Setting a legacy in Iranian politics

As Iran marks the 24th anniversary of Khomeini's death, interpretations of his legacy continue to divide the nation.


    Iranians mark their modern history in three stages the Shah's era, Khomeini's era and after Khomeini's death. It depends on your age if you remember the first two, but both changed the course of Iran, the Middle East and the world.

    It's been 34 years since Khomeini set out his vision for a new Iran, since he authored a constitution based on Belgium’s a hybrid of public expression, but a theocracy where velayat-e-faqih (guardianship of the jurist) rules.

    The Islamic Republic was only in its tenth year when Khomeini died in 1989, leaving behind an unfinished legacy. Because the children of the Revolution have been debating his since his death, whether the revolution is finished or not, and in what direction Iran should take. But that direction could be clearer in ten days, when the country will have a new President.

    Nuclear policy

    Ian Black, a Middle East analyst told Al Jazeera that this means "it will be interesting to see if there will be any change in the nuclear policy after the elections".

    If one listens to the country's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the answer is no. He told the commemoration on Tuesday, on the 24th anniversary of Khomeini’s death that, "It's wrong to grant concessions to the enemy it’s a sign, they (the crowd and presidential candidates) prefer foreign interests over Iran's."

    To the Supreme Leader, Khomeini's legacy is one of resistance.

    He said Khomeini had turned a dependent country into an independent one that he had liberated Iran from the US and Britain. He made those comments less than 24 hours after the Obama administration imposed new sanctions (the US says Iran is using its civilian nuclear program to cover up a military one, Iran says that's a lie).

    In the past two days, Iranian newspaper IRAN, affiliated with the government and said to be close to current president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, received a six-month ban for printing "misinformation," and police arrested campaigners for Hassan Rouhani, the only cleric running for president (according to police they are monitoring people for "counter-revolutionary behavior").

    Different views

    Khomeini's vision for Iran is subject to interpretations that can vary greatly, even those who share a party line. At the commemoration of his death, his grandson, Hassan Khomeini sat with former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a man who had very close ties to his grandfather. Between them: the Larijani brothers, Ali, the parliamentary chairman, and Sadeq, head of Iran’s judiciary, and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. They all have different views.

    For Iran, 34 years of resistance has come at a cost. The country's currency has lost almost 80 percent of its value in the last two years. The country has been under sanctions for 34, including sanctions on its central bank and on oil exports. Inflation is rampant at least 30 percent, and so too is unemployment, especially in the production sector.

    Mohammed Marandi, an expert with Tehran University, defends the direction the country has taken.

    "…it's quite an achievement when you look at what's going on in the rest of the region... that doesn't mean that our economy is good, the situation is so good...but I don't think it's in contrast to Khomeini's vision," he said.

    But the debate over Khomeini's legacy has been a long one, and every year that passes, every anniversary marked, it seems to grow. This last year is no exception, especially with a presidential election. It has been wrought with politicking, and in-fighting.

    But maybe all along, that was Khomeini's point a legacy of Iranian politics.



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