Ali Khamenei

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Not to be confused with Ruhollah Khomeini.
Sayyed Ali Khamenei
سید علی خامنه‌ای
2nd Supreme Leader of Iran
Assumed office
4 June 1989
Preceded by Ruhollah Khomeini
3rd President of Iran
In office
13 October 1981 – 3 August 1989
Prime Minister Mir-Hossein Mousavi
Supreme Leader Ruhollah Khomeini
Preceded by Mohammad-Ali Rajai
Succeeded by Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani
Member of the Assembly of Experts[1]
In office
15 August 1983 – 21 February 1991
Constituency Tehran Province
Member of the Parliament of Iran
In office
28 May 1980 – 13 October 1981
Constituency Tehran, Rey, Shemiranat and Eslamshahr
Majority 1,405,976 (65.8%, ranked 5th)[2]
Tehran's Friday Prayer Imam
Assumed office
14 January 1980
Appointed by Ruhollah Khomeini
Interim Imams
Preceded by Hussein-Ali Montazeri
Personal details
Born Sayyid Ali Hosseini Khameneh
(1939-07-17) 17 July 1939 (age 79)
Mashhad, Iran
Political party
Spouse(s) Khojaste Bagherzadeh (m. 1964)
Religion Shia Islam (Twelver)

Sayyed Ali Hosseini Khamenei (Persian: سید علی حسینی خامنه‌ای‎‎ pronounced [ʔæˈliː hoseiˈniː xɒːmeneˈʔiː] ; born 17 July 1939)[3] is the second and current Supreme Leader of Iran[4] and a Muslim cleric.[4][5] Ali Khamenei succeeded Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of the Iranian Revolution, after Khomeini's death, being elected as the new Supreme Leader by the Assembly of Experts on 4 June 1989, at age 49. He had also served as the President of Iran from 1981 to 1989. In 2012, 2013, and 2014 Forbes selected him 21st, 23rd, and 19th, respectively, in the list of The World's Most Powerful People.[6]

Khamenei is a head of state and also chief commander of the armed forces, and is considered the most powerful political authority in Iran.[7][8] Khamenei issues decrees and makes the final decisions on economy, environment, foreign policy and everything else in Iran.[9][10][11][12] Khamenei has either direct or indirect control over the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government, as well as the military and media.[13] Khamenei is one of the world's longest-reigning rulers.[14] Over the years, to cement his power base, Khamenei has also developed close relations with the military and security apparatus. He has built a vast bureaucracy inside the government and around his compound Beit Rahbari.[15] All candidates to the Assembly of Experts, the President and the Majlis (Parliament), are vetted by the Guardian Council, whose members are selected directly or indirectly by the Supreme Leader of Iran.[16] As such, the Assembly has never questioned Khamenei.[17] There have been instances when Khamenei publicly criticized members of the Assembly of Experts resulting in their arrest and dismissal. For example, Khamenei publicly called then-member of the Assembly of Experts Ahmad Azari Qomi, a traitor, resulting in Ahmad Azari Qomi's arrest, eventual dismissal from the Assembly of Experts, and suspicious death. There have been also instances when the Guardian Council reversed its ban of particular people after being ordered to do so by Khamenei.[18] Khamenei has also fired and reinstated Presidential cabinet appointments.[19][20] There have been several major protests during Khamenei's reign, including the Iran student protests, July 1999, 2009 Iranian presidential election protests, when protesters chanted "death to the dictator",[21] [22]and ripped down pictures of Khamenei,[23] as well as the 2011–12 Iranian protests, among others. In 2016, Iranian people voted out then-Chairman of Assembly of Experts and staunch ally of Khamenei, Mohammad Yazdi, from the Assembly of Experts. Khamenei said losing the election does not harm reputation,[24] and kept Mohammad Yazdi on the Guardian Council which vets potential candidates for the Assembly of Experts.[25]

Khamenei was the victim of an attempted assassination in June 1981 that paralysed his right arm.[26][27] According to his official website, Khamenei was arrested six times before being sent into exile for three years during Mohammad Reza Pahlavi's reign.[28] Six months after the 2003 invasion of Iraq, which aimed to disarm Iraq of never found weapons of mass destruction, Ali Khamenei issued a fatwa, that can be changed as and when deemed necessary, saying that the production, stockpiling, and use of weapons of mass destruction are forbidden.[29]


Early life and education

A teenage Khamenei

Khamenei claims to hold the title of Sayyid, which means that he claims direct descent from Muhammad. Some of his ancestors are from Tafresh in today's Markazi Province, and migrated from their original home in Tafresh to Khamaneh near the Tabriz.[30][31][32] Born to Seyyed Javad Khamenei and Khadijeh Mirdamadi[33] (daughter of Hashem Mirdamadi) in Mashhad;[3][34] he is the second of eight children, and two of his brothers are also clerics. His younger brother, Hadi Khamenei, is a renowned newspaper editor and cleric.[35] Khamenei is of ethnic Azeri background[36][37][38][39] while one source claims that his mother was an ethnic Persian-speaker from Yazd.[40]

He attended religious studies classes at the rudimentary and advanced levels in the hawza of Mashhad, under his mentors such as Sheikh Hashem Qazvini, and Ayatollah Milani, and then went to Najaf in 1957.[41] After a short stay he left Najaf to Mashhad, and in 1958 he settled in Qom. Khamenei attended the classes of Seyyed Hossein Borujerdi and Ruhollah Khomeini. Later, he was involved in the Islamic activities of 1963 which led to his arrest in Birjand in Southern Khorasan Province. Shortly thereafter, he was released and resumed teaching in Mashhad's religious schools and mosques, teaching the Nahj al-Balagheh.[41] According to some sources, Khamenei studied and graduated from the Peoples' Friendship University of Russia in the Soviet Union,[42][43] but his official website makes no mention of this.[44]

According to his official biography, Khamenei spent a "clandestine life" in Tehran, Iran from 1966 to 1967 after which he was arrested by the police and imprisoned. He married a woman named Khojaste in 1964.[45] Together they have four sons and two daughters.[45]

Literary scholarship

Khamenei is fluent in Arabic in addition to his native languages, Persian and Azerbaijani.[46] He has translated several books into Persian from Arabic, including the works of the famous Egyptian theoretician Sayyid Qutb. He speaks Azerbaijani, his father's native language.[47][48]

In his analysis of the Persian poetry of Muhammad Iqbal, he states that "We have a large number of non-Persian-speaking poets in the history of our literature, but I cannot point out any of them whose poetry possesses the qualities of Iqbal's Persian poetry. Iqbal was not acquainted with Persian idiom, as he spoke Urdu at home and talked to his friends in Urdu or English. He did not know the rules of Persian prose writing."[49]

Like many other politically active clerics at the time, Khamenei was far more involved with politics than religious scholarship.[50]

Political life and presidency

Khamenei as Tehran's Friday Prayer Imam in 1979

Khamenei was a key figure in the Iranian Revolution in Iran and a close confidant of Ruhollah Khomeini.

