Last month Oriana Fallaci, the Italian journalist who is noted for her provocative interviews with world leaders, journeyed to Iran in hopes of meeting with the leader of the Islamic Revolution, the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. For 10 days she waited in the holy city of Qum for her interview with the 79year‐old Ayatollah, who is the de facto ruler of Iran. On Sept. 12, she was led into the Faizeyah religious school, where Khomeini holds his audiences. She was accompanied by two Iranians Nyho had helped set up the interview and who served as translators. Miss Fallaci, barefoot, enveloped in a chador — the head‐to‐toe veil of the Moslem woman —was seated on a carpet; when the Ayatollah entered, the taped interview began. Miss Fallaci returned the following day for a second audience. The text on these pages is an edited transcript of the sessions.
Oriana Fallaci: Imam Khomeini, the entire country is in your hands. Every decision you make is an order. So there are many in your country who say that in Iran there is no freedom, that the revolution did not bring freedom.
Khomeini: Iran is not in my hands. Iran is in the hands of the people, because it was the people who handed the country over to the person who is their servant, and who wants only what is good for them. You saw very well how — after the death [at age 68, in his sleep, Sept. 10] of [Ayatollah Mahmoud] Taleghani — millions of persons went into the streets without the threat of violence. This shows that there is freedom. It also shows that the people only follow men of God. And this is freedom.
Oriana Fallaci: Forgive me if I insist, Imam Khomeini. I meant that today, in Iran, you raise fear, and many people call you a dictator. The new dictator, the new boss. The new master. How do you comment on that? Does it sadden you, or don’t you care?
Khomeini: On the one hand I’m sorry to hear that. Yes, it hurts me, because it is unjust and unhuman to call me a dictator. On the other hand, I couldn’t care less, because I know that wickedness is a part of human nature, and such wickedness comes from our enemies. Considering the road that we have chosen, a road that is opposed to the superpowers, it is normal that the servants of foreign interests treat me with their poison, and hurl all kinds of calumnies against me. Nor do I have any illusions that those countries which are accustomed to plundering and looting us will stand by silently and idly. Oh, the mercenaries of the Shah say lots of things — even that Khomeini ordered the breasts of women to be cut off. Tell me, since you are here, did you have any evidence that Khomeini could commit such a monstrous act, that he would cut off the breasts of women?
Oriana Fallaci: No. I did not, Imam. But you frighten people, as I said. And even this mob which calls your name is frightening. What do you feel — hearing them calling out like this, day and night, knowing that they are there, all of them there sitting for hours, being shoved about, suffering, just to see you for a moment, and to sing your praises?
Khomeini: I enjoy it. I enjoy hearing and seeing them. Because, they are the same ones who rose up to throw out the internal and external enemies. Because their applause is the continuation of the cry with which the usurper was thrown out. It is good that they continue to be agitated, because the enemies have not disappeared. Until the country has settled down, the people must remain fired up, ready to march and attack again. In addition, this is love, an intelligent love. It is impossible not to enjoy it.
Oriana Fallaci: Love or fanaticism, Imam? It seems to me that this is fanaticism, and of the most dangerous kind. I mean, fascist fanaticism. In fact, there are many who see a fascist threat in Iran today, and who even maintain that fascism is already being consolidated in Iran.
Khomeini: No, it is neither fascism nor fanaticism. I repeat, they yell like this because they love me, and they love me because they feel that I care for them, that I act for their good. That is, to apply the Commandments of Islam. Islam is justice. Dictatorship is the greatest sin in the religion of Islam. Fascism and Islamism are absolutely incompatible. Fascism arises in the West, not among people of Islamic culture.
Oriana Fallaci: Perhaps we don’t understand each other or the meaning of the word fascism, Imam. By fascism I mean a popular phenomenon, the kind we had in Italy when the crowds cheered Mussolini, as here they cheer you, and they obeyed him as they obey you now.
Khomeini: No. Because our masses are Moslems, educated by the clergy — that is, by men who preach spirituality and goodness. Fascism would be possible here only if the Shah were to return or if Communism were to take over. Yes, what you say could happen only if Communism would win and wipe us out. Cheering, for me, means to love freedom and democracy.
Oriana Fallaci: O.K., then. Let’s talk about freedom and democracy, Imam. And let’s do it like this. In one of your first speeches at Qum, you said that the new Islamic Government would guarantee freedom of thought and of expression for everyone, including Communists and ethnic minorities. But this promise was not kept, and now you de fine Communists as “sons of Satan,” and the leaders of the rebelling ethnic minorities as the “evil of the earth.”
Khomeini: First you affirm something, and then you expect me to explain your statement. You even presume that I should permit the plots of those who want to bring the country to anarchy and corruption — as though freedom of thought and of expression were the freedom to plot and to corrupt. Therefore, in answer to your question, say: For more than five months I tolerated, we tolerated, those who did not think as we do. They were free, absolutely free to do whatever they wanted. They fully enjoyed the freedom that was granted to them. I even invited the Communists to have a dialogue with us. But, in response, they burned the wheat harvest, they burned the urns of the electoral offices, and they reacted to our offer for a dialogue with rifles and arms. In fact, they were the ones who stirred up the problem of the Kurds. Thus, we understood that they were taking advantage of our tolerance to sabotage us, that they did not want freedom but the license to subvert, and we decided to stop them. And when we discovered that — urged on by the former regime and foreign forces — they were seeking our destruction with other plots and other means, we shut them up