Interviewer: Lucien George (reporter the French daily, Le Monde)
[At the outset of the report of his interview with Imam Khomeini, that was published in May 6,1978 [16/2/57 AHS] issue of Le Monde, Mr. Lucien George has written thus:
From the beginning of the current year of the Christian calendar, uprisings on a large scale have been taking place regularly in Iran enveloping many cities, including Qum and Tabriz, with their fire and fury. This week too, many classes and debates were suspended in some universities situated in Tehran. Although some of the opponents, both leftists and ultra-leftists are taking part in these anti-Shah rallies, it so seems that the real and main inspirers of these rallies are the religious leaders. In any case, the demonstrators regularly and systematically repeat the name of the leader of the world's Shi`ah, Ayatullah Khomeini.
Khomeini has been living in exile in Iraq since 1963. On October 29,1977, his son's death in suspicious circumstances in Iraq, and the publication of an offensive article against the Ayatullah in the government-controlle newspapers, constituted the source of the uprising and the revolt. After that date, these set in motion the religious forces against the Shah in a more determined manner. Despite the fact that Ayatullah Khomeini is among the Shah's staunch opponents, and regularly sends announcements and messages to the people summoning them to stage an uprising and rebellion, he has never given an interview to the foreign press as yet. He gave an audience to Le Monde's special correspondent, in his place of exile in Najaf (Iraq).
Khomeini, with his lean face rendered more drawn out by the white beard, spoke to us for two hours in a measured tone, making daring statements. Even when he would say and repeat that Iran should rid itself of the Shah, and also when referring to his son's death, neither were signs of emotion detectable in his voice, nor any movement noticeable in the creases of his face. His conduct, control and self-restraint were most sagacious. The Ayatullah, instead of announcing his beliefs to the listener by stressing on the words, would do it by his look; the look which was always penetrating. But whenever the topic would reach a crucial and important point, he would turn sharp and impatient. The Ayatullah has full and firm determination, and does not intend to accept any compromise. He is determined to continue his campaign against the Shah to the very end.
At present in Iran, many uprisings are taking place in the name of this seventy-six year old austere, devout person. These uprisings, religious in substance and nature, have seriously endangered the Shah's regime to a much greater extent than those of the leftists against the above mentioned regime.
We are now in the presence of the Ayatullah in a room measuring 3 x 4 meters, and are in a house situated in the remotest part of Najaf, a town that, from the geographical aspect, is in one of the worst desert regions of Iraq. A strong wind arose on the Najaf-Baghdad road, setting the sands swirling. The wind was so intense that it buffeted our car as if it were straw, ultimately bringing it to a standstill in a mound of sand. The driver took this to be the wrath of God and started reciting verses from the Qur'an. In this the holy land of the Shi`ah Muslims, their just God, the Omnipotent, the Dispenser and Nourisher of justice is forever watching. The tomb of `Ali, the first Imam of the Shi`ah and the Prophet's son-in-law, is situated in Najaf, and that of Imam Husayn, the third Imam and the Prophet's grandson, in Karbala. The graves of these Imams are located under domes whose exteriors are plated with gold of utmost luster and brilliance. The interior is also ornamented with thousands of sparkling mirrors. These two Imams and Imam Husayn's progeny up to the eleventh Imam were slain by the Umayyads and the Abbasid tyrants. Hence, this ostentation in the context of the extreme poverty of the place is not surprising. Actually, it is a statement of vengeance of the people following the Shi`ah school of thought in respect to the usurpers of their Imam's rights. The worldwide followers of the Shi`ah branch of Islam, that constitute one-sixth of the Muslims, have been awaiting the advent of the twelfth Imam for the past ten centuries; the Imam who will install the government of righteousness and establish justice on earth. Despite the holy places of the Shi`ah being situated in Iraq half the population of which consists of them they however, reside principally in Iran. Actually, out of the 33 million Iranians 93 per cent are Shi`ah. Is the one who dominates and controls this body of Shi`ah- who are still swayed by their burning faith- and exercises authority over Iran this same old pious person, namely Ayatullah Khomeini, who has such power? The Shah banished him from Iran in 1963. From 1965, after a period of exile in Turkey, he has been living in Najaf. His son's death has been the cause of the successive uprisings that shake Iran from time to time.
