Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (1902-1989)
was an Iranian religious and political leader, and the architect of the
1979 Revolution in Iran which deposed the pro-American Shah Muhammad
Reza Pahlavi. Khomeini originally gained prominance as a gifted scholar
of Shia Islam, but by the 1960s increasing used his position as a
member of the Ulama (religious scholarly community) to denounce the Shah's authoritarian rule as unislamic. Khomeini
was exiled from his homeland for a time, but returned in 1979 after the
Shah fled the country in the face of mounting popular protests against
his regime. Khomeini subsequently helped draft a new consitution for
Iran which created a theocratic republic which he ruled as its supreme
leader. This speech dates from his earlier period of exile, and harshly
criticizes a bill passed by the Shah's government granting agents of
the American govenrment and their families living in Iran immunity from
Iranian law, in accordance with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic
Relations of 1961.The speech also stands as a denunciation of the Shah
and the level of American influence in Iran in general.
Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Speech Denouncing American Influence in Iran (1964)
In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful
We are from God and to Him is our return.
I cannot express the sorrow I feel in my heart. My heart is heavy. Since the day I heard of the latest
developments affecting Iran, I have barely slept. I am profoundly disturbed. With sorrowful heart, I
count the days until death shall come and deliver me (the audience weeps). Iran no longer has a
festival to celebrate; they have turned our festival into
mourning. They have turned it into mourning and have lit up the city; they have turned it into
mourning and are dancing together with joy. They have sold us, they have sold our independence,
and still they light up the city and dance.
If I were in their place, I would forbid all these lights; I would tell the people to raise black flags over
the bazaars and houses, to hang black awnings. Our honour has been trampled underfoot; the
dignity of Iran has been destroyed. The dignity of the Iranian army has been trampled underfoot!
They have taken a law to the Parliament according to which first of all we are to accede to the
Vienna Convention, and secondly we have to add a provision that all American military advisers,
together with their families, technical and administrative officials, and servants - in short, anyone in
any way connected to them - are to enjoy legal immunity with respect to any crime they may commit
in Iran! If some American's servant, some American's cook, assassinates your marja'-i taqlid in the
middle of the bazaar, or runs over him, the Iranian police do not have the right to apprehend him!
Iranian courts do not have the right to judge him! The dossier must be sent to America so that our
masters there can decide what is to be done!
The previous government approved this measure without telling anyone, and now the present
government just recently introduced a bill in the Senate and settled the whole matter in a single
session without breathing a word to anyone. A few days ago, the bill was taken to the lower house of
the Parliament and there were discussions, with a few deputies voicing their opposition, but the bill
was passed anyhow. They passed it without any shame, and the government shamelessly defended
this scandalous measure. They have reduced the Iranian people to a level lower than that of an
American dog. If someone runs over a dog belonging to an American, he will be prosecuted. Even if
the Shah himself were to run over a dog belonging to an American, he would be prosecuted. But if an
American cook runs over the Shah, or the marja' of Iran, or the highest official, no one will have the
right to object.
Because they wanted a loan from America and America demanded this in return! This is apparently
the case. A few days after this measure was approved, they requested a $200 million loan from
America and America agreed to the request. It was stipulated that the sum of $200 million would be
paid to the Iranian government over a period of five years, and that $300 million would be paid back
to America over a period of ten years. Do you realise what this means? In return for this loan,
America is to receive $100 million - or 800 million tumans - in interest! But in addition to this, Iran
has sold itself to obtain these dollars! The government has sold our independence, reduced us to the
level of a colony, and made the Muslim nation of Iran appear more lowly than savages in the eyes of
the world! They have done this for the sake of a $200 million dollar loan for which they have to pay
back $300 dollars!
What are we to do in the face of this disaster?
What are our clergymen to do?
Where shall they turn to for help?
To what country should they present their appeal?
Other countries imagine that it is the Iranian nation that has abased itself in this way. They do not
know that it is the Iranian government, the Iranian Parliament - this Parliament which has nothing
to do with the Iranian people. This is a Parliament elected at bayonet point, what does such a
Parliament have to do with the people. The Iranian nation did not elect these deputies. Many of the
high-ranking `ulama and maraji' ordered a boycott of the elections, and the people obeyed them and
did not vote. But then came the power of the bayonet, and these deputies were seated in the
According to a history textbook printed this year and now taught to our schoolchildren, one
containing all kinds of lies and inaccurate statements: "It has now become clear that it is to the
benefit of the nation for the influence of the religious leaders to be rooted out." They have come to
understand well that:
If the religious leaders have influence, they will not permit this nation to be slaves of Britain one day,
and America the next.
If the religious leaders have influence, they will not permit Israel to take over the Iranian economy;
they will not permit Israeli goods to be sold in Iran - in fact, to be sold duty-free!
If the religious leaders have influence, they will not permit the government to impose arbitrarily such
a heavy loan on the Iranian nation.
If the religious leaders have influence, they will not permit such misuse to be made of the public
If the religious leaders have influence, they will not permit any government to do whatever it wants,
whatever is against the interests of the nation.
