The legacy of the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, is hotly debated within Iran's leadership. Reformists recall a “golden era” in which the former supreme leader oversaw a diverse political class that would only interfere in daily political affairs when forced to, often in their favor. Conservatives and hard-liners tend to remember Khomeini as a visionary leader who stubbornly stood up to the bullying of the West, especially the United States, and succeeded in so doing. Both narratives, and various other recountings of specific events, regardless of their accuracy, are often self-serving and used to criticize political enemies.
This year, on the anniversary of Khomeini's death, these competing narratives have risen to the surface once again and made headlines in the Iranian media. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who became supreme leader immediately after Khomeini, spoke out June 4 at the newly renovated Imam Khomeini Mausoleum south of Tehran against the dangers of “distorting” his character.