Khomeini appointed Khamenei to the post of Tehran's Friday prayers Imam in 1979, after forced resignation of Hussein-Ali Montazeri from the post. He served briefly as the Deputy Minister for Defence and as a supervisor of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards. He also went to the battlefield as a representative of the defense commission of the parliament. In June 1981, Khamenei narrowly escaped an assassination attempt by the Mujaheddin-e Khalq when a bomb, concealed in a tape recorder at a press conference, exploded beside him. He was permanently injured, losing the use of his right arm.[51]

Ali Khamenei has shaken hands with his left hand since the unsuccessful assassination

In 1981, after the assassination of Mohammad-Ali Rajai, Khamenei was elected President of Iran by a landslide vote in the Iranian presidential election, October 1981 and became the first cleric to serve in the office. Ruhollah Khomeini had originally wanted to keep clerics out of the presidency but later changed his views.

In his presidential inaugural address Khamenei vowed to eliminate "deviation, liberalism, and American-influenced leftists".[52] Vigorous opposition to the government, including nonviolent and violent protest, assassinations, guerrilla activity and insurrections, was answered by state repression and terror in the early 1980s, both before and during Khamenei's presidency. Thousands of rank-and-file members of insurgent groups were killed, often by revolutionary courts. By 1982, the government announced that the courts would be reined in, although various political groups continued to be repressed by the government in the first half of the 1980s.[53]

Khamenei helped guide the country during the Iran–Iraq War in the 1980s, and developed close ties with the now-powerful Revolutionary Guards. As president, he had a reputation of being deeply interested in the military, budget and administrative details.[51] After the Iraqi Army was expelled from Iran in 1982, Khamenei became one of the main opponents of Khomeini's decision to counter-invade into Iraq, an opinion Khamenei shared with Prime Minister Mir-Hossein Mousavi, with whom he would later conflict during the 2009–10 Iranian election protests.[54]

In its 10 April 1997 ruling regarding the Mykonos restaurant assassinations, the German court issued an international arrest warrant for Iranian intelligence minister Hojjat al-Islam Ali Fallahian[55] after declaring that the assassination had been ordered by him with knowledge of Khamenei and Rafsanjani.[56] Iranian officials, however, have categorically denied their involvement. The then Iranian Parliament speaker Ali Akbar Nategh-Nouri dismissed the ruling as being political, untrue and unsubstantiated. The ruling led to a diplomatic crisis between the governments of Iran and several European countries, which lasted until November 1997.[57] Darabi and Rhayel were finally released from prison on 10 December 2007 and deported back to their home countries.[58][59]

Supreme Leader

Ali Khamenei succeeded Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of the Iranian Revolution, after Khomeini's death, being elected as the new Supreme Leader by the Assembly of Experts on 4 June 1989. Initially, a council of three members, Ali Meshkini, Mousavi Ardebili and Khamenei, was proposed for Leadership. After the assembly rejected the idea of a Leadership Council (Khamenei and Rafsanjani were both supporting a council), and Grand Ayatollah Mohammad-Reza Golpaygani received only around 14 votes, Khamenei was elected Leader by 60 members out of 74 members present.[60][61][62] Since Khamenei was not a Marja' at the time, which the Iranian constitution required, he was named as the temporary Supreme Leader. Later, the constitution was amended and the Assembly of Experts reconvened on 6 August 1989, to reconfirm Khamenei with 60 votes out of 64 present.[63]

The concept that the ruler of the land should be an Islamic jurist serving as "guardian" (Guardian Jurist, Vali-e faqih ولی فقیه in Persian), was developed by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in a lecture series made into a book. In this kind of theocratic "guardianship" leadership (Velayat-e Faqih, ولایت فقیه ), no political decision is lawful until it is approved by the Guardian Jurist who is called the Supreme Leader (رهبر Rahbar in Persian) by the Iranian constitution.

According to the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran, during the occultation of the Wali al-'Asr, the "Guardianship and the Leadership of the Ummah" (Persian: ولایت امر و امامت امت‎‎) devolve upon the "just and pious jurist", who is fully aware of the circumstances of his age, courageous, resourceful, and possessed of administrative ability. Also, in another article states that the powers of government in the Islamic Republic of Iran are vested in the legislature, the judiciary, and the executive powers, functioning under the supervision of the "Absolute Guardianship and the Leadership of the Ummah" (Persian: ولایت مطلقه امر و امامت امت‎‎) that refers to the Supreme Leader of Iran.[64]

Political philosophy and image

Khamenei along with Ruhollah Khomeini and Mohammad Beheshti, 1980

Khamenei's era as leader has differed from that of his predecessor Khomeini. He has continued Khomeini's policy of "balancing one group against another, making sure that no single side gains too much power."[51][65] But lacking Khomeini's charisma and clerical standing, he has developed networks, first inside the armed forces, and then among the clerics administering the major religious foundations (or bonyads), and seminaries of Qom and Mashhad.[65] According to Vali Nasr, he has brought many of the powers of the presidency with him into the office, turning it into an "omnipotent overseer of Iran's political scene". Officials under Khamenei influence the country's various powerful, and sometimes bickering, institutions, including "the parliament, the presidency, the judiciary, the Revolutionary Guards, the military, the intelligence services, the police agencies, the clerical elite, the Friday prayer leaders and much of the media", as well as various "nongovernmental foundations, organizations, councils, seminaries and business groups".[51] Under him, the government is said to resemble "a clerical oligarchy more than an autocracy."[65]

To maintain "the image of the Leader as 'guide', rather than executive", Khamenei stays aloof from day-to-day politics. He gives no press conferences or interviews, and, as noted in Hooman Majd's book:

He speaks only at special gatherings, such as an occasional Friday prayer or commemoration ceremonies of one sort or another. The Leader meets with foreign dignitaries (almost exclusively Muslim) but limits any televised and public words to generalities, such as Iran's support for the country (or entity like Hamas or Hezbollah) whose emissary he is meeting, Iran's peaceful and Islamic nature, and Iran's eagerness to expand trade and contacts with the friendly country in question. He pointedly does not meet with representatives of Western powers. The Leader does not travel overseas; if anyone wishes to see him, that person must travel to Iran.[66]

Apart from his time in Najaf as a student, Khamenei travelled to Libya during his time as President.[67][68]

Despite this policy, as leader, Khamenei reserves the right to "inject himself into the process and 'correct' a flawed policy or decision."[69]

In his speeches Khamenei regularly mentions many familiar themes of the 1979 revolution: justice, independence, self-sufficiency, Islamic government and resolute opposition to Israel and United States, while rarely mentioning other revolutionary ideals such as democracy and greater government transparency.[52] Dealing with the presidents who have served during his reign, Khamenei has successfully sculpted President Rafsanjani's attempts to find a modus vivendi with the United States, President Khatami's aspirations for a more democratic Islamic state, and President Ahmadinejad's desire for confrontation.[52]

Election as Supreme Leader

Ruhollah Khomeini had recommended Khamenei to be his successor, stating, "He enjoys that level of ijtihad required to be a Wali al-Faqih".[citation needed] In the First Assembly of the Assembly of Experts after the demise of Khomeini, Ali Khamenei was elected as the Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist by two-thirds of the votes.[70] Though Khamenei opposed this and argued heavily against the decision, he eventually accepted the decision after debating with the mujtahids (experts in many Islamic fields) of the Assembly.[71] This new amendment to the constitution had not been put to a referendum yet, so after voting for Khamenei, the Assembly of Experts internally titled him a temporary office holder until the new constitution became effective.

