Ayatollah Khomeini effectively stepped into power 31 years ago on February 11, 1979, when the army stepped aside, accepting him as their leader. He was the most popular of a group of religious leaders who had opposed the Shah’s increasingly repressive monarchy. The Shah of Iran himself had fled into exile a month earlier, on January 16, 1979.
Today everyone who took part in the Iranian Revolution remembers the events.
Ja’far Najafian, a taxi driver, said: “At that time, almost everyone was in the streets every day, and no one would stay at home. Young, old, women and men would go to streets.”
Sobhan Gholi Kohanbani was a photographer at that time and became a key player in the revolution, documenting the events and photographing the leaders of the revolution. He went on to become one of Iran’s most famous photographers and is now retired.
He said: “They wanted freedom, comfort and security. They also wanted to improve their living conditions. But above all, they wanted the monarchy regime to go. They did not like it any more.”
The new regime enjoyed massive popular support, and set about reversing the Shah’s pro-Western policies which had been largely underpinned by the American and British secret services.
Following a national referendum, the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran was announced on April 1, 1979.
In July, 1980, the Shah died of cancer in Egypt.