OBITUARY:Ahmad Khomeini

Ahmad Khomeini was his father Ayatollah Khomeini's principal adviser, his bureau chief and his link with the outside world in the early 1980s; he was a conduit between his father and the younger radical mullahs and students in Iran.

As a young boy in the 1960s and early 1970s, Ahmad Khomeini did not receive the direct supervision of his father; he remained in Qom when his father was sent to exile in Iraq. Ahmad's elder brother, Mostafa, then old enough to accompany his father, became a recognised theologian; Ahmad was not. He went to secular state school and preferred sports to theological studies. It was only several years later, when he joined his father in Iraq, that he studied some theology.

Ahmad Khomeini's political career began with the death of Mostafa in 1977; as Ayatollah Khomeini's only son, he was delegated some duties in his father's office. In the early days of the 1979 revolutionary period in Iran Ahmad acted occasionally as his father's messenger. He even annoyed his father by attempting to enhance the role of non-clerical activists. When Ahmad tried to help the then president, Bani Sadr, in his abortive attempt to assert his authority over the hard-line clergy and unruly revolutionary bodies, Ayatollah Khomeini publicly reprimanded him and banned him from holding any public office.

Nevertheless, the rapidly changing social atmosphere of the revolutionary period and the absence of reliable men around the Ayatollah made it possible for Ahmad to play a significant political role. Many of the ministers and politicians prominent in Iran today owe their rise to Ahmad Khomeini.

Associated with the radical wing of the clergy, Ahmad Khomeini often annoyed the conservative clergy. It was Ahmad, who with the help of his friends, including the present leaders of Iran, brought about the resignation of Ayatollah Montazeri as Ayatollah Khomeini's successor as the chief ayatollah. He was accused of abusing his close relationship with his father and manipulating him. He eventually wrote a book, Ranjnameh, expressing his and his father's grievances against the activities of Ayatollah Montazeri.

Ayatollah Khomeini's death in June 1989, soon after he had ousted his successor Ayatollah Montazeri, presented ambitious leading clergymen with a great opportunity: Ahmad considered himself a hereditary candidate; he wanted to succeed his father or at least be considered as a member of a leadership council. But those who argued in favour of a single leader won the day and chose Hojjal al-Islam Khamenei, to the annoyance of Ahmad Khomeini, who was left out of the active political scene.

In the six years after his father's death, Ahmad Khomeini sat on several decision-making bodies, occasionally making comments and enjoying a public status. This was at the behest of the present leader, Khamenei, who wanted him to remain involved in the day-to-day affairs of Iran. But, in spite of this, Ahmad Khomeini was hardly taken seriously; in practice, he was only dealing with his father's estate, and must have missed the prestigious position he held in the latter years of his father's rule. He never managed to regain that pivotal role he had held during his father's lifetime.

Baqer Moin

Hojjat al-Islam Seyyed Ahmad Khomeini, politician: born 1947; died Tehran 17 March 1995.

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