Dispute regarding status as Grand Ayatollah

Khamenei during a meeting with Qaris

His status as Marja' is controversial. In 1994, after the death of Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Ali Araki, the Society of Seminary Teachers of Qom declared Khamenei a new marja. However, four of Iran's dissident grand ayatollahs declined to recognize Khamenei as a marja.[72] Khamenei's acceptance of marja'iyat for Shi'as outside Iran does not have traditional precedence in Shi'ism. Marja'iyat can be, and in modern times it increasingly is, transitional.[73]

Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Shirazi, who was under house-arrest at the time for his opposition to Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, did not accept Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as a marja. According to "Human Rights in Iran" (2001) by Pace University's Reza Afshari, Shirazi was "indignant" over recognition of Khamenei as the Leader and a marja. Shirazi (who died in late 2001) apparently favored a committee of Grand Ayatollahs to lead the country.[citation needed] Other marjas who questioned the legitimacy of Khamenei's marja'yat were dissident clerics: Grand Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri, Grand Ayatollah Hassan Tabatabai-Qomi and Grand Ayatollah Yasubedin Rastegar Jooybari.[72] In 1997, the more senior Grand Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri, "questioned the powers of the Leader" and was punished with the closure of his religious school, an attack on his office in Qom" and a period of house arrest.[5]

Fatwa regarding companions of Muhammad

In 2010, Khamenei issued a fatwa which bans any insult to the Sahabah (companions of Muhammad) as well as Muhammad's wives. The fatwa was issued in an effort to reconcile legal, social, and political disagreements between Sunni and Shia.[74]

Amman Message

Khamenei is one of the Ulama signatories of the Amman Message, which gives a broad foundation for defining Muslim orthodoxy.[75] as well as elaborating on the factors needed to create Islamic unity, he argues: "neither the Shia Muslims allied with the British MI6 are Shias, nor the Sunni mercenaries of the American CIA are Sunnis, as they are both anti-Islamic."[76]

Fatwa against nuclear weapons

Khamenei has reportedly issued a fatwa saying the production, stockpiling, and use of nuclear weapons was forbidden under Islam.[77] Iran's nuclear program has been a subject of international debate for decades. The Iranian government claims the purpose of its nuclear development is to produce electricity, while experts believe that Iran is technically able to enrich uranium for producing a bomb within a few months.[78]

The fatwa was cited in an official statement by the Iranian government at an August 2005 meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna.[79] It's been widely discussed by international officials and specifically recognized by the US administration. Doubts have been cast by some experts from US and Israeli-affiliated thinktanks on the existence of fatwa, its authenticity, its impact,[80] and its apparently religious nature.[81] The fatwa came after the period when President Rafsanjani admitted the nuclear option was explored.[82]

However, the Iranian official website for information regarding its nuclear program has provided numerous instances of public statements by Khamenei wherein he voices his opposition to pursuit and development of nuclear weapons in moral, religious and Islamic juridical terms.[83] Khamenei's official website specifically cites a 2010 version[84] of these statements in the fatwa section of the website in Farsi as a fatwa on "Prohibition of Weapons of Mass Destruction".[85] According to Abbas Milani, whether the fatwa "actually exists and even whether Mr. Khamenei is entitled to issue fatwas and finally how changeable are fatwas are all contested matters".[81] Karim Sadjadpour, argues that references to the fatwa by the US government may be in order to give the Iranians a route to compromise on the basis of religious beliefs rather than pressure from U.S.-led sanctions.[81]

Relationship with the press

See also: Media of Iran
Khamenei speaking to Iranian Air Force personnel, 6 February 2016

In 2000, he was listed by the Committee to Protect Journalists as "one of the top ten enemies of the press and freedom of expression",[86] and was named to the Time 100 in 2007.[87] Opposition journalists Ahmad Zeidabadi, Mohsen Sazegara, Mohammad Nourizad and Akbar Ganji were arrested and investigated[88][89][90][91] for spreading critical articles containing unproven charges against Khamenei's policies as the leader and some organizations.[92][93] According to the Iran's Press Law "spreading rumors and lies and distorts the words of others" is not allowed.[94] Also, according to the law, "spreading libel against officials, institutions, organizations and individuals in the country or insulting legal or real persons who are lawfully respected, even by means of pictures or caricatures" is not allowed.[94]

Among his controversial actions were his rejection of a bill presented by the Iranian parliament in 2000 that aimed to reform the country's press law, and the disqualification of thousands of parliamentary candidates for the 2004 Iranian legislative election by the Guardian Council he appointed.[5]

Political power following reform era

According to Karim Sadjadpour of the American Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, several factors have strengthened Khamenei in recent years:

(1) A vast network of commissars stationed in strategic posts throughout government bureaucracies, dedicated to enforcing his authority; (2) the weak, conservative-dominated parliament, headed by Khamenei loyalist Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel (whose daughter is married to the Leader's son); (3) the rapidly rising political and economic influence of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards, whose top leaders are directly appointed by Khamenei and have always been publicly deferential to him; (4) the political disengagement of Iran's young population ....; and (5) most significant[ly], the 2005 presidential election, which saw hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad trounce Khamenei's chief rival ... Hashemi Rafsanjani ...[52]

According to an investigative report by Reuters news agency, since around 2006 the organization known as Setad (or "Headquarters for Executing the Order of the Imam"), has developed into a conglomerate worth an estimated $95 billion. The organization—allegedly under the control of Khamenei—is said to provide financial resources giving him financial independence from "parliament and the national budget, insulating him from Iran's messy factional infighting" according to Reuters. The "revenue stream" provided by Setad, "helps explain why Khamenei has not only held for 24 years but also in some ways has more control than even his revered predecessor", according to the report.[95]

Challenges following 2009 election protest

Khamenei and former president, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani

