TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — His image is on bank notes and in textbooks in Iran, often as a black-and-white embodiment of the 1979 Islamic Revolution that swept aside the country’s shah and forever changed the nation.
But unlike other countries ruled by family dynasties, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s children and grandchildren have never fully entered politics.
Part of the reason lies with Khomeini’s own commandments after becoming Iran’s first supreme leader. The rest likely comes from suspicion in the very system Khomeini set up, even though his name still carries weight today.
“I wish I was living during the Khomeini era,” said Mahboobeh Ramazani, 27, who recently visited the mosque attached to the ayatollah’s residence, now a tourist attraction in northern Tehran. “He is still my favorite, since he never sought anything for himself and his family members.”
The memory of Khomeini, who died in 1989 at the age of 86, literally looms large over Tehran today. His golden-domed mausoleum in southern Tehran is one of the first things people see driving into the city from the airport named for him.
Even the CIA, in a 1983 analysis on him, acknowledged that Iran’s revolution could not have happened without him. His tape-recorded sermons circulated through the country in the days leading up to the shah’s departure, his calls for supporting the poor striking a populist tone among Iran’s struggling masses.
His style also fit one of his mantras: “Islam is politics.”
“He uses repetition, rhythm, exaggerated images and cutting political jokes to drive his message home and alters his vocabulary — but not his delivery — to show increased emotion,” the CIA wrote. “His monotone exerts a hypnotic effect that is heightened by supporters placed among the audience to lead chanted slogans.”
But despite his political success, he insisted that his own family not get involved.
Part of that stemmed from the allegations of corruption that surrounded the family of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, whose relatives enriched themselves through government contracts and the public purse.
The shah’s family and royal court became known among protesters and the opposition at the time as a “1,000-member” oligarchy, a reference to their widespread presence in government and the private sector. Khomeini’s own mullah…