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1979: Exiled Ayatollah Khomeini returns to Iran

VIDEO : Millions welcome Khomeini back to Iran

Religious leader Ayatollah Khomeini has made a triumphant return to Iran after 14 years in exile.

Up to five million people lined the streets of the nation's capital, Tehran, to witness the homecoming of the Shia Muslim imam.

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, 78, was imprisoned by the Shah in 1963 for his opposition to reforms and was expelled the following year, to Iraq - via Turkey.

He spent the last few months of his exile in France, near Paris, from where he co-ordinated the revolution in January that forced the Shah of Iran to go into hiding.

The Ayatollah - a title meaning Sign of God - emerged from his chartered plane looking tired and tearful to meet the 1,500 religious and political leaders allowed to meet him in the terminal building.


"I will strike with my fists at the mouths of this government"

Ayatollah Khomeini

A force of 50,000 police quickly lost control of the crowds outside the airport clamouring to catch a glimpse of the man who has been their spiritual inspiration.

Hands raised in greeting and appreciation, Ayatollah Khomeini made slow progress as his blue and white Chevrolet forced its way through a mass of people.

The cavalcade did not stop in Tehran itself but made the 12 mile journey south to the Cemetery of Martyrs where Mr Khomeini addressed 250,000 supporters.

He was openly belligerent towards the current government of Prime Minister Shahpur Bakhtiar.

"These people are trying to bring back the regime of the late Shah or another regime. I will strike with my fists at the mouths of this government. From now on it is I who will name the government," he claimed.

Dr Bakhtair responded by saying: "Don't worry about this kind of speech. That is Khomeini. He is free to speak but he is not free to act."

The government has tried to re-assert its authority by cutting TV pictures of Mr Khomeini's progress and holding a military parade through Tehran this evening.

In Context
Armed resistance to the government mounted as Khomeini's revolutionary forces became increasingly well-equipped.

Shahpur Bakhtiar stepped down as prime minister less than two weeks later to be replaced by the Ayatollah's choice Mehdi Bazargan.

Mr Bakhtiar fled to Paris and in 1991 was found stabbed to death in his apartment.

Ayatollah Khomeini led the new regime from the theological seminary of Qum and declared an Islamic Republic in Iran at the beginning of April 1979.

In November he openly supported the storming of the US embassy in Tehran by student militants.

The Shah of Iran died in exile in Egypt in July 1980.

Ayatollah Khomeini died in June 1989.


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