Through Four Narrations

Oral History of February 1, 1979 Part I

M. B. Alian Nezhad
Translated by Shima Sharifi


Although almost four decades has passed since the Islamic Revolution's Victory, unfortunately few reference books have been published on the turning points of the revolution days. The day of Imam's arrival into Iran is one of those days and oral history references are considered as main references of compiling books about these historical events.

By having a look at the photos left of that historic welcome of Imam Khomeini, you can find that many revolutionaries of that day either became martyred or died. Mass memoir writing and thematic writing of significant events have been neglected; however the memoirs of some of these people have been recorded and published. In this kind of reminiscence, incidents are investigated and analyzed from different aspects and the memoirs of revolutionaries and leaders of that time shed light on those dark points.

Here we render the oral history of February 1, 1979 of the published memoirs of some revolutionaries belonging to four of Imam's companions on his arrival day.


When the airplane entered Iran's sky

Sadiq Tabataba'ei, one of Imam's companions in Neauphle-le-Château, in his memoirs of the revolution's flight writes as follows: "when the airplane started to fly, we were strangely enthusiastic. There were some among us who hadn't been back to Iran for years. I myself was 12 years away. Based on Imam's recommendation the in-flight meal was the same for all passengers. There was an atmosphere of excitement in the airplane. After an hour they made the upper part ready for Imam. He went there and one of the companions was standing at stairs in that other passengers couldn't go there and Imam could take a rest. After a while I went upstairs. He was saying his prayers. I sat beside him between the prayers and talked together. I took his permission to ask a journalist and a cameraman to come upstairs to have an interview. Imam accepted this. Then I asked Peter Scholl-Latour, the reporter and interpreter of German Second Channel television and his cameraman, Torkham Kaufmann, to record some scenes of Imam's prayers and ask him some questions. Meanwhile Mr. Mohtashami came upstairs and gave a note to Imam and told him "it is narrated to recite this Duaa (pray) for anxiety and stress" then he back downstairs. Without a look at that, Imam folded the note and put it under his blanket. It was clear how anxious he was. After about 20 minutes of photography they left upstairs. Hadj Ahmad came upstairs and lay down on the couches.


The late Sadegh Tabatabaee


It was about one hour to dawn Azan; I went to Imam two times. When our friends in downstairs announced that it was dawn Azan, we said the prayers. We had asked the pilot for Qibla before. He said that "if you wait a little, Qibla will be in this direction in an hour".

Sadiq Tabataba'ei expresses the airplane entrance to Tehran's sky and its landing as follows: "An ocean of people could be seen from the plane window. They announced that we entered Iran's sky. It was found out that the army high ranking officials had disagreement for the landing point. When the plane entered Tehran's sky, it was flying along Azadi Street. The vast majority of people were there. I think the plane once approached for landing but it couldn't. I can't remember the reason, so it turned and approached again to land. When it landed in Mehr Abad airport, the police surrounded it around. It was because of security. Telling off loudly, Sadiq Ghotbzadeh asked them to disperse. About 15 to 20 minutes later Mr. Pasandideh and Mr. Motahhari got on the plane. The moment of Imam and Mr. Pasandideh meeting was so sweet and interesting. Unfortunately there was no camera to record the moments. They explained the planned programs to Imam and the presence of different classes of people at the airport hall. They said that the welcoming crowd continued to Behesht-E-Zahra. It was suggested that Imam could fly to Behesht-E-Zahra by a helicopter. He refused the suggestion and reminded that they had talked about it in Paris before. However, he accepted the other programs. He insisted on the matter that he didn't want people to get in trouble.

Iran's nation has seen the magnificent moment of Imam's getting out of plane and his splendid entrance to his homeland. The head flight attendant took his hand and went down the stairs. Mr. Motahhari and Mr. Lahooti were behind Imam. In order to take good care of Imam from the plane to the airport hall, we asked the journalists to make a corridor like to both do their jobs comfortably and create a protective wall.

The moment of Imam's arrival at the hall and the anxiety of being far away from his family, relatives and friends on one side, his magnificent presence of him among the enthusiastic and excited people on the other side was shocking that nothing is able to describe that stunning time. Although we stayed not more than 30 to 45 minutes at the airport, I never forget those historic and memorable moments. It's one of the events that might be less likely to occur in one's life.

By arriving at the hall and a Quran reverberation, a kind of strange feeling came over everyone there. Just once I noticed Peter Scholl-Latour who was astonished of that influential welcome. We were also surprised of the atmosphere, placards, Quran and anthems. Verse 95 of An-Nisa (women) sura of Quran "…and Allah shall grant to the strivers above the holders back a mighty reward", the anthem of "Khomeini Ey Imam" were all such sweet that my feelings are still to change fundamentally whenever I remember them.

The representatives of different classes of people, including those of the religious minority, were standing at preplanned parts of the arrival hall. There was a fence in the middle. I was wondered when I went down the stairs as if I couldn't believe my eyes. It was like a dream. On the other side there was a kind of strength in Imam's face, glory, grandeur, solemnity, determination, willpower and self-control, the whole traits that one can find in great divine men and one is speechless to explain.

Anyway, they provide a microphone to Imam after his entrance and playing some verses of Quran. In his short speech he was thankful to all the people".[1]


The night we made sure

Late Eminence Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani one of the Council of the Islamic Revolution members at that time, in his memoirs of Imam's entrance into Iran writes as: "Finally the plane carrying Imam landed and made millions of people who were waiting for him for hours, calm. It was the time that we were too excited and our hearts were beating fast and intensely; during the way from the plane to the speech hall, it seemed like time was passing by so slowly.

During Imam's speech at the airport, Shahid Beheshti and I were standing in a place that we could control the people and we were watching everything. Besides being grateful to all people and inviting them to unity in his speech, Imam noted  that our victory is complete when we cut off the foreigners' hands from our country and eradicate the entire origin of the royal regime.

After Imam went to Behesht-E-Zahra in the most glorious welcome in the history, we went to Ayatollah Ardebili's house and controlled Imam's way via the coordinated phone calls.


The late Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani


In his memoirs of his worries on February 1, 1979, Eminence Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani writes as below:

"The most significant moment during the climax of happiness on that day which made us worried, was the time after the program when our friends lost Imam and had no information about him. They said no one saw him after his vital speech in Behesht-E-Zahra and his declaration based on determining the government. We were deeply worried. We were suspicious to Pahlavi regime that we had predicted it before in a way that according to a plot they would kidnap and imprison him. We were alert enough to prevent it. The important news was that a helicopter took off from the speech location and people haven't seen it then. No one told us what happened. The cut in the live program of Imam's entrance intensified our worries and doubts. It was awful. We searched everywhere and asked everyone until we were informed that he was in a good health in one of his relatives somewhere in Tehran. We couldn't believe, we thought they wanted to deceive us. We tried hard to find the truth. Eventually, I think, we ourselves heard Imam's voice on the phone, then we relieved. Some companions doubted the reliability of this news as well and thought that the regime wanted to decieve us. But based on the information gathered on that night we made sure that Imam was healthy so we were relaxed".[2]


To be continued…


[1] Tabataba'ei, Sadiq, Social-political memoirs, Vol.3, Tehran, Orouj, 1388(2009), pp. 211-213

[2] Hashemi Rafsanjani, Akbar, Report card and memoirs of years 1979 & 1980: revolution and victory, under supervision of Hashemi, Mohsen, [by the attempt of] Moshiri, Abbas, Tehran, Revolution Publications Office, 1383(2004), pp. 163-165

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