Imam Khamenei

The massacre of Goharshad Mosque by Pahlavi should be narrated to the younger generations

The following is the full text of the speech delivered on March 28, 2017 by Ayatollah Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution, at the Goharshad Mosque Massacre exhibition. The Goharshad Mosque Massacre occurred on July 13, 1935, when the people of Mashhad protested in Goharshad Mosque against an order issued by Reza Khan forcibly removing and banning the hijab of all women. The military and police attacked the peaceful demonstrators leading to the martyrdom of a large number of people.

In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful

First of all, I would like to thank the dear brothers in the meeting and also Mr. Jalili who really endeavored to do something new. It will really be a source of regret if the Goharshad Mosque Massacre – which is such a big and significant event – is not reflected in our history, our literature and our novels in any way. Well, you thankfully did this. The things that I saw at this exhibition– of course, within the scope of my understanding – seemed very interesting to me. The drawings, graphic works and also the reports and narratives were very good. Now, I would like to raise two, three points:

First of all, I want to speak about the Goharshad Mosque. There are other books as well as the book which Mr. Jalili pointed to. There is a book which is in the form of a novel or a narrative, but it mentions the history of the incident. I have read this book and it corresponds with the information that I have in my mind. It tells the story of the Goharshad Mosque with all details and it contains the names of all the personalities involved. This book has narrated the events correctly and I have this book at my disposal. So, this is one of the books. Another is a book which I read two, three years ago. This book too narrates the events of the year 1314 with details and explanations. For example, it narrates the meetings held in the house of the late Aqazadeh, the events which took place in the Old Courtyard of the mosque – the Revolution Courtyard in the present time. It also mentions the events related to Bohlul [Shaykh Mohammad Taqi Bohlul, one of the main personalities involved in the Goharshad Mosque protests] and the subsequent events. All these events have been mentioned in the book.

The events are narrated in Bohlul's memoirs – in the beginning – as well. I have not read Bohlul's memoirs, but he described the events orally to me and therefore, I know that the things that I have heard exist in the book. I had the book for a while because he had given it to me before being published. Most probably, he has mentioned the details about the two, three days when he stayed at the Goharshad Mosque and his minbars – first the events related to the Goharshad Mosque, then the events related to the events in the Old and New Courtyards and then the Goharshad Mosque again until he had to flee Mashhad – in the introduction of the book. So, there are other books.

Of course, as I mentioned, there is a book which mentions the history of the event in the form of a report. Part of that book contains the writings of the late Shaykh Ahmad Bahar. Shaykh Ahmad Bahar was a well-known novelist in Mashhad who was present in all events. He was the publisher of a newspaper, but he closed it in those days because of some matters. The story mentions the core of the event. Part of the book that I mentioned contains his memoirs. You should look and find these books.

The second point is that you should see why the issue of the Goharshad Mosque came into being in the first place. We should not forget this. The most important person was Hajj Aqa Hussein Qomi. When the issue of "kashf-e hijab" [the forcible removal and banning of hijab by Reza Khan] arose, the late Hajj Aqa Hussein Qomi said that he would go speak to Reza Shah, making him listen. He went to Tehran with this intention. Of course, when he arrived in Tehran, he was taken to Abdul-Azim by governmental agents and he was kept there for a while and the Shah did not give him an audience. Of course, he had said, "I will go there and I will speak to him. If he listens, so much the better. But if he does not, I will strangle him myself."

He had gone there with that intention, but he was not granted an audience and he was later exiled to Iraq. When he was in Tehran, the ulama of Mashhad gathered to demand that Hajj Aqa Hussein be returned to Mashhad. They also demanded that his demands should be fulfilled. That was the reason why the ulama gathered in the guardhouse of the Goharshad Mosque which led to the gathering of the people later on.

What I mean is that the late Hajj Aqa Hussein Qomi should not be forgotten in that event. He was a real mujahid in the way of God who was courageous and prepared to take all risks. He did not have any fears whatsoever. When he went to Tehran, he was all alone. He did not have comrades and servants accompanying him. Apparently, only two of his sons accompanied him. This is a noteworthy point.

The next point is that the late Aqazadeh should not be forgotten either. Aqazadeh was not directly involved in the Goharshad event, but he was accused by the court. Later on, he was arrested because of the same accusation. No one would have thought that government agents would dare go to Aqazadeh's house who was a very well-respected personality in Mashhad. However, the agents went to his house and pushed him out. They did not even let him dress properly. He was first taken to Yazd and subsequently to Tehran. One, two years after that, he was poisoned and martyred. These are the important personalities related to the Goharshad Mosque incident.

Another point is looking at the Goharshad Mosque Massacre as a historical calamity. This is the viewpoint with common portrayals in history. In other words, some pious people gathered at a holy place with a particular goal, but government agents attacked the place and murdered those individuals. Of course, the killings did not only occur at the mosque. There were also other killings outside the mosque – in the Old Square which no longer exists – as well. Down the street – the so-called Tehran Street or Imam Ridha Street – a great number of people were killed.