If the religious leaders have influence, they will not permit the Parliament to come to such a
miserable state as this; they will not permit the Parliament to be formed at bayonet-point, with the
ignominious results that we see.
If the religious leaders have influence, they will not permit girls and boys to wrestle together, as
recently happened in Shiraz.
If the religious leaders have influence, they will not permit people's innocent daughters to be under
the tutelage of young men at school; they will not permit women to teach at boys' schools and men to
teach at girls' schools, with the resulting corruption.
If the religious leaders have influence, they will strike this government in the mouth; they will strike
this Parliament in the mouth and chase these deputies out of both its houses!
If the religious leaders have influence, they will not permit a handful of individuals to be imposed on
the nation as deputies and determine the destiny of the country.
If the religious leaders have influence, they will not permit some agent of America to carry out these
scandalous deeds; they will throw him out of Iran.
So, the influence of the religious leaders is harmful to the nation? No, it is harmful to you, harmful to
you traitors, not to the nation! You have realised that as long as the influence of the religious leaders
exists you cannot do everything you want to do, commit all the crimes you want, so you wish to
destroy their influence. You thought you could cause dissension among the religious leaders with
your intrigues, but you will be dead before your dream can come true. You will never be able to do it.
The religious leaders are united!
Once again I esteem all religious leaders, I kiss the hand of all the religious leaders. If, in the past, I
kissed the hands of the maraji', today I kiss the hands of the religious students. I kiss the hands of the
simple grocer (the audience weeps intensely).
Gentlemen, I warn you of danger!
Iranian army, I warn you of danger!
Iranian politicians, I warn you of danger!
Iranian merchants, I warn you of danger!
`Ulama of Iran, maraji' of Islam, I warn you of danger!
Scholars, religious students! Centres of religious learning, Najaf, Qum, Mashhad, Tehran, Shiraz! I
warn you of danger!
It is a dangerous situation. It is clear that there are things kept under cover that we know nothing
about. In the Parliament they have said that they have to be kept secret! It is evident that they are
dreaming up further plans for us. What else can they do that is worse than this? What are they
planning? What will this loan inflict on this nation? Should this impoverished nation now pay $100
million in interest to America over the next ten years and at the same time should you sell us for this?
What use to you are the American soldiers and military advisers? If this country is occupied by
America, then what is all this noise you make about progress? If these advisers are to be your
servants, then why do you treat them like something superior to masters, superior to a Shah? If they
are servants, why not treat them as such? If they are your employees, then why not treat them as any
other government treats its employees? If our country is now occupied by the US then tell us outright
and throw us out of this country! What do they intend to do? What does this government have to say
to us? What has this Parliament done to us? This illegal, unlawful Parliament; this Parliament that
the maraji'-i taqlid have declared illegitimate with their edicts and decrees; this Parliament which not
one of its representatives has been chosen by the people; this Parliament which makes such empty
claims about independence and revolution saying: "We have undergone a White Revolution!" Where
is this "White Revolution?" They have made these people suffer!
God knows that I am aware of what is happening (and my awareness causes me pain), I know what is
happening in the remote villages and provincial towns, in this our own impoverished city of Qum (the
audience weeps). I am aware of the hunger of our people and the depressed state of our agrarian
Do something for this country, for this nation, instead of piling up debts and enslaving yourself. Of
course, taking the dollars means that someone has to become a slave; you want to use the dollars and
we have to become the slaves! If an American runs over me with his car, no one will have the right to
say anything to him! So you use the dollars; this is the issue.
Should I not be saying this? Those gentlemen who say we must hold our tongues and not utter a
sound - do they still say the same thing on this occasion? Are we to keep silent again and not say a
word? They sell us and still we are to keep silent? They sell our Qur'an and still we should hold our
tongues? By God, he who does not cry out in protest is a sinner! By God, he who does not express his
outrage commits a major sin!
Leaders of Islam, come to the aid of Islam (the audience weeps)!
`Ulama of Najaf, come to the aid of Islam!
`Ulama of Qum, come to the aid of Islam! Islam is destroyed
O Muslim peoples! Leaders of the Muslim peoples!
O presidents and kings of the Muslim peoples! O Shah of Iran! Look at yourselves, look at us. Are we
to be trampled underfoot by the boots of the Americans simply because we are a weak nation?
Because we have no dollars? America is worse than Britain, Britain is worse than America and the
Soviet Union is worse than both of them. Each one is worse than the other, each one is more
abominable than the other. But today we are concerned with this malicious entity which is America.
Let the American President know that in the eyes of the Iranian nation, he is the most repulsive
member of the human race today because of the injustice he has imposed on our Muslim nation.
Today, the Qur'an has become his enemy, the Iranian nation has become his enemy. Let the
American government know that its name has been ruined and disgraced in Iran.
You get immunities for the advisers? Those helpless deputies in the Parliament who shouted out "ask
our friends (the Americans) not to make such impositions on us, not to insist that we sell ourselves,
not to turn Iran into a colony," did anyone listen to them?