In mid-August 2009, a group of unnamed former reformist lawmakers appealed to the Assembly of Experts – the constitutional body charged with electing and (in theory) supervising and removing the Leader – to investigate Leader Ali Khamenei's qualification to rule.[96] A week later another anonymous letter was issued "calling Iran's leader a dictator and demanding his removal", this one by a group of Iranian clerics.[97] The letters were called a blow to Khamenei's "status as a neutral arbiter and Islamic figurehead"[97] and an "unprecedented challenge to the country's most powerful man"[96] though not a blow to his actual power as leader. The New York Times reports "the phrase 'death to Khamenei' has begun appearing in graffiti on Tehran walls, a phrase that would have been almost unimaginable not long ago."[97]

The letter was addressed to the head of the Assembly of Experts, Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a "powerful former president" who also questions the election results. According to the Associate Press it is unlikely the letter's demands would be met as "two-thirds of the 86-member assembly are considered strong loyalists of Khamenei and would oppose" any investigation of him.[96]

According to The New York Times an 11-page anonymous letter by a group of Iranian clerics was issued 15 August "calling Iran's leader a dictator and demanding his removal."[97][98]

According to The New York Times, a "prominent Iranian cleric and a former lawmaker said on Sunday that they had spoken to some of the authors and had no doubt the letter was genuine". According to this cleric, the letter's signatories number "several dozen, and are mostly midranking figures from Qum, Isfahan and Mashhad", and that "the pressure on clerics in Qum is much worse than the pressure on activists because the establishment is afraid that if they say anything they can turn the more traditional sectors of society against the regime".[97]

Relations with President Ahmadinejad

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
File:Mahmoud Ahmadinejad portrait 2013.jpg
6th President of Iran
In office
3 August 2005 – 3 August 2013
Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei
First Vice President Parviz Davoodi
Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei
Mohammad Reza Rahimi
Preceded by Mohammad Khatami
Succeeded by Hassan Rouhani
Acting Minister of Petroleum[99]
In office
16 May 2011 – 2 June 2011
President Himself
Preceded by Masoud Mir-Kazemi
Succeeded by Mohammad Aliabadi (Acting)
Acting Minister of Intelligence[100]
In office
26 July 2009 – 5 August 2009
President Himself
Preceded by Gholam-Hossein Eje'i
Succeeded by Heydar Moslehi
Mayor of Tehran
In office
3 May 2003 – 3 August 2005
Preceded by Mohammad-Hossein Moghimi
Succeeded by Mohammad-Bagher Ghalibaf
Governor of Ardabil Province
In office
28 November 1993 – 29 October 1997
President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani
Preceded by Province created
Succeeded by Seyyed Hamid Tahayi
Secretary General of the Non-Aligned Movement
In office
30 August 2012 – 3 August 2013
Preceded by Mohamed Morsi
Succeeded by Hassan Rouhani
Personal details
Born Mahmoud Sabbaghian[101]
(1956-10-28) 28 October 1956 (age 61)
Aradan, Semnan, Iran
Political party
Spouse(s) Azam Farahi (1980–present)
Children 3
Residence Square 72, Narmak, Tehran[102]
Alma mater Iran University of Science and Technology
Occupation University professor
Profession Traffic engineer
Religion Islam (Twelver)
Signature Signature of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
Military service
Allegiance Iran Iran
Service/branch Revolutionary Guards
Years of service 1986–1988[103][104]
Rank None[lower-alpha 1]
Unit Hamzeh Headquarters[103]
Commands Combat engineering Unit, 6th Special Division[104]

Iran–Iraq War

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (Persian: محمود احمدی‌نژاد‎‎ [mæhmuːd(-e) æhmædiːneʒɒːd],[lower-alpha 2][106][107] born Mahmoud Sabbaghian[101] (Persian: صباغیان‎‎) on 28 October 1956)[108][109] is an Iranian politician who was the sixth President of Iran from 2005 to 2013. He was also the main political leader of the Alliance of Builders of Islamic Iran, a coalition of conservative political groups in the country.

An engineer and teacher from a poor background,[110] Ahmadinejad joined the Office for Strengthening Unity[111] after the Iranian Revolution. Appointed a provincial governor, he was removed after the election of President Mohammad Khatami and returned to teaching.[112] Tehran's council elected him mayor in 2003.[113] He took a religious hard line, reversing reforms of previous moderate mayors.[114] His 2005 presidential campaign, supported by the Alliance of Builders of Islamic Iran, garnered 62% of the runoff election votes, and he became President on 3 August 2005.[115][116]

During his presidency, Ahmadinejad was viewed as a controversial figure within Iran, as well as internationally. He has been criticized domestically for his economic policies[117] and disregard for human rights.[118] Internationally, he is criticized for his hostility towards some countries, most notably Saudi Arabia, Israel, the United Kingdom, and the United States and other Western and Arab nations. In 2007, Ahmadinejad introduced a gas rationing plan to reduce the country's fuel consumption, and cut the interest rates that private and public banking facilities could charge.[119][120][121] He supports Iran's nuclear program. His election to a second term in 2009 was widely disputed[122][123] and caused widespread protests domestically and drew significant international criticism.[124]

During his second term, Ahmadinejad came under fire not only from reformers but also traditionalists[125] in parliament and the Revolutionary Guard, and even from Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei,[126] over accusations of corruption, Ahmadinejad's dismissal of Intelligence minister Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Eje'i, and his support for his controversial close adviser Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei.[127] On 14 March 2012, Ahmadinejad became the first president of the Islamic Republic of Iran to be summoned by the Islamic Consultative Assembly (parliament) to answer questions regarding his presidency.[128][129] Limited to two terms under the current Iranian constitution, Ahmadinejad supported Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei's campaign for president.[125] On 15 June 2013, Hassan Rouhani was elected as Ahmadinejad's successor and assumed office on 3 August 2013.

On 12 April 2017, Ahmadinejad announced that he intended to run for a third run in the 2017 Iranian presidential election, against the objections of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei.[130] His nomination was rejected by the Guardian Council.[131][132]

Early life

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was born on 28 October 1956 near Garmsar, in the village of Aradan, in Semnan province. His mother, Khanom, was a Sayyida, an honorific title given to those believed to be direct bloodline descendants of the Islamic prophet Muhammad.[133] His father, Ahmad, was a grocer and barber, and was a religious Shia who taught the Quran.[133]

When Mahmoud was one year old, his family moved to Tehran. Mahmoud's father changed their family name from "Saborjhian"[134] or "Sabaghian"[lower-alpha 3] to Ahmadinejad in 1960 to avoid discrimination when the family moved to the city. Sabor is Persian for thread painter,[lower-alpha 4] a once common occupation within the Semnan carpet industry. Ahmadinejad's uncle and his brother Davoud Ahmadinejad have confirmed that the previous surname was "Sabbaghian" (Persian: صباغیان‎‎).[101] Ahmadinejad is a composite name: Ahmadi Nejad. Ahmad is to a name applied for Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, and namely virtuous. The suffix Nejad in Persian means race, therefore the term Ahmadi Nejad means "the race of Muhammad". According to the interviews with the relatives of Ahmadi Nejad, his father who works in small shop, sold his house in Tehran and bought a smaller one, giving the leftover to charity and poor people.[138]

In 1976, Ahmadinejad took Iran's national university entrance examination. According to his autobiography, he was ranked 132nd out of 400,000 participants that year,[139] and soon enrolled in the Iran University of Science and Technology (IUST), located at Tehran, as an undergraduate student of civil engineering. He would later earn his doctorate in 1997 in transportation engineering and planning from Iran University of Science and Technology as well, when he was the mayor of Ardabil Province, located at the north-west of the country.