Khomeini's humble residence is situated in the bend of one of the narrow streets of Najaf where the houses are intricately mazelike in order to protect them from the scorching rays of the sun. This residence is like the dwellings of the poorest people of Najaf. As many as twelve of those closest to him were present in the three rooms of the house. In this humble dwelling, there is no visible sign of the authority of the leaders of rebellions or those of the opposition groups living in exile. If Ayatullah Khomeini has the power to mobilize Iranians and stage an uprising, it undoubtedly stems from his power to influence and dominate their thinking. This power, instead of decreasing subsequent to his banishment from Iran, has increased tenfold.
The Ayatullah who is a dignified, reticent person has, hitherto, never addressed the international media on any topic. Therefore, the present interview with Le Monde is his first.]
Question: [The Shah accuses you of being against civilization and of living in the past. What is your answer to this?]
Answer: It is the Shah himself who is opposed to civilization, and who is living in the past. For fifteen years I have been persistently advocating, through my proclamations and statements addressed to the Iranian people, the socio-economic growth and development of my country. But the Shah implements the policies of the imperialists and attempts to keep Iran in a backward and retrogressive state. The Shah's regime is autocratic. Individual freedoms have been trampled on by this regime while authentic elections, the press and parties have been done away with. The Shah imposes the representatives on the Majlis thereby violating the constitution. The holding of politico- religious meetings is banned. The independence of the judiciary and cultural freedom is altogether non-existent. The Shah has usurped the three branches of the government, and has created a single party. «1» Worse, he had made it compulsory to join this party; and takes his revenge against those who disobey.
Our agricultural output that was, just 23 years ago, more than our internal requirements, with the surplus being exported, has now been destroyed. According to the statistics handed over by the Shah's Prime Minister in the past two years, Iran imports 93 per cent of its requirements of foodstuffs. This has been the result of the Shah's so-called land reforms! Our universities are shut for half the year and our seminaries and students are beaten up and injured several times a year, and then thrown into prisons. The Shah has ruined our economy. He squanders the income from oil, the future wealth of the country, on the purchase of arms. This being a luxury and exorbitantly expensive can only compromise Iran's independence. I am against the Shah because his policies that are tied to the foreign powers imperil the advancement of the people. When the Shah claims that he will take Iran to the frontiers of the" great civilization", he is only lying. He has made this an excuse to undo the country's independence and shed the people's blood. Workers, cultivators, students, traders, men and women struggle against his reactionary power and his living in the past. It is because of these undeniable facts that the Shah is attempting to invert the matter of our opposition to his regime, and show us as living in the past and being against civilization. If we succeed in overthrowing him, he will be put on trial for his actions against the economic and cultural progress of the people. The whole world will become aware of his crimes when that day arrives.
Q: [The Shah states that you are against civilization. You, in turn, accuse the Shah of the same thing. This matter is not necessarily convincing. If possible, please state your position and views on three basic issues concerning Iran: land reform, industrialization of the country and women.]
A: The aim of the Shah's land reforms was specifically to create a market for foreign countries, particularly America. But the land reforms that we want will enable the farmer to enjoy the fruit of his labor and penalize the landlords who have acted against Islamic laws.
Q: [Will the appropriated lands be returned to their previous owners?]
A: Certainly not; these very landlords had, over the years, accumulated the incomes there from without observing Islamic rules, especially with respect to the distribution of money. By this, the wealth that was the right of the society and should have gone to the people was retained by them in contravention of Islamic laws, whereby they have become rich. Therefore, if we take power and set up our government, the wealth that these landlords have unlawfully taken will be confiscated and distributed among the needy on the basis of rights and justice.
As for the industrialization of the country, we fully agree to this. However, we choose to have a national and independent industry that will be integrated with the country's economy and, together with agriculture, be at service of the people; not a foreign-dependent industry based on assembly such as they have currently installed in Iran. The Shah's industrial and agricultural policy has turned the country into a consumer society to the benefit of the expansionist powers.
With regard to the question of women, Islam has never been against their emancipation; on the contrary Islam has opposed the concept of a woman as a" thing", and has given them back their dignity and honor. Women and men are equal. Women are as free as men in determining their destinies and spheres of activity. However, by having them steeped in immorality, the Shah' regime attempts to keep them from being free. Islam is very much against such a state of affairs. The regime has of course trampled upon and deprived the women of their freedom as it has done in the case of the men. The women, just as the men, have filled the prisons of Iran. It is here that their freedom is threatened and imperiled. We wish to liberate them from the corruption that menaces them.
Q: [What do you think about the term" Islamic Marxism" that the regime regularly uses? Do you have any organizational link with the radical leftist groups?]