There is one article in the Vienna Convention they did not discuss at all - Article 32. I don't know
what article that is; in fact, the speaker of the Parliament himself doesn't know. The deputies also
don't know what that article is; nonetheless, they went ahead and approved and signed the bill. They
passed it, even though some people said, "We don't know what is in Article 32." Perhaps those who
objected did not sign the bill. They are not quite so bad as the others. Those who did sign are a group
One after the other, our statesmen and leading politicians have been set aside. Our patriotic
statesmen are given nothing to do. The army should know that it will also be treated the same way:
its leaders will be set aside, one by one. What self-respect will remain for the army when an
American errand boy or cook has priority over one of our generals? If I were in the army, I would
resign. If I were a deputy in the Parliament, I would resign. I would not agree to be disgraced.
The influence of the Iranians should be rooted out! American cooks, mechanics, technical and
administrative officials, together with their families, should enjoy legal immunity, but Mr Qazi
should be imprisoned! Mr Islami should be taken in shackles from this place to that! These servants
of Islam, the `ulama and preachers of Islam should be imprisoned. The supporters of Islam should be
imprisoned in Bandar `Abbas because they are religious leaders or the supporters of the religious
leaders. These are the ones who gave the history of Iran to the people! The government clearly
documents its crimes by putting out a history textbook that says: "It is to the benefit of the nation to
root out the influence of the religious leaders." This means that it is for the benefit of the nation that
the Messenger of God should play no role in its affairs. For the religious leaders of themselves have
nothing; whatever they have, they have from the Messenger of God. So the government wants the
Messenger of God to play no role in our affairs, so that Israel can do whatever it likes, and America
likewise. All our troubles today are caused by this America. All our troubles today are caused by this
Israel. Israel itself derives from America. These deputies and ministers derive from America. They
have all been appointed by America. If they were not, then why don't they stand up and protest?
I am now thoroughly agitated, and my memory is not working so well. I cannot remember precisely
when, but in one of the earlier parliaments, where Sayyid Hasan Mudarris was a deputy, the
government of Russia gave Iran an ultimatum - I can't remember its exact content - to the effect that:
"Unless you accept our demand, we will advance on Tehran by way of Qazvin and occupy it!" The
government of the day put pressure on the Parliament to accept the Russian demand. According to
an American historian, a religious leader with trembling hands came up to the tribune and said:
"Now that we are to be destroyed, why should we sign the warrant for our own destruction?" The
Parliament took courage from his act of opposition, rejected the ultimatum, and Russia was unable
to do anything!
This is the conduct of a true cleric; one feeble, aged cleric in the Parliament, a mere heap of bones,
rejected the ultimatum and demand of a powerful state like Russia. This is why they realise that they
should destroy the influence of the clergy in order to attain their aims and desires!
There is so much to be said, there are so many instances of corruption in this country, that I am
unable in my state at the moment to present to you even what I know. It is your duty, however, to
communicate these matters to your colleagues. It is your duty to inform the people; the `ulama must
enlighten the people, and they in turn must raise their voices in protest to the Parliament and the
government and ask, "Why did you do this? Why have you sold us? Are we your slaves that you sell
us? We did not elect you to be our representatives, and even had we done so, you would forfeit your
posts now on account of this act of treachery."
This is high treason! O God, they have committed treason against this country. O God, this
government has committed treason against this country, against Islam, against the Qur'an. All the
members of both houses who gave their agreement to this affair are traitors. Those old men in the
Senate are traitors, and all those in the lower house who voted in favour of this affair are traitors.
They are not our representatives. The whole world must know that they are not the representatives
of Iran! Or, suppose they are, now I dismiss them. They are dismissed from their posts and all the
bills they have passed up until now are invalid.
From the very beginning of the constitutional period in Iran according to the text of the law,
according to Article 2 of the Supplementary Constitutional Law, no law is valid unless the mujtahids
(Islamic jurisprudents) exercise a supervisory role in the Parliament. Which mujtahid is supervising
the Parliament now? They have to destroy the influence of the clergymen! If there were five clerics in
this Parliament, if there were only one clergyman in this Parliament, he would punch them in the
mouth! He would not allow this bill to be enacted.
As for those deputies who apparently opposed this affair, I have this to say to them: "Why did you
not do something? Why did you not stand up and seize that despicable man by the collar?" Is this
how you show your opposition, you simply sit there and say: "We are not in agreement," and then
continue your flattery as usual?
Is this opposition? You must create an uproar, right there in the Parliament. You must not allow
them to pass this bill when you are opposed to it. Is it enough to say simply I am opposed? Well, we
see that when you do they pass it anyway! You must not permit there to be such a Parliament. Kick
these people out of the Parliament.
We do not recognise this as a law. We do not recognise this Parliament as a true Parliament. We do
not recognise this government as a true government. They are traitors, traitors to the people of Iran!
O God, remedy the affairs of the Muslims (the audience replies with "Amen").
O God, bestow majesty on this sacred religion of Islam!
O God, destroy those individuals who are traitors to this land, who are traitors to Islam and to the