By: Mir M.Hosseini
Military occupation of the Mehrabad Airport took place on January 24, 1979 by an order from PM Shapour Bakhtiar. It was the last move from Pahlavi regime in order to prevent Imam Khomeini from flying to Tehran.
Bakhtiar took several measures designed to appeal to elements in the opposition movement. He lifted restrictions on the press; the newspapers, on strike since November, resumed publication. He set free remaining political prisoners and promised the dissolution of SAVAK, the lifting of martial law, and free elections. He announced Iran's withdrawal from CENTO, canceled $7 billion worth of arms orders from the United States, and announced Iran would no longer sell oil to South Africa or Israel. Although Bakhtiar won the qualified support of moderate clerics like Shariatmadari, his measures did not win him the support of Khomeini and the main opposition elements who were now committed to the overthrow of the monarchy and the establishment of a new political order.
On 26 January some 100,000 people marched to the Mehrabad Airport. They clashed with the military and 28 people died.
Bakhtiar sought unsuccessfully to persuade Khomeini to postpone his return to Iran until conditions in the country were normalized. Khomeini refused to receive a member of the regency council Bakhtiar sent as an emissary to Paris and after some hesitation rejected Bakhtiar's offer to come to Paris personally for consultations. Bakhtiar's attempt to prevent Khomeini's imminent return by closing the Mehrabad Airport at Tehran proved to be futile.
On January 29, 1979, Khomeini called for a street "referendum" on the monarchy and the Bakhtiar government, there was a massive turnout.
The airport remained closed until January 30th. Imam Khomeini embarked on a chartered airliner of Air France on the evening of January 31 and arrived in Tehran the following morning.
Khomeini arrived in Tehran from Paris on February 1, 1979, received a rapturous welcome from millions of Iranians, and announced he would "smash in the mouth of the Bakhtiar government."
On February 5, Khomeini named Mehdi Bazargan as Prime Minister of a provisional government. Although Bazargan did not immediately announce a cabinet, the move reinforced the conditions of dual authority that increasingly came to characterize the closing days of the Pahlavi Monarchy.
On February 8, uniformed airmen appeared at Khomeini's home and publicly pledged their allegiance to him. On February 11, twenty-two senior military commanders met and announced that the armed forces would observe neutrality in the confrontation between the government and the people. The army's withdrawal from the streets was tantamount to a withdrawal of support for the Bakhtiar government and acted as a trigger for a general uprising. By late afternoon on February 12, Bakhtiar was in hiding, and key points throughout the capital were in rebel hands. The Pahlavi Dynasty had reached its demise.
On Aug, 8, 1991 Shapour Bakhtiar, Iran's last Prime Minister before the Islamic Revolution of 1979, was found dead at his home outside Paris.