Today Iran commemorates the 52nd anniversary of a public uprising in June 5, 1963 that ignited the flames of Islamic Revolution of Iran.
The demonstrations of June 5, 1963, known as 15th of Khordad Uprising, were the public protest against the arrest of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini after his strong remarks on Iran’s Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, Israel and the United States. The protestors were harshly suppressed but the event marked the vitality and power of the opposition against Pahlavi dynasty and the support Iranian nation had for their religious and political figure, Ayatollah Khomeini, who 15 years later led the Islamic Revolution to establish the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Six months earlier, on January 1963, Iran’s Shah issued a set of reforms called “White Revolution”. This six-point plan was claimed to be prepared for Iran’s further development and called for land reform, nationalization of forests, empowering private sector, electoral changes, and establishment of an anti-illiteracy campaign. However, the anti-religious and Western nature of the program was clear for religious figures including Ayatollah Khomeini.
Talks between these religious figures and the representatives of Shah all ended without any result as Shah refused to clarify the dimensions of the program.
Finally Ayatollah Khomeini and other religious figures decided to boycott the referendum on White Revolution. Two days later, the Shah took an armored column to Qom and delivered a speech harshly attacking the religious figures as a class.
The referendum was carried out and the program was approved despite the opposition.
The religious and public opposition to Pahlavi dynasty has continued in different ways, from declarations to cancelation of Nowruz (Iranian New Year) celebrations. Yet, the turning point was the speech delivered by Ayatollah Khomeini on June 3, 1963, at the Feyziyeh Seminary School. The ceremony was held to commemorate the anniversary of Ashura or 10th of Moharram, marking the tragic martyrdom of Imam Hussein (PBUH) in Karbala. In his speech, Ayatollah Khomeini strongly criticized the Shah’s government for its anti-Islam policies and drew parallels between the tyrant Umayyad ruler Yazid, by whose order Imam Hussein was killed, and the Shah.
Adressing a large gathering of people, students and religious scholars, Imam exposed the treasons of the Pahlavi regime to the Iranian nation. He pointed out: "They are against the foundations of the divine religion of Islam and the ulema and aim at destroying Islam and the ulema. O People! you should know that our Islam and country are threatened. We are deeply concerned about the situation of Iran and the state of the Shah’s despotic regime."
Two days later at three o'clock in the morning, security men and commandos descended on Khomeini's home in Qom and arrested him. Ayatollah Khomeini's influence and popularity was to the extent that the commandos refused his request for waiting only 5 minutes to allow him perform his morning prayers, in order to take no risk of people finding about the detention. Moreover, they even did not dare to start the car engine and pushed the car for some distance as they feared the sound of engine would wake the neigbour who would for sure prevent the arrest. They hastily transferred him to the Qasr Prison in Tehran.
On June 5, 1963, the Iranian people, wearing particular white clothes used for burying the death as a sign of their readiness for dying for their cause, staged massive demonstrations against the US-backed Shah, following news of detention of the Father of Islamic Revolution, Imam Khomeini (RA) in the aftermath of his bold exposure to the public of the evil nature of the Pahlavi regime.
The regime attacked the people and brutally suppressed them, martyring and wounding a large number of Iranian Muslims. The historical uprising known as "15th of Khordad" marked the starting point of the Islamic movement which was to change Iran's destiny. Though Imam Khomeini was exiled a year later, the movement culminated in his eventual return home and the triumph of Islamic Revolution on February 11, 1979. Following the Revolution, Imam Khomeini ordered the day to be marked as a national mourning day on Iranian calendar.