Administrative and academic careers

Some details of Ahmadinejad's life during the 1980s are not publicly known, but it is known that he held a number of administrative posts in the province of West Azerbaijan, Iran.[112]

Many reports say that after Saddam Hussein ordered the invasion of Iran, Ahmadinejad joined the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution[113] and served in their intelligence and security apparatus,[113] but his advisor Mojtaba Samareh Hashemi says, "He has never been a member or an official member of the Revolutionary Guards", having been a Basiji-like volunteer instead.[140]

Ahmadinejad was accepted to a Master of Science program at his alma mater in 1986. He joined the faculty there as a lecturer in 1989,[110][141] and in 1997 received his doctorate in civil engineering and traffic transportation planning.[110][113]

Early political career

After the Islamic Revolution, Ahmadinejad became a member of the Office for Strengthening Unity,[111] an organization developed to prevent students from sympathizing or allying with the budding Mojahedin-e Khalq.[111]

He first took political office as unelected governor to both Maku and Khoy in West Azarbaijan Province during the 1980s.[113] He eventually became an advisor to the governor general of Kurdistan Province for two years.[110][141] During his doctoral studies at Tehran, he was appointed governor general of newly formed Ardabil Province from 1993 until Mohammad Khatami removed him in 1997,[141] whereupon he returned to teaching.[113]

Mayor of Tehran

File:Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - May 22, 2003.png
Mahmoud Ahmadinejadو May 22, 2003

The 2003 mayoral race in Tehran elected conservative candidates from the Alliance of Builders of Islamic Iran to the City Council of Tehran. The Council appointed Ahmadinejad mayor.[113]

As mayor, he reversed changes made by previous moderate and reformist mayors. He put religious emphasis on the activities of cultural centres they had founded, publicised the separation of elevators for men and women in the municipality offices,[114] and suggested that people killed in the Iran–Iraq War be buried in major city squares of Tehran. He also worked to improve the traffic system and put an emphasis on charity, such as distributing free soup to the poor.

After his election to the presidency, Ahmadinejad's resignation as the Mayor of Tehran was accepted on 28 June 2005. After two years as mayor, Ahmadinejad was one of 65 finalists for World Mayor in 2005, selected from 550 nominees, only nine of them from Asia.[142] He was among three strong candidates for the top-ten list, but his resignation made him ineligible.[142]


2005 Campaign

File:Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - June 21, 2005.png
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in a press conference, June 21, 2005

Ahmadinejad was not widely known when he entered the presidential election campaign as he had never run for office before, (he had been mayor of Tehran for only two years and had been appointed, not elected),[143]:315 although he had already made his mark in Tehran for rolling back earlier reforms. He was/is a member of the Central Council of the Islamic Society of Engineers, but his key political support is inside the Alliance of Builders of Islamic Iran (Abadgaran or Developers).[144] He was also helped by support from supreme leader Ali Khamenei, who some described Ahmadinejad as a "protege" of.[145]

Ahmadinejad generally sent mixed signals about his plans for his presidency, perhaps to attract both religious conservatives and the lower economic classes.[146] His campaign slogan was: "It's possible and we can do it".[147]

In the campaign, he took a populist approach. He emphasized his own modest life, and compared himself with Mohammad Ali Rajai, Iran's second president. Ahmadinejad said he planned to create an "exemplary government for the people of the world" in Iran. He was a "principlist", acting politically based on Islamic and revolutionary principles. One of his goals was "putting the petroleum income on people's tables", meaning Iran's oil profits would be distributed among the poor.[148]

Ahmadinejad was the only presidential candidate who spoke out against future relations with the United States. He told Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting the United Nations was "one-sided, stacked against the world of Islam."[149] He opposed the veto power of the UN Security Council's five permanent members: "It is not just for a few states to sit and veto global approvals. Should such a privilege continue to exist, the Muslim world with a population of nearly 1.5 billion should be extended the same privilege." He defended Iran's nuclear program and accused "a few arrogant powers" of trying to limit Iran's industrial and technological development in this and other fields.

In his second-round campaign, he said, "We didn't participate in the revolution for turn-by-turn government....This revolution tries to reach a world-wide government." He spoke of an extended program using trade to improve foreign relations, and called for greater ties with Iran's neighbours and ending visa requirements between states in the region, saying that "people should visit anywhere they wish freely. People should have freedom in their pilgrimages and tours."[147]

Ahmadinejad described Ayatollah Mohammad Taghi Mesbah Yazdi, a senior cleric from Qom, as his ideological and spiritual mentor. Mesbah founded the Haghani School of thought in Iran. He and his team strongly supported Ahmadinejad's 2005 presidential campaign.[150]

2005 Presidential election

Ahmadinejad won 62% of the vote in the run-off poll against Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei authorized his presidency on 3 August 2005.[115][116] Ahmedinejad kissed Khamenei's hand during the ceremony to show his loyalty.[151][152]

Shortly after Ahmadinejad was elected president, some western media outlets published claims that he was among the students who stormed the US embassy in Tehran the US embassy in Tehran, sparking the Iran hostage crisis. This claim has been denied by the Iranian government, the Iranian opposition, as well as a CIA investigation on the matter.[citation needed]

2005 Cabinet appointments

Ministry Minister
Agriculture Mohammad Reza Eskandari
Commerce Masoud Mir Kazemi
Communication and Information Technology Mohammad Soleimani
Cooperatives Mohammad Abbasi
Culture and Islamic Guidance Hossein Saffar Harandi
Defense and Armed Forces Logistics Mostafa Mohammad Najjar
Economy and Financial Affairs Hossein Samsami
Education Alireza Ali Ahmadi
Energy Parviz Fattah
Foreign Affairs Manoucher Mottaki
Health and Medical Education Kamran Bagheri Lankarani
Housing and Urban Development Mohammad Saeedikia
Industries and Mines Aliakbar Mehrabian
Intelligence Gholam Hossein Mohseni-Ejehei
Interior Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi[153]
Justice Gholam Hossein Elham
Labour and Social Affairs Mohammad Jahromi
Petroleum Gholam Hossein Nozari
Roads and Transportation Hamid Behbahani
Science, Research, and Technology Mohammad Mehdi Zahedi
Welfare and Social Security Abdolreza Mesri

