Athletes who stayed behind

Translated by: M.B. Khoshnevisan


It was around 9 am [12th of Bahman 1357 – February 1, 1979]. A plane passed over our heads at the closest distance from the ground and as soon as the people saw the plane, shouted Allah-o Akbar (God is greater) and cheered. I was no exception to this rule. We thought that this was the plane carrying Imam Khomeini. It was so low that we could see the writing on the fuselage. From that moment on, we were counting the minutes until the Imam entered Behesht Zahra Cemetery; he comes now. We didn't have mass media like radio and television to monitor the news and events; so, we just waited. The situation was also worrying. The crowd was increasing every moment. It was really hard to control this crowd and establish order and security. About two hours passed after the plane passed, we heard the noise of the helicopter. First, a helicopter came, but it didn't land in the desired place, it left and landed in another corner. Then it immediately took off and flew away. A few moments later, another helicopter arrived. This one also landed in a corner and took off again and left. At first, I thought that the [Shah’s]regime intended to intervene to intimidate or cause an unfortunate incident, until after several repetitions, I realized that the helicopter pilot landed and took off, one for the sake of normalization, and the other for the purpose of finding a suitable time and place and keeping the Imam safe. Earlier, we had heard that Imam's car broke down near Behesht Zahra and did not start again, so he was taken to the location by helicopter.

I don't know how many times each of these two helicopters landed and took off, but during one of these landings and takeoffs, one of the friends of the reception committee told me: "Tell these foreign journalists that the Imam is in that helicopter so that it will be quiet here." When the first helicopter landed, I shouted: "Imam is there" and the journalists ran towards the helicopter as soon as they heard my voice. They had equipment and video recording devices and microphones mounted on long poles and it was a bit difficult for them to move them.

Anyway, finally the helicopter carrying Imam landed. A delegation of ulema and clerics was supposed to go to welcome the Imam and accompany him to the place. Misters Anwari, Mofatteh, Sadouqi and Mr. Motahari went toward the helicopter. I was also present. I don't remember the other people in that situation, but I remember well that seeing the Imam at that moment was like a fairy tale for me. I could not believe that the person we are going to welcome is Imam Khomeini. Even though everything seemed real, I kept asking myself: "God! Is this Imam who is here and we see him?!

I was very excited, very excited. It cannot be described at all. I do not know how! But for a moment I saw myself in front of the helicopter door. The door was opened. First, Haj Ahmed Agha [Imam’s son] got off and then the Imam. He didn't look left or right at all, and only looked straight ahead. as if nothing had happened at all; calm and without anxiety. From my point of view, his face had become more attractive and desirable; a face in the heart! The height of the helicopter from the land was a little high. Mr. Anwari asked the Imam: "Sir, may I hold your hand?" He said: "No! No!" And whatever they insisted, he did not accept. However, when they got off, they held their hands unintentionally and they walked towards the stand, and I was behind him. He had a pair of sandals on his feet. When we approached the stand, I said to myself: "Now, if the Imam wants to be on the stand, how will he go up?" For this reason, I quickly went to the stand and brought down the same chair that Imam was supposed to sit on and put it under his feet and he stepped on it. I grabbed his armpit and he entered the stand and when he wanted to respond to the expression of feelings, I put the chair in place. I really wanted to kiss his hands, but I felt he was tired; I kissed his shoulders in respect. The crowd was very excited. The stand was very crowded, it was not possible to look at the Imam's face for a long time. So, together with one of our friends, we sat on the ground a few meters away from the stand, right in front of the Imam. When the Imam wanted to start his speech, I just cried out of joy.

A few verses from the Quran were read. The son of the late Haj Sadiq Amani, Qassem, who is now a middle-aged man and was a teenager at the time, read his recitation. All around the stand, strong and brave young people were holding hands like chains and protecting the place and the Imam. When he started speaking, everyone became silent. It was an important and sensitive moment. I was saying in my heart, what does the imam want to say now! Because in my opinion, it was the most important moment of the revolution, and indeed, the Imam gave the people a spirit of hope and made the best use of those moments. Honestly, it was a miracle. In general, the words of the Imam were as if they were all inspired by God. People's reaction was also interesting. The crowd for a moment confirmed the words of the Imam who said: "I will appoint a government. I punch in the mouth of this government; I appoint a government with the support of this nation...", they started clapping. Clapping in Behesht Zahra (PBUH) Cemetery was not compatible with the conditions prevailing there, but people did it out of excitement. That's why Mr. Mortezaei once shouted: “Allah-o Akbar! Allah-o Akbar!" [God is greater] And the crowd suddenly started shouting, “Allah-o Akbar!”.

