, in an extraordinary development, as I report in my new book, one of the Khomeini heirs is denouncing his grandfather’s and grandmother’s legacy and is calling for the creation of a pro-American democracy in Iran. What’s more, this grandson is siding with pro-democracy forces against the re-election of Ahmadinejad in June. Developing…
On September 26, 2003, the grandson of the Ayatollah Khomeini—a highly respected Shia cleric in his own right—calmly stood up before an audience in Washington, D.C. He looked out over the crowd, took a deep breath, and then, speaking through an interpreter, denounced the Islamic Revolution, said it was time to usher in a new era of freedom and democracy in his country, and urged the Bush administration to mobilize the American people to overthrow the Iranian regime much as Winston Churchill had mobilized the British to destroy Adolf Hitler.
“As you know, the history of Iran in the nineteenth century was the history of a country under dictatorship,” Hossein Khomeini, then forty-four, told the gathering at the American Enterprise Institute, just blocks from the White House. “But the Revolution and Mr. Khomeini promised to change the Iranian situation and bring democracy to Iran. But, unfortunately, as things turned out, Iran again became . . . [an] even worse dictatorship after the Revolution.”
The room was filled with over a hundred seasoned political professionals. They may have thought they had heard it all. But they had not heard this. Indeed, they could hardly believe it. This was no right-wing pundit speaking. This was no neoconservative policy wonk. This was a member of the ayatollah’s own family. This was the son of the ayatollah’s own firstborn son, Mostafa. And he had just become the Revolution’s most outspoken opponent.
The AEI speech was not the first time Hossein Khomeini had spoken out publicly against his family and the Revolution. He had actually been speaking out for years, and at the time was living not in Iran but in exile in Iraq. Just before coming to the States, he had given an interview on an Arabic television network in which he called the current Iranian regime “the world’s worst dictatorship” and argued that the mullahs in Iran were exploiting Islam “to continue their tyrannical rule.” What’s more, he called for “a democratic regime that does not make use of religion as a means of oppressing the people and strangling society” and insisted it was time “to separate the religion from the state.”
But this was the first time the Defector in Chief had spoken out against the Iranian regime on American soil. “At the beginning, the first few years of the Revolution, I was involved in that process,” Khomeini, who was in his early twenties in 1979, explained. “However, about two years after the Revolution, I started questioning and doubting the practices and behavior of the Islamic Republic, especially in terms of the executions and pressures on the public. . . . At that time I still believed in the legitimacy of a theocratic regime. Yet my criticism was reflected in the papers, in the newspapers of the time, and I was somehow forced to retire from politics and devoted all my time to religious studies. . . . [In] the last few years, I’ve come to the belief that a theocratic regime, a religious government, is not compatible with Islamic tenets, because that should be established only after the reappearance of the absent Twelfth Imam.”
This last sentence was a fascinating point, and one whose significance, I must admit, I did not understand properly at the time. I had not spent time studying the coming of the Twelfth Imam. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, after all, had not yet emerged as the president of Iran, and no Shia Muslim leaders that I was aware of were talking openly about the “imminent” arrival of the Mahdi, much less about the apocalyptic implications of such a development. Like many in Washington, in the fall of 2003 I was focused mostly on the exciting liberation of Iraq and what this meant for the rest of the region.
But Hossein Khomeini was ahead of the curve. He had been thinking long and hard about Shia theology and trying to come to logical conclusions about what his beliefs meant for his own life and the lives of his countrymen.
In the process, he had come to two conclusions: 1) the Islamic Revolution had been an unmitigated disaster, crushing the lives and dreams of millions of Iranians; and 2) as he noted to the AEI crowd, “religion cannot mix with government in the absence of the Messiah.” That is, Khomeini believes that until the Mahdi comes and sets up his global caliphate, there is no place on earth for an Islamic government predicated on Sharia law….
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