At the southern gate of the Goharshad Mosque – the southern gate is closed in the present time and they have replaced it with the Quds Courtyard – there was a corridor which would lead to the Goharshad gate. Inside the corridor, many people were killed. I do not remember where I read the events related to this. I do not really remember reading this, but I know that many people were killed there. There are some people who have narrated the story: "We were looking from upstairs. We saw that the people were being pushed inside the trucks while they are half-dead. They were taken to Alamdasht to be buried there." These are the events which are well-known. So, one viewpoint is this: looking at the event as a calamity which took place in Mashhad because of hijab.

One issue which is in my opinion much wider in scope and much more important is the issue of hijab itself. I witnessed that the friends in the meeting pointed to the issue of banning roza-khani [religious mourning ceremonies], but the issue of banning hijab is a very important issue. The memoirs that you narrated here were mostly about the issue of hijab. Of course, there were not very important points in the two, three memoirs that I read here. Many things can be found about this issue. There are many such stories in our minds, and those who are the same age as us have heard many stories from their older relatives – from their mothers and sisters who were directly involved in such events.

There are many individuals living who were involved. The issue of hijab was not particular to Mashhad and the Goharshad Mosque. It is an issue which is very wide in scope and which existed at a nationwide level. It is about a measure which Reza Shah adopted and the confrontation which he faced. You can find many stories and memories about the issue of hijab. When you collect all these stories, it will be a great collection. You mentioned that one of the gentlemen – I do not remember which gentleman it was – has decided to write a novel in this regard. In my opinion, this is a very important issue. Again, this is one of the issues which has not been worked on properly.

Another issue is about the individuals who played a part in banning hijab. Notice that well-known cultural individuals during the time of Reza Shah – for example, Ali Asqar Hekmat, these are the well-known individuals – played a part on the issue of "kashf-e hijab". They played a colonialist role. They were the real personalities behind Reza Shah. Reza Shah was a violent person, but they were the individuals who produced thoughts and ideas and who taught him where to use his gun. In my opinion, these cultural individuals were very influential and they should be introduced.

Reza Khan had only one foreign trip: a trip to Turkey during the time of Ataturk. There, they showed him women who did not wear hijab. They injected the idea of eliminating hijab in him and then his close companions said to him that the way to civilization was what Ataturk had done. From then on, he would think about it and he would prepare the ground for that. Then, in the year 1314, it became obligatory, but there were other events before that.

Another point is about the personalities who worked on this issue and who should be mentioned. Imam (may God bestow paradise on him) once said to us that he had seen no one braver on this issue than the late Ayatullah Kashani. Imam had seen Modarres as well, but he mentioned Kashani as the bravest personality. After that, he mentioned three narrations about the late Kashani. Two of those narrations are related to Pahlavi, but unfortunately, I do not remember the third one.

The narration which is specifically related to the issue of hijab is this: the late Kashani used to live in Pamenar. Once, a policeman went to him and said, "My commander sends his regards. He said that you and your family should be present in a particular ceremony on Tuesday." At that time, it was common to invite personalities to attend such and such ceremonies with their wife not wearing hijab. That policeman had come to invite Mr. Kashani, but he shouted and yelled at the policeman. The policeman said that that was his commander's order. Mr. Kashani says something like, "The hell your commander said such a thing!" [Audience laugh].

Then the policeman became nervous and said, "My superiors have said this." Again, Mr. Kashani says something like, "The hell your superiors have said this! Get lost!" The policeman relates the event to his chief. He said, "Do not get close to this Sayyid. He is dangerous." The point is that there are many such narrations and events related to the issue of hijab.

One of the personalities in the list of the arrested was the late Shaykh Hashem Qazvini. He was my teacher. He was a first-rate teacher in Mashhad whose classes we used to attend for many years. Once he said, "When the issue of "kashf-e hijab" arose, all of us were very upset, but there was one who was happy. We said, 'Why are you so happy?' He said, 'This is a very good measure. Let the people understand with whom I have been living for the past 40 years!'" [Supreme Leader and audience laugh]. What I want to say is that there are many stories, narrations and events related to the issue of hijab.

Of course, the year when "kashf-e hijab" arose, I was not born yet. I was born in 1318 – four years after "kashf-e hijab" – but my mother and others would tell us about that. They would stay at home and they would not go out for long periods. They would endure many difficulties in order to go out in cases of emergency. I heard this both from my mother and from other women. These are very painful events that took place. All these events should be portrayed. When it comes to the issue of hijab, all these events should be portrayed. So, the issue of hijab was not confined to the issue of Goharshad Mosque. In other words, it was a big important country-wide matter.

In any case, I thank you, gentlemen, for the efforts that you have made. I hope that God will bestow success on you- God willing.


  • Goharshad massacre
  • Goharshad Mosque
  • Pahlavi dictatorship
  • Reza Khan