Iran's President is constitutionally obliged to obtain confirmation from the parliament for his selection of ministers.[154] Ahmadinejad presented a short-list at a private meeting on 5 August, and his final list on 14 August. The Majlis rejected all of his cabinet candidates for the oil portfolio and objected to the appointment of his allies in senior government office.[148] The Majlis approved a cabinet on 24 August.[155] The ministers promised to meet frequently outside Tehran and held their first meeting on 25 August in Mashhad, with four empty seats for the unapproved nominees.[156]

2006 Councils and Assembly of Experts election

Ahmadinejad's team lost the 2006 city council elections.[157] In the first nationwide election since Ahmadinejad became President, his allies failed to dominate election returns for the Assembly of Experts and local councils. Results, with a turnout of about 60%, suggested a voter shift toward more moderate policies. According to an editorial in the Kargozaran independent daily newspaper, "The results show that voters have learned from the past and concluded that we need to support.. moderate figures." An Iranian political analyst said that "this is a blow for Ahmadinejad and Mesbah Yazdi's list."[157]

2009 Presidential election

Ahmadinejad in Yekaterinburg, Russia, 16 June 2009

On 23 August 2008, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei announced that he "sees Ahmadinejad as president in the next five years," a comment interpreted as indicating support for Ahmadinejad's reelection.[158] 39,165,191 ballots were cast in the election on 12 June 2009, according to Iran's election headquarters. Ahmadinejad won 24,527,516 votes, (62.63%). In second place, Mir-Hossein Mousavi, won 13,216,411 (33.75%) of the votes.[159]

2009 Iranian Presidential election protests

As of April 2011, the election results remained in dispute with both Mousavi and Ahmadinejad and their respective supporters who believe that electoral fraud occurred during the election. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei formally endorsed Ahmadinejad as President on 3 August 2009, and Ahmadinejad was sworn in for a second term on 5 August 2009.[160] Iran's Constitution stipulates term limits of two terms for the office of President.[161] Several Iranian political figures appeared to avoid the ceremony. Former presidents Mohammad Khatami, and Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who is currently head of the Expediency Discernment Council, along with opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, did not attend the ceremony.[162] Opposition groups asked protesters on reformist websites and blogs to launch new street demonstrations on the day of the inauguration ceremony.[163] On inauguration day, hundreds of riot police met opposition protesters outside parliament. After taking the oath of office, which was broadcast live on Iranian state television, Ahmadinejad said that he would "protect the official faith, the system of the Islamic revolution and the constitution."[160] France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States announced that they would not send the usual letters of congratulation.[160]

2009 Cabinet appointments

Ministry Minister
Agriculture Sadeq Khalilian
Commerce Mehdi Ghazanfari
Communication and Information Technology Reza Taghipour
Cooperatives Mohammad Abbasi
Culture and Islamic Guidance Mohammad Hosseini
Defense and Armed Forces Logistics Ahmad Vahidi
Economy and Financial Affairs Shamseddin Hosseini
Education Hamid-Reza Haji Babaee
Energy Majid Namjoo
Foreign Affairs Manouchehr Mottaki
Health and Medical Education Marzieh Vahid Dastjerdi
Housing and Urban Development Reza Sheykholeslam
Industries and Mines Aliakbar Mehrabian
Intelligence Heydar Moslehi
Interior Mostafa Mohammad Najjar
Justice Morteza Bakhtiari
Labour and Social Affairs Ali Nikzad
Petroleum Masoud Mir Kazemi
Roads and Transportation Hamid Behbahani
Science, Research, and Technology Kamran Daneshjoo
Welfare and Social Security Sadeq Mahsouli

Ahmadinejad announced controversial ministerial appointments for his second term. Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei was briefly appointed as first vice president, but opposed by a number of Majlis members and by the intelligence minister, Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Eje'i. Mashaei followed orders to resign. Ahmadinejad then appointed Mashaei as chief of staff, and fired Mohseni-Eje'i.[164]

On 26 July 2009, Ahmadinejad's government faced a legal problem after he sacked four ministers. Iran's constitution (Article 136) stipulates that, if more than half of its members are replaced, the cabinet may not meet or act before the Majlis approves the revised membership.[165] The vice chairman of the Majlis announced that no cabinet meetings or decisions would be legal, pending such a re-approval.[166]

The main list of 21 cabinet appointments was announced on 19 August 2009.[167] On 4 September, the Majlis approved 18 of the 21 candidates, and rejected three, including two women. Sousan Keshavarz, Mohammad Aliabadi, and Fatemeh Ajorlou were not approved by Majlis for the Ministries of Education, Energy, and Welfare and Social Security, respectively. Marzieh Vahid Dastjerdi was the first woman approved by the Majlis as a minister in the Islamic Republic of Iran.[168]

2012 Parliamentary elections

Ahmadinejad suffered a defeat in March/May 2012 parliamentary elections with Ayatollah Khamenei's "Principalist" allies winning about three quarters of the parliaments 290 seats, and Ahmadinejad supporters far fewer.[169]

Domestic policy

Economic policy

See also: Economy of Iran

In Ahmadinejad's first four years as president, Iran's real GDP reflected growth of the economy. Inflation and unemployment also decreased under Ahmadinejad due to better economic management and ending the unsustainable spending and borrowing patterns of previous administrations .[170][171] Ahmadinejad increased spending by 25% and supported subsidies for food and petrol. He also initially refused a gradual increase of petrol prices, saying that after making necessary preparations, such as a development of public transportation system, the government would free up petrol prices after five years.[172] Interest rates were cut by presidential decree to below the inflation rate. One unintended effect of this stimulation of the economy has been the bidding up of some urban real estate prices by two or three times their pre-Ahmadinejad value by Iranians seeking to invest surplus cash and finding few other safe opportunities. The resulting increase in the cost of housing hurt poorer, non-property owning Iranians, the putative beneficiaries of Ahmadinejad's populist policies.[173] The Management and Planning Organisation, a state body charged with mapping out long-term economic and budget strategy, was broken up and its experienced managers were fired.[174]

In June 2006, 50 Iranian economists wrote a letter to Ahmadinejad that criticized his price interventions to stabilize prices of goods, cement, government services, and his decree issued by the High Labor Council and the Ministry of Labor that proposed an increase of workers' salaries by 40%. Ahmadinejad publicly responded harshly to the letter and denounced the accusations.[175][176] Ahmadinejad called for "middle-of-the-road" compromises with respect to Western-oriented capitalism and socialism. Current political conflicts with the United States caused the central bank to fear increased capital flight due to global isolation. These factors prevented an improvement of infrastructure and capital influx, despite high economic potential.[170] Among those that did not vote for him in the first election, only 3.5% said they would consider voting for him in the next election.[177] Mohammad Khoshchehreh, a member of the Iranian parliament that campaigned for Ahmadinejad, said that his government "has been strong on populist slogans, but weak on achievement."[178]

