For three decades, the image of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini arriving on Iranian soil to a tumultuous homecoming after 15 years in exile has been a centrepiece of Iran’s revolutionary iconography.
It is an event best captured in a famous picture of the late spiritual leader being gently led down the steps of an Air France jet by a man dressed as a pilot or an air steward. The picture embodies the heady mixture of pride, compassion and religious hero-worship the revolution is supposed to evoke among Iranians.
Khomeini was returning to be hailed as a saviour by his fellow countrymen after a wave of popular uprisings that had toppled the regime of the western-backed shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. His guide was playing a mere walk-on part in the historic drama that engulfed Iran that day in February 1979.
But last week, at the start of the annual Fajr festivities marking the revolution’s anniversary, that image was the subject of a strange story that seemed symptomatic of the increasing uncertainty surrounding the country’s revolutionary legacy, amid the continuing turmoil over President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s disputed re-election.
The Islamic Revolution Documentation Centre, a state body linked to a pro-government MP, claimed on its website to have traced Khomeini’s chaperone as one Gerard Jean Fabian-Bataouche, who it said was living almost destitute in Tehran. The report, based on an interview with Fabian-Bataouche, described him as a former French … >>>