A: It is the Shah who has used this term, and whom the hangers-on have copied. This is an erroneous concept full of inconsistencies, its purpose being to discredit and extinguish the movement of our Muslim people against the Shah's regime. Islamic ideology which is based on monotheism and the Oneness of God is at cross-purposes with materialism. The term" Islamic Marxism" is contrary to reality. In other words, the Shah and his propaganda organs, trumpeting the purported alliance between" black reaction" and" red sabotage", are pursuing the aim that we had mentioned in the sense that he wants to terrorize the Muslims and sow the seeds of doubt in them in order to eliminate their opposition- that is comprehensive, indubitable and undeniable- to the regime. There has never been an alliance between the Muslims, who are campaigning against the Shah, and Marxist elements whether these be radical or not. In my proclamations, I have always been pointing out that the Muslims in their campaign should remain compatible and harmonious, and should be wary of any kind of organizational cooperation with the Marxist elements. It is in this manner that, with the unity of all the Muslims, we are campaigning against the Shah and will continue doing so. And it is for this reason that the Shah is trying to show the essentials of our campaign in an inverted way.
Q: [Considering the lack of organizational cooperation, do you have in mind a tactical alliance with the Marxists for overthrowing the Shah? What will be your approach and policy concerning them after the success of your mass movement?]
A: No, we will not have any cooperation with the Marxists even for overthrowing the Shah. I am constantly telling my supporters not to do such a thing. We are opposed to their manner of interpretation. We know that they have stabbed us in the back and that they will install a dictatorial regime once they come to power. This is contrary to the essence of Islam. The Marxists will have freedom of expression in the social order that we intend to establish, as we are sure that Islam has the answers to the needs of the people. Our faith and beliefs are capable of coping with their ideology. The question of those who have been denying the existence of God has been raised in Islamic philosophy since the earliest times. We have never deprived them of their freedom nor harmed them. Everybody is free to express his opinion but not to hatch conspiracies.
Q: [In your opinion, what is the reason for the flaring up of the uprisings in Iran? Why have these insurrections broken out at the present time?]
A: The pressure and force exerted on the people by the Shah and his father. The misfortunes assailing our people; depriving them of their freedom and independence, their advancement and livelihood; the falsehoods that have been instilled into their minds these last fifteen years constitute on the whole the root cause of the above mentioned demonstrations. The bad economic, social and cultural situation as well as the extent of the force and pressure, have all reached an intolerable level. The latest uprisings are the prelude to a great upheaval the consequences of which cannot be anticipated. The aim of the counter-demonstratio, which the police with the help of mercenaries have arranged to confront the people, and the aim of the killings taking place in every town and village are all for preventing the Shah's overthrow.
Q: [Do you think that your son was slain? If not, why has his death led to the demonstrations erupting? ]
A: I cannot say with all certainty as to what took place, but I know that the night prior to his death, he was hale and hearty. According to the reports I have received, some suspicious-looking people had gone to his house that night and the next day he was dead. How? I cannot express an opinion. The people showed their displeasure over this matter. The people undoubtedly like those who serve them; they look upon me and my son as serving them. Following this occurrence, every massacre that the regime ordered caused fresh demonstrations in observance of the fortieth day anniversary of those killed. However, the basic and real issue is not my son; the essential issue is the revolt and uprising of all the people against the tyrants who oppress them.
Q: [What is your political agenda? Do you intend to overthrow the regime? What sort of regime will you install in the place of this one?]
A: Our ideal goal is the establishment of an Islamic system of government. Nevertheless, our first concern at present is to topple this obdurate, self-centered regime. We should, at first, set up an authority that would cater to the basic needs of the people.
Q: [What do you mean by Islamic government? What is automatically construed by this is the Ottoman Empire or Saudi Arabia.]
A: The only authoritative basis for us is that of the period of the Prophet and of Imam `Ali (`a).
Q: [ Will reverting to the Constitution of 1906 «2» be a viable solution in your opinion?]
A: The constitutional laws and their supplementary ones, on condition that they be amended, can constitute the basis of the government and administration that we recommend. This administration would be in the service of the people for the realization of Islamic aspirations.
Q: [Would this constitution preserve the monarchy or do you have a republic in mind?]
A: The regime that we will set up will on no account be a monarchy. This topic is outside the scope of the interview and not to be raised.
Q: [Will the present Shah's son ascending the throne be acceptable to you?]
