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Ruhollah Khomeini (1900-1989) was an Iranian politician and religious leader who served as ayatollah and Supreme Leader of Iran from 1979 to 1989.

Following to a national referendum in April 1979, Iran became an Islamic Republic and Khomeini was named leader of the Islamic Revolution.

During a radio broadcast aired on July 23rd, 1979, Khomeini called for a ban on any form of music, however no specific law was edicted at the time.[1] It was only some months later that the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran, adopted by referendum, granted the Leader full power to appoint and dismiss the head of the Radio and Television (Chapter XII [Article 175]).

On November 4th, a group of islamist students took over the American embassy in Tehran. Khomeini, who was initially not informed, finally approved the initiative. Most hostages were kept imprisoned during 444 days until the day of Ronald Reagan's inaugural address in 1981. In 1986, the Reagan administration was found guilty of illegally selling weapons and arms to Iran in exchange for the hostages. The money was then used to support the opposition against the socialist government in Nicaragua. This led to the Irangate Affair.

In 1989, Khomeini again made international headlines when he issued a fatwa against author Salman Rushdie and his book "The Satanic Verses", which Khomeini considered to be blasphemous.

Years after Khomeini's death, the fundamentalist regime loosened a little including the restictions on music[2] mainly during Mohammad Khatami presidency (1997-2005). But to this day, it is still considered to be an authoritarian regime or a dictatorship by the occidental media groups[3][4].

Link with Zappa

Zappa mentions the complete censorship on music in Iran in the foreword to the liner notes of Joe's Garage (1979). The album came out a few months after Khomeini's revolt.

When Zappa performed Titties 'n Beer live during the 1980s The Devil now bragged that he had the soul of Khomeini instead of those of Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew.

In a 1989 Interview with Larry King an audience member asked Zappa what kind of instrument the ayatollah would be playing in Hell? Zappa replied: "It's a kind of flute."


  1. "Music should not be broadcast over the radio and television. Music is something that everybody is attracted to naturally, but it takes them out of reality to a futile and lowly livelihood. Like opium, music also stupefies persons listening to it and makes their brain inactive and frivolous" - Khomeini's statement as reported by the Observer Reporter, July 24, 1979.
  2. Iran Bans All Music,, August 2010.
  3. The Economist Democracy Index
  4. Profile: Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, BBC News, June 2009.

See also