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Iran becomes an Islamic republic

The Story

The results of Iran's referendum of April 1, 1979 could hardly have been more conclusive. Asked whether they wanted their country to become an Islamic republic, 99 per cent said yes. But, according to CBC Radio correspondent Andrew Whitley, popular feeling on the street is less united as ethnic minorities and the middle class have shown opposition to the proposal. As Iran seeks to rewrite its constitution under the spiritual leadership of Ayatollah Khomeini, a Harvard anthropologist explains what an Islamic republic might look like. 

Medium: Radio
Program: Sunday Magazine
Broadcast Date: April 8, 1979
Guest: Michael Fisher
Reporter: Andrew Whitley
Duration: 18:56

Did You know?

• Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini was born Ruhollah Musavi in 1900 or 1902 (sources are unclear) in the then-Persian town of Khomein. Around 1930 he adopted the surname Khomeini after his hometown.

 • By the 1960s he had become one of the highest ranking Shia clerics, known as ayatollahs, in Iran. He also began criticizing the increasing freedom of women in Iran and the Shah's land reform efforts, leading to a year-long imprisonment followed by exile beginning in 1964. He lived in Iraq and then, forced to leave by that country's leader, Saddam Hussein, he went to France in 1978. There he regularly recorded condemnations of the Shah and sent them to Iran to circulate among his growing numbers of devotees.

• Following the Shah's exit from Iran, Khomeini returned to Tehran on Feb. 1, 1979. His regime executed hundreds of people from the Shah's inner circle, then turned to enforcing Islamic practices including veils for women in public and bans on alcohol and Western music.

• In December that year Iranians voted on a new constitution that made Iran into an Islamic republic and named Khomeini its religious and political leader for life.

• One of Khomeini's most notorious acts was his 1989 proclamation of a fatwa calling for devout Muslims to take the life of British novelist Salman Rushdie and his publishers. Rushdie was forced into hiding for almost 10 years because many Muslims took offence to passages in his 1988 book The Satanic Verses.

• Ayatollah Khomeini died in June 1989. 




Revolution in Iran more