A: We were opposed to the Shah's father; we are opposed to the present Shah and to his entire dynasty because the people of Iran do not want them.
Q: [Do you intend to head the government?]
A: Personally, no. My age, my condition, position and disposition are not conducive to this. If the opportunity arises, we will choose a person or some people who have the aptitude for such an undertaking.
Q: [You have always been silent regarding the requests of the international press; why?]
A: The international press is more concerned with pomp, bombast and official ceremonial matters: Persepolis [Takht-e-Jamshid], the Shah's coronation or, it gives its utmost attention to oil prices; not to the misery of the people of Iran and the pressure they are under. Apparently, the Shah spends a hundred million dollars a year on his propaganda abroad. It is for this reason that for the last fifteen years- they have particularly pointed out to me that my newspaper is independent and covers the real issues of Iran; the tortures, killings and injustices; I hope that this interview would serve to make the aspirations of my people known- I have been addressing the people of Iran and will continue to do so.
Q: [Is the Shah's favorable policy toward Israel one of the reasons for your opposition to him?]
A: Yes, because Israel has occupied the land of a Muslim nation and has committed innumerable atrocities. The Shah's action in maintaining political relations with Israel and extending it economic assistance is against the interests and the good of Islam and the Muslims.
Q: [Do you wish to see Iran joining the Arab countries against Israel?]
I have always been urging the Muslims the world over to unite and to struggle against their enemies including Israel. Unfortunately, the various regimes that have come into power in the Muslim countries did not heed my call. I hope that ultimately my voice would be heard; I will remain steadfast in this path.
Q: [Israel's latest military operations have resulted in the occupation of further Arab territory, that is South Lebanon, where the people are Shi`ah. What is your view about this?]
A: The people of South Lebanon should return to their homes by every possible means. It is their duty to struggle to retake their territory before the Israelis settle their own people there. I have personally requested the people of Iran and the Shi`ah of the world to to the aid of their brethren in South Lebanon. This call has yielded results, but it is only the governments that, considering the requirements of these people, have the necessary means at their disposal; it is possible only for the governments to bring pressure to bear on Israel to pull out from this territory.
Q: [A contingent of Iranian troops is part of the United Nations forces in South Lebanon. Do you take this assistance to be a positive step?]
A: We have had experience about the Iranian regime. There is no reason to believe that this regime that has always acted against Arab interests and has assisted Israel would act to serve a sacred cause. In my opinion, Iran's policy is more in line with keeping Israel's enemies from expressing their views.
Q: [ What is your stand and position on America?]
A: In my statements and announcements during the last fifteen years, I have several times stated my stand and position vis-a-vis America and the other superpowers who exploit the resources of the poor countries. America foists its stooges on these countries, and then supports the subsequent harsh measures imposed on the people. America, which carried out the coup d'etat of 1332 (1953) that resorted the Shah to power and is supporting him, has not changed its policy. My stand and position with respect to America will remain unchanged as long as this situation lasts.
Q: [Do you think, as some others do, that America wants to install a regime in Iran that is freedom-minded and liberal?]
A: That is the announcement concerning respecting and observing human rights? This issue is nothing but talk! Talk! And I do not believe it. It is enough for you to bear in mind that Carter, the American president, in the course of his visit to Tehran, renewed his support for the Shah. Apart from that, this matter was not, to all intents and purposes, refuted. In any case, we will not accept a regime that is outwardly liberal and freedom-minded, and is dictatorial and autocratic in sum and content.
Q: [What is your stand and position with regard to the Soviet Union, Iran's big neighbor?]
A: The same as it is with regard to America. The super powers have exploited our people. I do not see any difference between them; even between them and England. Iran can establish sound relations with all the countries of the world when it becomes really independent.
Q: [Do you think that the Shah's regime is able to become liberal-minded?]
A: Never! Even the principles of democracy and freedom are essentially in conflict with this regime and with the presence of the Shah himself. Therefore, there is no possibility of a compromise with him. His crimes are innumerable. The first act of an independent regime would be to put the Shah on trial on the grounds of his amassing a fortune at the expense of the country, and transferring it to banks abroad. He must answer for all his crimes. The real liberation of the country will not be possible as long as the Shah is in the seat of power.
The socio-political affairs of Iran
جلد ۳ صحیفه امام خمینی (ره)، از صفحه ۳۸۰ تا صفحه ۳۸۹
Interviewer: Lucien George (reporter the French daily, Le Monde)
|سایت جامع امام خمینی رحمة الله علیه|