It was the most important revolution of the twentieth century since the Bolshevik revolution of 1917. And today its influence and impact is far greater than the discredited Communism of Lenin and Marx. It was led by a white haired cleric who had no military training and no political experience.
Yet Ayatollah Khomeni returned from exile in France and mobilized an entire and divided country. Even those from the secular middle class joined his cause. The revolution overthrew a man who had a powerful army and a terrifying secret police, the seemingly invincible Shah of Iran. Installed and armed by the United States, the Shah's regime became one of the most despised and feared in the Muslim world.
The Iranian revolution swept through the Muslim world like a brushfire as orthodox Islam replaced all other ideologies including socialism and pan-Arabism. It would inspire a whole new generation to adopt a rigid and doctrinaire adherence to the Koran while Iran became the first modern state to adopt Koranic law as its national law. Iran became the theocracy and its white haired leader helped defeat a sitting President of the United States.
Carole Jerome, a Canadian journalist, had a front row seat to the revolution. She became very close to one of the Ayatollah's spokesmen Sadegh Ghotzbadeh. She was in the compound where the revolution was plotted and accompanied the Ayatollah's entourage when they flew to Iran to seize power.
She was in the motorcade when the Ayatollah made his triumphant return to Tehran. "I was mesmerized by the spectacle. I was in the middle of one of the great historic events of the 20th century. It was exhilarating beyond all measure."
Carole Jerome's relationship with Sadegh Ghotzbadeh changed over the next few months, from journalistic source, to close friend, and then to a lover. So did her view of the revolution as it became more and more bloodthirsty.
First the tribunals killed the Shah's secret police, and then it targeted those opposed to the establishment of a theocracy-mainly middle-class people who had joined the Ayatollah's revolution because of their hatred of the Shah. They expected the new Iran to be a democracy and falsely believed that the Ayatollah was not as dogmatic as he sounded.
Carole Jerome witnessed the idealism turn to despair. She witnessed the 444-day siege of the American embassy and its hostages, and saw the devastating impact this had on an American presidency. She also witnessed the courageous escape of other hostages organized by the Canadian ambassador-the Canadian Caper as it came to be known.
But she also watched as her close friend Sadegh Ghotzbadeh attained power within the revolutionary circle only to be betrayed by the very man he revered, Ayatollah Khomeini. He knew he was doomed when he told Jerome "Khomeini has stolen the revolution from the people and from us"
Sadegh Ghotzbadeh was executed three years after the revolution. For Carole Jerome his death devastated her. "I mourned for my loss, for his life, truth, beauty, joy and knowledge. I mourned for Iran." The legacy of the Iranian Revolution remains a powerful and potent force not only in the Middle East but also throughout the entire Muslim world and within its expatriate communities.
The Islamic pride and fundamentalism unleashed by a pious and uncompromising cleric remains a central force in the turbulent politics of the Middle East.