Iran divided over Khomeini's legacy 10 years after
TEHRAN, June 3 (AFP) - Iran celebrates the 10th anniversary of the
death of the Islamic Republic's founding father Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini
on Friday amid deep divisions over his legacy.
Khomeini's disciples are anxious that the event should serve as a sign
of the durability of the Islamic Revolution under the leadership of the
Shiite Moslem clergy 20 years after the overthrow of the pro-western shah.
The current Iranian year 1378 has been baptised "the Year of Imam
Khomeini" by his successor Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, as it marks both
the 10th anniversary of the revolutionary leader's death and the 100th
year of his birth.
Iranian leaders and foreign Islamic dignatories will join hundreds
of thousands of Iranians at an official ceremony on Friday in the vast
mausoleum built in Khomeini's memory near the Behesht-e-Zahra cemetery
to the south of Tehran.
Khomeini, who died on June 4, 1989 at the age of 89, is laid to rest
in a modest shrine in the main gilt-domed hall of the as yet unfinished
complex near the graves of thousands of "martyrs" of the 1979
Islamic Revolution and the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war.
"We must gather around the imam's noble ideas to protect the revolution
against the scourge of plots," said one young Basiji (Islamic volunteer)
on Tehran radio.
But 20 years after the revolution, Khomeini's heirs appear more divided
than ever over the future of the Islamic Republic, struggling to tackle
economic malaise and the aspirations of a young and increasingly disenchanted
"The Imam is said to be wary of disputes between the sons of the
revolution," Ayatollah Jalali Khomeini, a relative of the late supreme
leader, said in the run-up to the anniversary celebrations.
Reformists who back moderate President Mohammad Khatami believe the
system has to be drastically reformed if it is to survive into the 21st
Aware of the problems facing a country where half of the 60 million
population is under the age of 20, Khatami called on clerics to "strive
for intimacy with the youth and rest
assured that the union between clergy and youth would create the strongest
power." "If the clergy distance themselves from the factual
realities of the present-day world, they will not be able to fulfill their
role as well as they should," Khatami -- himself a culture minister
under Khomeini -- said last week in the holy city of Qom.
But the conservatives are vehemently opposed to any cultural and political
liberalisation, fearing it could harm revolutionary values and the power
of the clergy. Parliamentary speaker Ali Akbar Nateq-Nuri last month
warned that the "untamed development of liberties will threaten the
ideological foundations of the revolution."
He called on all factions to "silence their political quarrels
and join the supreme leader (Khamenei)" and denounced "cultural
plots" by "those who encourage corruption and prostitution in
cultural circles under the pretext of liberty."
"The enemy seeks to make our youth indifferent and sow discord
between the public and the leaders," the conservative speaker said.