President Ahmadinejad changed almost all of his economic ministers, including oil, industry and economy, since coming to power in 2005. In an interview with Fars News Agency on April 2008, Davoud Danesh Jaafari who acted as minister of economy in Ahmadinejad's cabinet, harshly criticized his economic policy: "During my time, there was no positive attitude towards previous experiences or experienced people and there was no plan for the future. Peripheral issues which were not of dire importance to the nation were given priority. Most of the scientific economic concepts like the effect of liquidity on inflation were put in question."[179] In response to these criticisms, Ahmadinejad accused his minister of not being "a man of justice" and declared that the solution to Iran's economic problem is "the culture of martyrdom".[180] In May 2008, the petroleum minister of Iran admitted that the government illegally invested 2 billion dollars to import petrol in 2007. At Iranian parliament, he also mentioned that he simply followed the president's order.[181]

While his government had 275 thousand billion toman oil income, the highest in Iranian history, Ahmadinejad's government had the highest budget deficit since the Iranian revolution.[182]

During his presidency, Ahmadinejad launched a gasoline rationing plan to reduce the country's fuel consumption. He also instituted cuts in the interest rates that private and public banking facilities could charge.[119][120][183] He issued a directive that the Management and Planning Organization be affiliated to the government.[184] In May 2011, Ahmadinejad announced that he would temporarily run the Oil Ministry.[185]

Family planning and population policy

In October 2006, Ahmadinejad began calling for the scrapping of Iran's existing birth-control policies which discouraged Iranian couples from having more than two children. He told MPs that Iran could cope with 50 million more people than the current 70 million. In November 2010, he urged Iranians to marry and reproduce earlier: "We should take the age of marriage for boys to 20 and for girls to about 16 and 17."[186] His remarks have drawn criticism and been called ill-judged at a time when Iran was struggling with surging inflation and rising unemployment, estimated at around 11%. Ahmadinejad's call was reminiscent of a call for Iranians to have more children made by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1979. The policy had increased Iran's population by 16 million in seven years[143]:321 but had eventually been reversed in response to the resultant economic strain.[187]

In 2008, the government sent the "Family Protection Bill" to the Iranian parliament. Women's rights activists criticized the bill for removing protections from women, such as the requirement that a husband obtain his wife's consent before marrying a second wife. Women's rights in Iran are more religiously based than those in secular countries.[188]


The first legislation to emerge from his newly formed government was a 12 trillion rial (US$1.3 billion) fund called "Reza's Compassion Fund",[189] named after Shi'a Imam Ali al-Rida. Ahmadinejad's government said this fund would tap Iran's oil revenues to help young people get jobs, afford marriage, and buy their own homes.[190] The fund also sought charitable donations, with a board of trustees in each of Iran's 30 provinces. The legislation was a response to the cost of urban housing, which is pushing up the national average marital age (currently around 25 years for women and 28 years for men). In 2006 the Iranian parliament rejected the fund. However, Ahmadinejad ordered the administrative council to execute the plan.[189]

Human rights

Ahmadinejad speaking at Columbia University, September 2007

According to a report by Human Rights Watch, "Since President Ahmadinejad came to power, treatment of detainees has worsened in Evin Prison as well as in detention centers operated clandestinely by the Judiciary, the Ministry of Information, and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps."[191]:464 Human Rights Watch also has stated, "Respect for basic human rights in Iran, especially freedom of expression and assembly, deteriorated in 2006. The government routinely tortures and mistreats detained dissidents, including through prolonged solitary confinement."[191]:463 Human Rights Watch described the source of human rights violations in contemporary Iran as coming from the Judiciary, accountable to Ali Khamenei, and from members directly appointed by Ahmadinejad.[citation needed]

Responses to dissent have varied. Human Rights Watch writes that "the Ahmadinejad government, in a pronounced shift from the policy under former president Mohammed Khatami, has shown no tolerance for peaceful protests and gatherings." In December 2006, Ahmadinejad advised officials not to disturb students who engaged in a protest during a speech of his at the Amirkabir University of Technology in Tehran,[192][193] although speakers at other protests have included among their complaints that there had been a crackdown on dissent at universities since Ahmadinejad was elected.[194]

In April 2007, the Tehran police, which is under Khamenei's supervision, began a crackdown on women with "improper hijab." This led to criticism from associates of Ahmadinejad.[195]

In 2012, Ahmadinejad claimed that AIDS was created by the West in order to weaken poorer countries, and repeated a previous claim that homosexual Iranians did not exist.[196] He has also described homosexuality as "ugly".[197][198]


In 2006, the Ahmadinejad[199] government reportedly forced numerous Iranian scientists and university professors to resign or to retire. It has been referred to as the "second cultural revolution".[200][201] The policy has been said to replace old professors with younger ones.[202] Some university professors received letters indicating their early retirement unexpectedly.[203] In November 2006, 53 university professors had to retire from Iran University of Science and Technology.[204]

In 2006, Ahmadinejad's government applied a 50% quota for male students and 50% for female students in the university entrance exam for medicine, dentistry and pharmacy. The plan was supposed to stop the growing presence of female students in the universities. In a response to critics, Iranian minister of health and medical education, Kamran Bagheri Lankarani argued that there are not enough facilities such as dormitories for female students. Masoud Salehi, president of Zahedan University said that presence of women generates some problems with transportation. Also, Ebrahim Mekaniki, president of Babol University of Medical Sciences, stated that an increase in the presence of women will make it difficult to distribute facilities in a suitable manner. Bagher Larijani, the president of Tehran University of Medical Sciences made similar remarks. According to Rooz Online, the quotas lack a legal foundation and are justified as support for "family" and "religion."

December 2006 student protest

In December 2006, it was reported that some students were angry about the International Conference to Review the Global Vision of the Holocaust, which they saw as promoting Holocaust denial.[205]

In response to the students' slogans, the president said: "We have been standing up to dictatorship so that no one will dare to establish dictatorship in a millennium even in the name of freedom. Given the scars inflicted on the Iranian nation by agents of the US and British dictatorship, no one will ever dare to initiate the rise of a dictator."[206] It was reported that even though the protesters broke the TV cameras and threw hand-made bombs at Ahmadinejad,[207] the president asked the officials not to question or disturb the protesters.[192][193] In his blog, Ahmadinejad described his reaction to the incident as "a feeling of joy" because of the freedom that people enjoyed after the revolution.[208]

One thousand students also protested the day before to denounce the increased pressure on the reformist groups at the university. One week prior, more than two thousand students protested at Tehran University on the country's annual student day, with speakers saying that there had been a crackdown on dissent at universities since Ahmadinejad was elected.[205][209]

