BAGHDAD, Iraq — The sister of Iranian President Ali Khamenei turned up unexpectedly in Baghdad today and told a news conference she had fled Iran to join her husband, Sheik Ali Tehrani, in Iraq after a one-year separation.
Badri Hussein Khamenei said she and her five children had "left Iran illegally by road through a border crossing point. . . . We have no passports." She said her brother had refused to help them.
Iran and Iraq have been at war since September, 1980.
She said she fled so her three daughters and two sons could be "reunited with their father," granted political asylum by Iraq in March of 1984.
He is an opponent of Iran's spiritual and revolutionary leader, the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
Khamenei's sister said she asked her brother to get passports for the family so they could leave Iran legally, "but he didn't help. I telephoned Khomeini's son, Ahmed, and asked him for passports. He also said no."
Mahmoud Ali Tehrani, 22, son of the dissident couple, said he told Ahmed Khomeini over the telephone that the present regime in Iran is "worse than that of the shah (the late Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi). The shah's regime was allowing you to visit your father (Khomeini) while he was a political refugee in Iraq."
Khomeini's years in exile as a political refugee included 10 spent in Iraq. He returned to Iran in 1979 to topple the regime of the shah, who had deported him.
Khamenei's sister and her daughters Wahida, Saida, 15, and Farida, 14, wore the traditional head-to-ankle black robes called chadors.
Four-year-old Ihsan, dressed in a red jeans outfit, sat silently next to his mother. The black-turbaned Sheik Tehrani attended the conference, but did not talk to journalists.
Sheik Tehrani's wife said she and her husband had "struggled against the shah's regime. All Iranian women who had struggled against the shah regime are now against Khomeini. . . . I am disappointed with political struggle, so I have decided to abandon political activity."
She said that Iran's economic situation is "difficult. . . . There is a shortage of food supplies, which are rationed." She did not elaborate.