Leader’s Speech to Students

The following is the full text of the speech delivered by Ayatollah Khamenei on November 3, 2010 to a group of students. The speech was delivered in Tehran on the occasion of the 13th of Aban, Students' Day.

In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful

The 13th of Aban belongs to the most prominent people of our country - our youth - more than anybody else. And this gathering, which is a sample of the young population of this divine country, is filled with knowledge and insight as well as enthusiasm about great revolutionary wishes and ideals. Meeting you dear youth, my dear children, is one of the most pleasant occasions for me. This is an opportunity for me to discuss the issues that should be discussed between you and I.

Historical occasions are often like a symbol. In and of itself, the 13th of Aban is not different from the days before and after it, but it is a symbol. What is a symbol? A symbol is a code that contains many meanings. Sometimes a single word that you say contains a multitude of meanings and realities. The 13th of Aban is one of those things. This day is a symbol, and it contains a huge number of important points and issues, issues that are not at all historical. Rather, they are considered among our current issues. Let us take a look at the occasions that the 13th of Aban represents.

The first occasion that the 13th of Aban represents is the day when our magnanimous Imam (r.a.) was forced into exile in the year 1343. Why did they force him into exile? Because the Imam (r.a.) had demanded a national right a few days before in a speech delivered in Qom, which was immediately distributed throughout the country on audio tape and in writing. That national right was the annulling of the oppressive legal immunity [granted to American soldiers]. It is appropriate for our young generation to clearly understand what difficulties we have undergone to reach where we are now.

Americans had tens of thousands of agents in Iran. The exact number is not important - fifty thousand, sixty thousand or more. They were political, security and military agents. They were among the people who used to manage Iran - in the army, in intelligence organizations, planning centers and different other places. They used to charge the Iranian government several times more, but they used to work for America. This was a bad thing that happened in our country. Because it was dependent on America and acted as an American mercenary, the satanic Pahlavi regime had gradually allowed those agents to enter the country over a number of years. This was already bad enough, but what happened next was even worse: They approved a law in the parliament of that time, which granted immunity to American agents so that they could not be prosecuted by Iranian courts, judiciary and security organizations. This is called legal immunity. When foreigners are allowed to enter a country and do whatever they like, when the courts and police force of a country are unable to do anything to stop foreigners, it shows that the country is suffering from an extreme form of weakness and dependence. Legal immunity was what the Americans demanded from the satanic Pahlavi regime, and it was given to them on a silver platter.

Of course they used to do these things quietly. They did not let the press reflect them. But the Imam (r.a.) found out what they were doing. Before the 13th of Aban, in a speech delivered to the people and seminarians of Qom, Imam Khomeini (r.a.) voiced his objection to the legal immunity of American agents. He said that if a low-ranking American agent insulted and stomped on an Iranian marja taqlid in the country and committed whatever crime he wished, the Iranian legal system would remain totally neutral and nobody would have the right to stop him. It was only Americans who could have taken action against him, and it is clear what the action would have been. The Imam (r.a.) raised his objection to that oppressive law. He had just been released from prison at that time. He had finished serving his months-long sentence a few months earlier. He stood up and made the suppressed voice of the Iranian people heard. Of course many people did not even know that the Iranian people were being humiliated like that, but the Imam (r.a.) knew that. This is how a genuine guardian of a country's interests acts. When he finds out what is being done to his people, how they are humiliated and how their honor is trampled underfoot, he does not stay silent. He yells his objection. At that time even yelling was considered dangerous. Therefore, they arrested the Imam (r.a.) immediately and transferred him to Tehran. They did not even keep him in Iran. They exiled him to Turkey. This is the first occasions that the 13th of Aban represents.

Therefore, the 13th of Aban became the symbol of two great realities, two sensitive and momentous realities. One is the greed of the Americans: If a nation fails to defend its rights and honor, arrogant and colonial powers will even impose such oppressive laws as legal immunity on that nation. This is the goal of the hegemony of the arrogant powers. The relations between a government such as the US government and a country that does not have as much power as America cannot be like relations between two ordinary countries. No, from the viewpoint of the Americans themselves, the relations between America and what they call "third world countries" is a master-subject relationship - the Americans being the master, and third world countries being their subjects. The Americans think they have the right to do whatever they want in third world countries. They think they can plunder third world countries' oil and gas resources, act against their interests, take away their wealth, promote American interests and humiliate their people.

An American sergeant used to slap senior Iranian officers across the face, and nobody had the right to react. In different garrisons of the country, when a low-ranking member of the American military faced a senior Iranian officer, he used to address the Iranian officer like a master. The members of our army were dissatisfied with this situation, but they did not dare to do anything. The first point is that the 13th of Aban is the symbol of American arrogance. It is the symbol of the spirit of transgression of the arrogant powers against different nations, especially against the Iranian nation.

After the victory of the Islamic Revolution, different American presidents tried to ingratiate themselves [with the Islamic Republic]. They flattered us a lot in the hope that they will manage to reopen the path that was closed to them. Their statements are the surface of things. But, as I said, the truth of the situation is similar to the iron fist which is covered with a velvet glove.

