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Khomeini now became the active head of the revolution. Cassettes of his anti-Shah sermons sold like pop records in the bazaars and were played in crowded mosques throughout the country. When he called for strikes, his followers shut down the banks, the postal service, the factories, the food stores and, most important, the oil wells, bringing the country close to paralysis. The Shah imposed martial law, but to no avail. On Jan. 16, after weeks of daily protest parades, the Shah and his Empress flew off to exile, leaving a "regency council" that included Prime Minister Shahpour Bakhtiar, a moderate who had spent time in the Shah's prisons. But Khomeini announced that no one ruling in the Shah's name would be acceptable, and Iran was torn by the largest riots of the entire revolution. The Ayatullah returned from Paris to a tumultuous welcome and Bakhtiar fled. "The holy one has come!" the crowds greeting Khomeini shouted triumphantly. "He is the light of our lives!" The crush stalled the Ayatullah's motorcade, so that he had to be lifted out of the crowds, over the heads of his adulators, by helicopter. He was flown to a cemetery, where he prayed at the graves of those who had died during the revolution.
Khomeini withdrew to the holy city of Qum, appointed a government headed by Mehdi Bazargan, an engineer by training and veteran of Mossadegh's Cabinet, and announced that he would confine his own role during "the one or two years left to me" to making sure that Iran followed "in the image of Muhammad." It quickly became apparent that real power resided in the revolutionary komitehs that sprang up all over the country, and the komitehs took orders only from the 15-man Revolutionary Council headed by Khomeini (the names of its other members were long kept secret). Bazargan and his Cabinet had to trek to Qum for weekly lunches with Khomeini to find out what the Ayatullah would or would not allow.
Some observers distinguish two stages in the entire upheaval: the first a popular revolt that overthrew the Shah, then a "Khomeini coup" that concentrated all power in the clergy. The Ayatullah's main instrument was a stream of elamiehs (directives) from Qum, many issued without consulting Bazargan's nominal government. Banks and heavy industry were nationalized and turned over to government managers. Many of the elamiehs were concerned with imposing a strict Islamic way