Iran’s most powerful man, Ayatollah Khamenei, is one of the country’s least scrutinised politicians. Who is this man? And how has he consolidated the Revolution?
This ground-breaking documentary charts the Ayatollah’s reign using rarely seen archive footage and through interviews with relatives, biographers and politicians.
But how did this man become Iran’s leader and how did he eliminate his rivals? We put these questions to those who’ve met him and know him well.
Born in Iran’s holiest city, Mashhad, he was the second son of a poor family – his father a reclusive cleric. As a teenager Ali Khamenei takes his father’s advice and enters the seminary. But as a young man he befriends political activists and poets – men who do not meet with his father’s approval. His father is known as an intellectual cleric.
An unconventional mullah, with his pipe smoking and passion for music, Ali Khamenei led the Keramat Mosque in Mashhad where he held sessions on the Quran. The Shah’s intelligence service became suspicious of these meetings and those who attended them. His house was used as a gathering place for young people.
At the time, Ali Khamenei was considered a modern, forward thinking cleric. Many students visited his house. But he paid a price for these activities. He was jailed six times. The Shah’s security apparatus is averse to keeping clerics in prison, preferring instead to send them into internal exile. Ali Khamenei was sent, along with his four sons, to the remote town of Iranshahr.
After the 1979 Revolution and the overthrow of the Shah, he moved to Tehran. His oratory skills and literary knowledge stood him in good stead – becoming the youngest cleric to be appointed the leader of Friday Prayers in Tehran.
Ten months after the Revolution, students seized the US Embassy in Tehran – creating the biggest test ever for the cleric-politicians. Secret negotiations began to secure the release of the hostages, with Ali Khamenei responsible for preserving Iran’s image abroad.
His friendship with key Revolutionary figures like Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani brought him closer to Ayatollah Khomeini’s inner circle and he was soon appointed by Khomeini to the Revolutionary Council – a body convened to manage the affairs of state.
Today, Khamenei gives no indication that he is willing to compromise with the West or his domestic opponents. If he has any doubts or fears, Ayatollah Khamenei hides them well. His face betrays nothing. He appears not to care how he is judged by history. He believes he is only answerable to God.
A must see documentary at a sensitive time in Iranian / Western relations.