Therefore, the 13th of Aban is reminiscent of a bitter and crucial truth - namely, the spirit of arrogance that is inherent in the arrogant powers and arrogant hegemony. Different nations throughout the world - including our nation - should never forget this. They should know that what they are confronted with is the face of an aggressor and the face of transgressor who is planning to march forward and stomp on the honor of peoples, sexually harass them, transgress on their lands, threaten their lives and jeopardize their wealth without anybody being able to hold them responsible and ask them for an explanation.

The second thing that is represented by the 13th of Aban is the resonant yell of our magnanimous Imam (r.a.). That shout was one of the most immaculate and wholesome shouts, which came out of one of the most immaculate throats. Some people may make a criticism or raise an objection here and there, but the shout that spread the message of the 13th of Aban throughout the world in the year 1343 came out of one of the most immaculate throats. First of all, this shout was rooted in a sense of religiosity. Second, it was rooted in national and Islamic pride. The Imam (r.a.) could not tolerate the domination of the enemy over this nation. Third, the shout depended on public support. As I said, although the people were unaware in the beginning, they supported the Imam (r.a.) when they heard his shout. It was that public support which led to the victory of the Islamic Revolution 14 years later. That immaculate shout was similar to the resonant shouts with which divine prophets used to call the people to God and attract their hearts. The Imam (r.a.) carried out such a great movement in the country, and he paid the price for it. They forced the Imam (r.a.) out of his home and separated him from his family, friends and relatives. They exiled him to another part of the world. Therefore, the second point is that the 13th of Aban is the symbol of such a shout.

The third thing which is represented by the 13th of Aban is what happened to students in the year 1357, and that was a crucial event. Fourteen years after Imam Khomeini's (r.a.) resonant yell, our youth, adolescents and high school students - who were among the most pure-hearted people of our country - entered the arena in the year 1357 and laid down their lives. The 13th of Aban is the day when students were massacred in the streets of Tehran. When these youth and adolescents entered the arena and reflected the message that had been yelled by the Imam (r.a.) 14 years earlier, the mercenary killers of America took revenge on them. They opened fire on the youth. They shed their blood on the streets of Tehran and covered the streets with their blood. This is also an important point, not just because a number of youth and adolescents were martyred - which is of course important - but because the great movement initiated by the Imam (r.a.) in the years 1342 and 1343 had remained so fresh and dynamic that a number of pure-hearted youth had been inspired to take to the streets, feel responsible and stand up against the bayonets of the oppressive and satanic Pahlavi regime. Such things rarely happen in the world.

The same is true of today. Just like those times, today our high school students alongside our university students, Basij and other social groups are among the most pioneering social groups of our country. Similarly, during the Sacred Defense Era, our students played a pioneering role. I am in contact with many families of our martyrs and arrange meetings with them. If you speak with these families and ask them how old their children were when they were martyred, they will tell you that their children were martyred at the age of 16, 17, 14. What does this mean? It means that commitment, revolutionary spirit and sense of responsibility - which was rooted in insight - have become so strong that even high school students of this country enter the arena and lay down their lives. It means that even high school students of our country are prepared to give up all their youthful wishes in order to achieve great ideals and Islamic and divine goals in society.

The capture of the den of espionage is the last thing that the 13th of Aban represents. On the occasion of the anniversary of Imam Khomeini's (r.a.) exile and the massacre of students, once again our youth entered the arena in the year 1358 and did something that astonished the world and brought America to its knees. This is the truth. It is not just a slogan. You should know that the day the den of spies was captured, the American government was several times more formidable and prestigious than today. America has lost its prestige in the world today, and different peoples are openly insulting and cursing America. It was not like this at that time. America used to be regarded as the world's top superpower at that time. Our young students - who were acting as the first line of defense in the Iranian nation's camp of resistance - courageously captured America's embassy, and those who were in the embassy were taken hostage. Of course Imam Khomeini (r.a.) was kind enough to let some of them - like women - return to America after a short period of time. However, the main elements of the embassy stayed here for a long time. This was also a great movement which undermined America's power in the world. In spite of all that power, America suddenly lost its respect in the eyes of the peoples of the world. The situation got so bad that the American President [President Jimmy Carter] resorted to a covert military attack to rescue the hostages. They deployed their spies inside the country. They prepared the ground. They spoke to different mercenaries. They considered different places for their operation. They attacked our country with their helicopters and airplanes. The plan was to regroup in Tabas, go to Tehran, rescue the hostages and take them to America. But the famous event happened in Tabas, and Allah the Exalted destroyed their prestige. Their airplanes and helicopters caught fire, and they were forced to return to America from Tabas. These are the events that the 13th of Aban represents.

The 13th of Aban is a symbol. It contains many meanings, and these meanings are all lessons for us. We must keep these things in mind: American greed, corruption of the satanic Pahlavi regime and its dependence on America, firm resistance of the faith that depended on the insight of our magnanimous Imam and the people, presence of the young generation on the scene and the valor and boldness of the young revolutionary generation against America whose face had been made up to look formidable. These are all meanings that are embodied by the 13th of Aban. Therefore, the 13th of Aban is not just an insignificant name.