Imam's speech was apparently over when Mr. Mofatteh said to him: "Sir! Don't you talk anymore?" Imam said: "No! I'm tired!" And the speech was over and I went back to the stand. The difficulty of the work began here. How should the Imam go from the stand to the helicopter?! People were excited and crowded around the stand and could not be controlled. When the helicopter landed twice, the Imam decided to leave. In the meantime, one of my friends said to me: "You are a clergy, so go ahead and open the way." A number of strong young athletes controlled the people so that the Imam could reach the helicopter slowly. It was not far from the stand to the helicopter. But the density of the population was such that if someone was short, I think he would have definitely suffocated. Like someone who is caught in the sea.

Now, in such a situation, I would go forward and ask the crowd to open the way, and every few steps, I would look behind me to see if the imam was coming or not! These athletes, who were protecting the imam, came forward step by step; but I had not reached the helicopter yet when I turned my head and saw that there was neither the Imam nor the young athletes around the Imam. For a moment the road was blinded and I could only see myself among the waves of the crowd going this way and that. None of the signs that showed the Imam moving towards the helicopter could be seen.

In one moment, a thousand thoughts came to my mind. It may not be believable, the first thought and imagination that came to my mind took me to the past. I was saying to myself that Imam's arrival in the country must have been in my imagination and he has not arrived yet! Maybe something has happened and the Imam flew away again! And a thousand and one stories and fantasies, all of which were accompanied by worry and stress. At the same time, I consoled myself: Is it possible? Just a few moments ago, I kissed the Imam's shoulders! Then I looked at the stand and told myself again, this is where I kissed his shoulders! In that commotion and in that thought and imagination, I was constantly looking around, maybe I would find one of those signs that would lead me to the Imam. There was no news. With great difficulty, I brought myself to the front of the stand. Ahmad Agha was standing on top of the stand with terrified eyes and staring at the crowd. I said to him: "Do you see the Imam?!" He said: "No!" When he said this, I was almost resigned to living alone. When no one can see the Imam from the top of the stand, neither can I.

I said to myself that if Imam has fallen down in this commotion, it will be very bad. I was very worried. Those moments were the hardest moments of my life. Really, the sweetness of a few moments ago became bitter for me. Now that I think about that time, with the anxiety I had in those moments, I liken myself to Hazrat Hajar, who wandered between Safa and Marva. I would push through the crowd and go forward and return to my place again, and went in another direction again; but to no avail. I was whispering: Oh God, what should I do? What has happened to us? I had been surprised.

Suddenly I woke up. From the noise around me, I could hear some lamenting saying: "The Imam fell down! The Imam fell down!" I was horrified by this incident, I thought that if it happened as they say, God knows what will happen, and because I didn't want anything bad to happen, I screamed several times: "Hiss, hiss!" do not talk! Don't say that he has fallen down! No! Nothing has happened", but it had happened. The turban fell from their head and the robe fell to the ground. In that commotion, when I was coming and going in the crowd, for a moment my attention was drawn to an old man who was being held by the armpit and was being led to the stand. I said to myself: In this crowd, something like this can happen to anyone, and this old man is one of them, but when I looked carefully, oh my God, he was the Imam.

I was happy and worried at the same time. I was happy that I finally found the Imam and more importantly, the crowd surrounded him. like a gem on a ring; and surprised and worried that why this happened? What is this situation? God! The Imam's head was drenched in sweat and I was worried about the Imam catching a cold in that commotion. Maybe, it was Ahmad Agha who said to bring the Imam's robe and shoes. The robe was brought and put it on him. I saw that the Imam was not wearing a turban, so I put my turban on his head. I was more worried about him catching a cold; but he took back my turban and said: "It is not necessary!" And in a very short time, he wrapped his turban and put it on his head.

Now everything was ready for him to ride the helicopter, but the density of the crowd did not allow it. The Imam walked again. He even went near the helicopter, but the pilot took off from the ground because he was afraid that people would hang onto the helicopter and an accident would occur. Finally, it was decided to take him to the ambulance that was planned nearby and after traveling a distance, transfer him to the helicopter. They did so and took the Imam away. I didn't know what happened after that until I heard what happened.

After the imam left, I was still upset and worried that something might have happened to him, and I kept whispering my worries; even when we got into the car to return from Behesht Zahra (PBUH), I was so worried and upset that Mr. Anwari said, "Hey, stop! The Imam is healthy. Don't worry so much. He is fine."

However, I was not ready to accept. I couldn't believe it until I slept at night and when I saw the Imam again in the morning, I felt better.


Source: Qobadi, Mohammadi, Memoirs of Hojjat al-Eslam Valmoslemin Seyed Hadi Khamenei, Tehran, Sooreh Mehr, 1399 (2020), pp. 577-583.


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