Imam Khomeini’s decision to leave Iraq and go to Paris cast fear on foreign colonialism and domestic despotism. Although at first glance it would seem that moving Imam Khomeini further from Iranian borders would lead to the demise of his uprising, but as he entered Paris, Imam Khomeini was wise enough to turn the Islamic Revolution of Iran global. Meanwhile, foreign governments and the Pahlavi regime in Iran showed reactions to his staying in Paris. Since Imam Khomeini’s departure for Paris is a turning point in the Islamic Revolution, the IRDC has set for viewing the reactions, from outside and inside the country, to the event on the occasion of the departure anniversary.

 

Domestic reverberations of Imam Khomeini’s departure for Paris

 

The cleric and other popular strata which used to follow the course of strict actions of the Iraqi regime against Imam Khomeini, when found out about Imam Khomeini’s departure for Paris sent numerous telegrams to the French government asking for hospitality toward Imam Khomeini. This found coverage in Iranian newspapers and foreign news agencies also covered it. AFP in a breaking news wrote “Ayatollah Khomeini entered Paris confidentially and without much noise and went to an unknown place with his friends.”

In Iran, where continued demonstrations had begun a long time earlier, they started to protest the way Imam Khomeini was treated, so much so that different organizations would go on strike on various pretexts. Tehran clerics published an announcement in relation to Imam Khomeini’s arrival in Paris. In a telegraph to Imam Khomeini, Ayatollah Sadoughi said the clergy society of Yazd was ready to implement the guidelines of Imam Khomeini. In a letter to the French president, he wrote “Ayatollah Khomeini is the leader of over 200 million Shia Muslims and the French president and noble people of France who support democracy and freedom will not withhold the conditions of hospitality and helpfulness to their distinguished guest.”

 

Reactions of French, Iranian governments to Imam Khomeini’s stay in Paris

 

Imam Khomeini’s journey with his friends to Paris was conducted without notice to the French government and quite a surprise. Since the Iraqi government was uneasy with Imam Khomeini’s residence in that country and wanted to get out of the dead-end, as it realized Imam Khomeini was intending to go to Paris, it send Imam Khomeini with an Iraqi airplane to France and took care that nobody knew of the trip.

After Imam Khomeini arrived in France, the French bureau for immigration took the French government’s official message along with a message from the president to Iran.

Mr. Khomeini has been told that his stay in France would be regarded as that of a tourists and is limited. Therefore during his stay, he would have to refrain from any political activity, the president’s letter wrote.

After Iranian students in Paris knew of Imam Khomeini’s arrival, they convened and asked Imam Khomeini to attend the session. It was set that after community prayer and Imam Khomeini’s speech, a press conference would be held. But representatives from the French government went to Imam Khomeini and said he could have no such program.

The restrictions laid on Imam Khomeini by the French government found reverberations in Iran. Etela’at newspaper wrote “The French government has asked his Highness to refrain from political activities while staying in Paris.”

Meanwhile, Keyhan newspaper wrote “Informed sources have said if the French government prevents political activities by the ayatollah, he will soon leave that country.”

Following that, numerous clerical figures as well as organizations wrote telegraphs to the French government asking for hospitality. The most important of such letters was one by ayatollah Mar’ashi Najafi.

Algerian president, in the meantime, wrote a letter to Imam Khomeini, stating that his country was willing to have Imam Khomeini among them.

Also, Indonesian clerics sent a telegraph to Imam Khomeini and asked him to seek lodge in their country.

It is said that the French president then wrote a verdict to oust Imam Khomeini from his country, but that letter never found the form of action since the Iranian Shah was afraid Iranian people would rise against him. The Iranian ambassador to Paris had informed Paris that Iran was not in favor of that move. This message set some commotion among French officials.

The French ambassador to Tehran then wrote “In a meeting with the Iranian prime minister it was said that there is no problem with Khomeini’s stay in France under the rules and regulations prevailing that country. The only request by the Iranian prime minister is to inform him with the news related to the ayatollah’s activities. Therefore that was done.”

Mohammad Reza Pahlavi in his book “Answer to History” writes about his opposition to Imam Khomeini’s stay in France: “I believed that he could be destructive anywhere else, being Hamburg or Zurich, as he was in Paris and I lack the power to form a united front against him.”

 

Views of UK, US ambassadors vis-à-vis Imam Khomeini’s departure for Paris

 

The US ambassador to Iran believed Sharif Emami made a mistake that more than any other of his mistakes contained lack of realism and sound judgment. He believed that since Imam Khomeini’s presence in the religious city of Najaf was as pain in the Shah’s neck, if he was removed from that city it would damage the plans of Imam Khomeini’s followers. He believed that since Imam Khomeini would make contact with Iranian pilgrims in Iraq and give them his tape records, he if was removed from the area it would make him less accessible to followers.

When the plan turned operational and ayatollah Khomeini departed for Paris, Sharif Emami told me and the US ambassador “Khomeini will be wiped out of memories the moment he sets foot in Paris,” the US ambassador said.

The US ambassador in a book of his has written: In early October Sharif Emami spoke to me and my American counterpart about ayatollah Khomeini’s going out of Iraq. When he said that Khomeini was actually driving south toward Kuwait. Probably Emami believed that once there, Khomeini could all of a sudden move out of the gate of the Persian Gulf with a motorboat toward Iran and get off in an Iranian shore. He believed that if Khomeini was not stopped, he could roam freely in Iran and topple the regime.