PART I – Since your love became my calling

The grown-ups talked about nothing but the first presidential election of 1980. We children, too, had finally found something to be excited about: something new was happening in a society rendered dead and silent after the occupation of the US Embassy. There were 10 candidates from different political groups. Masoud Rajavi was the only person whose candidacy was not approved. Leader of the People’s Mujahideen Organization, an extremely popular group especially among the young, he was disapproved of because he hadn’t voted for the Constitution of the Islamic Republic. That was interpreted as possible disloyalty to the regime.

Looking back at those days I see them filled with a sense of unreality. Of the candidates on the first presidential list, seven suffered gruesome fates only a few years later: Bani-Sadr, Madani and Mokri fled Iran and chose exile; Forouhar, Sami and Ayat were assassinated; Ghotbzadeh was executed.

Everyone was aware that Khomeini supported Abolhasan Bani-Sadr against the will of the Islamic Republic Party led by Muhammad Beheshti, Hashemi Rafsanjani, Ali Khamenei and Mir-Hussein Mousavi. Bani-Sadr was a nationalist Islamist and a close friend of Khomeini in Paris. Khomeini never supported him publicly but his support was undeniable. That was why, although no one really knew him, Bani-Sadr won the election with 76 per cent of the votes. He made it his job to attempt to reconcile different groups and parties and he tried to prevent the regime from becoming a religious fundamentalist one. He tried to control the Revolutionary Guard, the Committees and the Revolutionary Court, and to restore the professional army, police force and the judiciary. But his efforts only succeeded in precipitating what he most feared.

It was the beginning of a new era in Iran, one in which Iran was to make more enemies than friends, and any hopes for a real democracy were to vanish into a distant future. The sequence of events put an end to all hopes of reconciliation between Iran and the US. It also put an end to Khomeini’s alleged detachment from politics. Shortly after the presidential election, on the pretext of a heart attack, Khomeini returned from Qom to Tehran because of ‘the proximity of better medical facilities’ but, as events proved over the next few months, it was to take over the country and get rid of any opposition standing in the way of his vision of an ideal Islamic society. And the first step in this direction was the war he launched against one of Iran’s most important national traditions: the highly un-Islamic Norouz or Iranian New Year celebrations.