Just think about it. Last year - the year 1388 - a limited number of unfortunate people took to the streets on the 13th of Aban and shouted slogans against the 13th of Aban in the vain hope that they would manage to smear this great occasion. Of course they failed, and it was obvious that they were going to fail. But try to see what was behind their movement. What was it that they were opposed to? They were expressing their opposition to this symbol which contains great meanings. In fact they were expressing their opposition to these meanings. They wanted to restore the impressive power of America. They wanted to disguise the hegemony and interference of America. They wanted to question the great movement of the Iranian nation against that great oppression.

When one understands the meaning of the 13th of Aban, one realizes who and what these people - namely, the people who were trying to smear the 13th of Aban - were and what their goal was. This is the insight that I repeatedly emphasize. It is necessary to think carefully.

I wish to tell you dear youth that today you are the vanguard of the movement of the Iranian nation. The Iranian nation has set its sights on the peaks, and it is moving towards those peaks. Both enemies and friends admit that the Iranian nation is swiftly moving towards the peaks. Of course there is still a long way to go. We should avoid simplistic thoughts. The path that lies ahead of us is not one that can be completed in one or two years. It is a long path. But the Iranian nation is moving on this path. It is not possible to achieve one's goal as long as one does not move forward. Nobody can achieve their goal by sitting around, daydreaming and yawning. It is necessary to take action and move forward with firm determination.

In scientific areas, in technological areas, in political areas, in different service areas and in construction areas, we have made notable achievements. Fortunately, today the entire country is like a huge factory, and people are working, rendering services and doing construction work in every part of this huge factory. Iranian laborers acquire skill and gain experience, the people benefit from this and we become independent of the others.

In the past, if we wanted to construct a bridge in a city, we had to invite a European expert. If we wanted to construct a dam, we had to ask a number of foreign governments to do us a favor and build a dam for us. We had to invite foreigners to build a bridge or a dam, let alone more complicated things. Today the Iranian nation is independent in terms of these things. It is rich in terms of talented manpower. It enjoys caring, concerned and competent managers. The Iranian nation is moving forward. But who are the people who are at the forefront of this movement? They are our youth, students and young seminarians. It is our youth who are leading this movement. It is the youth who are the driving force behind this great movement, this colossal train that is moving forward in a steady manner.

Of course we need competent and experienced managers. Emphasizing the important role of the youth does not mean that we are allowed to disrespect old and experienced people. No, their experience is necessary as well, but this movement will not be completed as long as the youth are not involved. By Allah's favor, today the youth are present on the scene. This is great and very important. You dear youth are the vanguard of this movement - in political arenas, in economic arenas and in scientific arenas.

In the political arena, it was our youth who put an end to the fitna of the year 1388. Our youth and our young students played a more important role than other factors. Otherwise, the fitna was a great fitna. I would inform you that after the passage of a few years, international experts will be free to begin writing [about the fitna]. I may not live long enough to see that happen, but you will. You will hear and read what a great plot was behind the fitna of the year 1388. This fitna is very important. They had a very strange goal. In fact they wanted to capture Iran. Most elements of this fitna - the protesters and certain spokesmen - had entered this arena unknowingly. But they did not realize that they were being guided by certain hands. There are accurate psychological explanations that can account for how some people entered this arena and helped the enemy unknowingly. Putting an end to this fitna was a great achievement. It was you dear youth who helped accomplish this achievement.

My dear ones, maintain your presence on the scene. The country belongs to you. The peaks that I told you about belong to you. By Allah's favor, when you grow up, you will see these peaks and you will be a source of pride for your nation. Of course no movement ever achieves perfection. Moving towards the peaks is an ongoing process, and it is never completed. The important point is that a nation should learn and become determined to move towards perfection. This determination should never be undermined.

Fortunately, today the Islamic Republic and the honorable people who are supporting and safeguarding it are stronger than ever before. Today our path is clearer than ever before, and we know what we are doing. We know where we are going. We know our friends, and we know our enemies as well.

Today the enemies of the Iranian nation have grown weaker. They are hated more, and they suffer from more problems. They are suffering from economic, political and various other kinds of problems. Of course this does not mean that we can safely rest and forget about everything. No, the enemy must never be underestimated. You should always remember that the enemy is lying in ambush and that it is vigilant. But you should know that today the enemy cannot use its old methods. Today the Iranian nation is vigilant. Our youth are vigilant. They are aware. The major portion of the young population of this country is at the service of these goals - in academic environments, in marketplaces, in schools and in seminaries. Our youth are active in all areas.

Dear God, bestow Your grace and blessings on our youth. Dear God, make benevolence prevalent in this country. Dear God, educate us the way Islam wants. Dear God, help the Iranian nation achieve many victories. Dear God, accept the prayers of the Imam of the Age (may our souls be sacrificed for his sake) and turn them into support for this nation.

Greetings be upon you and Allah's mercy and blessings