Ayatollah Ruhollah Mousavi Khomeini (1902-1989) was the religious leader of the 1979 Iranian revolution. He was born into a family of religious scholars and did not engage in any political activities until well into his forties. By the 1960s he had emerged as one of the leading clerical opponents of the Shah of Iran and his modernization campaign. He argued that the “white revolution” threatened the moral and religious integrity of Iran and he condemned the Shah’s friendship with the United States and conciliatory policies toward Israel.
In 1964, the Ayatollah was arrested and sent into exile. He spent the next fifteen years in Turkey, Iraq, and France. While in exile, he continued to criticize the Shah and as popular opposition to the Shah increased during the late 1970s, he called for massive demonstrations and labor strikes.
Shortly after the Shah was forced to flee in January 1979, the Ayatollah Khomeini returned to Iran and assumed leadership of the revolutionary movement. He was designated the “Supreme Leader” in the Islamic Republic of Iran.