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Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini dies

The Story

On a Sunday early in June 1989, Canadians wake to the news that much has happened around the world as they slept. There's been a massacre in Beijing as the Chinese military cracks down on protesters in Tiananmen Square. A train disaster in the Soviet Union has left hundreds dead. And the leader of Iran -- loved by many, despised by others -- has died. CBC Radio's Sunday Morning examines the controversial rule of the Ayatollah Khomeini. 

Medium: Radio
Program: Sunday Morning
Broadcast Date: June 4, 1989
Host: Mary Lou Finlay
Reporter: Christopher Thomas
Duration: 7:09

Did You know?

• For centuries Iran was ruled by several different monarchies. The last Shah, or king, was Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who abolished the country's system of multiple political parties and ruled as a dictator in a one-party regime.
• Pahlavi also introduced reforms that modernized and Westernized Iran, including giving women the vote.
• The Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, a vocal critic of the Shah, was exiled in 1964. He spent his exile in Iraq and France.
• In January 1979 a long-simmering revolution came to a boil as Iranians -- most of them religious Shia Muslims -- forced the Shah and his family to flee. The Ayatollah Khomeini returned to Iran and was made leader.
• Under Khomeini Iran became an Islamic Republic. In this system a high-ranked religious cleric becomes supreme leader, elected indirectly by the religious hierarchy. A parliament functions under him, democratically elected but subject to approval by a religious council.
• In November of 1979 Iranian revolutionaries under Khomeini stormed the American embassy in Tehran, the Iranian capital, and took 66 U.S. citizens hostage. Six other Americans took refuge in the Canadian embassy and were hidden by Canadian ambassador Ken Taylor. Through a daring ruse plotted by Taylor and the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency they were smuggled out of the country two months later.
• After his death Khomeini was replaced by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, another cleric who had held the position of president in the Iranian government. The position of supreme leader in Iran is held for life, and Khamenei continues to rule as of 2004.
Sunday Morning was a CBC Radio program that came out of the network's "radio revolution" of the 1970s. Producer Mark Starowicz, who had revamped As It Happens in 1973, envisioned it as a "Sunday New York Times for the radio." It debuted in 1976.
• The show's first two hosts were Bronwyn Drainie and Warner Troyer. Satirical songwriter Nancy White was also there from the start, and she stayed for 15 years.
• From the start Sunday Morning was a phenomenal success, drawing over 1.1 million listeners per week.
• Part of the show's appeal lay in its singularity -- there was nothing like it. "Back then there was no... Newsworld or CNN, the Sunday New York Times was not easily available across Canada, there were no focus or insight sections in the Saturday papers," Drainie would remember years later. "Anybody who wanted to get behind the headlines tuned into Sunday Morning."
• From 1981 to 1986 the show was hosted by Barbara Smith and a revolving-door cast of at least six co-hosts.
• In 1986 the show shifted to a single host. Linden MacIntyre, later of CBC Television's The Fifth Estate, was host for two years before Mary Lou Finlay took over.
Sunday Morning was radically overhauled in 1994. With a new host, Ian Brown, and a new format, the show's focus moved away from the radio documentaries for which it was acclaimed.
• In 1997 Sunday Morning was cancelled. Its time slot went to This Morning, a new program that also ran Monday through Friday as a replacement for Peter Gzowski's Morningside. Michael Enright and Avril Benoît were its hosts.
• The show's name changed in 2002 to The Sunday Edition with host Michael Enright. The Monday-to-Friday version of This Morning also gave way to a new program: Sounds Like Canada with Shelagh Rogers.


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