Nuclear program

Ahmadinejad has been a vocal supporter of Iran's nuclear program, and has insisted that it is for peaceful purposes. He has repeatedly emphasized that building a nuclear bomb is not the policy of his government. He has said that such a policy is "illegal and against our religion."[210][211] He also added at a January 2006 conference in Tehran that a nation with "culture, logic and civilization" would not need nuclear weapons, and that countries that seek nuclear weapons are those that want to solve all problems by the use of force.[212] In a 2008 interview Ahmadinejad elaborated that countries striving to obtain nuclear weapons are not politically progressive nations and those who possess them and continually make new generations of such bombs are "even more backward".[213]

In April 2006, Ahmadinejad announced that Iran had successfully refined uranium to a stage suitable for the nuclear fuel cycle. In a speech to students and academics in Mashhad, he was quoted as saying that Iran's conditions had changed completely as it had become a nuclear state and could talk to other states from that stand.[214] On 13 April 2006, Iran's news agency, Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), quoted Ahmadinejad as saying that the peaceful Iranian nuclear technology would not pose a threat to any party because "we want peace and stability and we will not cause injustice to anyone and at the same time we will not submit to injustice."[215] Nevertheless, Iran's nuclear policy under Ahmadinejad's administration has received much criticism, spearheaded by the United States and Israel. The accusations include that Iran is striving to obtain nuclear arms and developing long-range firing capabilities—and that Ahmadinejad issued an order to keep UN inspectors from freely visiting the nation's nuclear facilities and viewing their designs, in defiance of an IAEA resolution.[216][217][218][219] Following a May 2009 test launch of a long-range missile, Ahmadinejad was quoted as telling the crowd that with its nuclear program, Iran was sending the West a message that "the Islamic Republic of Iran is running the show."[220]

Despite Ahmadinejad's vocal support for the program, the office of the Iranian president is not directly responsible for nuclear policy. It is instead set by the Supreme National Security Council. The council includes two representatives appointed by the Supreme Leader, military officials, and members of the executive, judicial, and legislative branches of government, and reports directly to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who issued a fatwa against nuclear weapons in 2005.[221] Khamenei has criticized Ahmadinejad's "personalization" of the nuclear issue.[222]

Ahmadinejad vowed in February 2008 that Iran will not be held back from developing its peaceful nuclear program[223] and has stated that at least 16 different peaceful uses for nuclear technology have so far been identified.[213] Ahmadinejad has stressed the importance of the right to peaceful nuclear development. Iranian opposition leader, Mousavi, has even stated that giving up the country's nuclear program would be "irreparable" and that the Iranian people support the nuclear program. "No one in Iran will accept suspension," Mousavi has said, adding that if elected, his policy would be to work to provide "guarantees" that Tehran's nuclear activities would never divert to non-peaceful aims.[224]

In October 2009, the United States, France, and Russia proposed a U.N.-drafted deal with Iran regarding its nuclear program, in an effort to find a compromise between Iran's stated need for a nuclear reactor and the concerns of those who are worried that Iran harbors a secret intent of developing a nuclear weapon. After some delay in responding, on 29 October, Ahmadinejad seemed to change his tone towards the deal. "We welcome fuel exchange, nuclear co-operation, building of power plants and reactors and we are ready to co-operate," he said in a live broadcast on state television.[225] However, he added that Iran would not retreat "one iota" on its right to a sovereign nuclear program.[226]

Domestic criticism and controversies

Accusations of corruption

According to Brussels-based NGO International Crisis Group, Ahmadinejad has been criticized for attacking private "plunderers" and "corrupt officials," while engaging in "cronyism and political favouritism". Many of his close associates were appointed to positions for which they have no obvious qualifications, and "billion dollar no-bid contracts" were awarded to the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC), an organization with which he is strongly associated.[227]

According to Najmeh Bozorgmehr of Financial Times, "Iran has a long history of cronyism and corruption under its monarchies and the Islamic Republic. But the scale of corruption under Mr. Ahmadinejad was of a different order, according to both reform-minded and conservative politicians."[228]

Other statements

Participants of the second Caspian Summit in October 2007. From left to right: President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliev, President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbaev, President of Russia Vladimir Putin and President of Iran Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

In June 2007, Ahmadinejad was criticized by some Iranian parliament members over his remark about Christianity and Judaism. According to Aftab News Agency, Ahmadinejad stated: "In the world, there are deviations from the right path: Christianity and Judaism. Dollars have been devoted to the propagation of these deviations. There are also false claims that these [religions] will save mankind. But Islam is the only religion that [can] save mankind." Some members of Iranian parliament criticized these remarks as being fuels to religious war.[229][230]

Conservative MP Rafat Bayat has accused Ahmadinejad for a decline in observance of the required hijab for women, calling him "not that strict on this issue".[231] Ahmadinejad was also accused of indecency by people close to Rafsanjani,[232] after he publicly kissed the hand of a woman who used to be his school teacher.[233]

The UN and football stadiums

There are two statements that led to criticism from some religious authorities. One concerns his speech at the United Nations, and the other concerns the attendance of women at football matches. During a visit to group of Ayatollahs in Qom after returning from his 2005 speech to the UN General Assembly, Ahmadinejad stated he had "felt a halo over his head" during his speech and that a hidden presence had mesmerized the unblinking audience of foreign leaders, foreign ministers, and ambassadors. Ahmedinejad closed his speech with a call for the "mighty Lord" to "hasten the emergence" of Imam Mahdi.[234] According to Iranian-American journalist Hooman Majd, the response given to Ahmedinejad at the assembly was offensive to the conservative religious leaders because an ordinary man cannot presume a special closeness to God or any of the Imams, nor can he imply the presence of the Mahdi.[235]

In another statement in 2006, Ahmadinejad proclaimed (without consulting the clerics beforehand), that women be allowed into football stadiums to watch male football clubs compete. This proclamation "was quickly overruled" by clerical authorities, one of whom, Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Fazel Lankarani "refused for weeks to meet with President Ahmadinejad" in early 2007.[235]

Constitutional conflict

In 2008, a serious conflict emerged between the Iranian President and the head of parliament over three laws approved by the Iranian parliament: "the agreement for civil and criminal legal cooperation between Iran and Kyrgyzstan", "the agreement to support mutual investment between Iran and Kuwait", and "the law for registration of industrial designs and trademarks". The conflict was so serious that the Iranian leader stepped in to resolve it. Ahmadinejad wrote a letter to the parliamentary speaker Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel, furiously denouncing him for the "inexplicable act" of bypassing the presidency by giving the order to implement legislation in an official newspaper.[236] Ahmadinejad accused the head of parliament of violating Iranian constitutional law. He called for legal action against the parliament speaker.[237][238] Haddad-Adel responded to Ahmadinejad accusing him of using inappropriate language in his remarks and letters.[239]

Ali Kordan

Main article: Ali Kordan

In August 2008, Ahmadinejad, appointed Ali Kordan as interior minister. Kordan's appointment was heavily criticized by Iranian parliamentarians, media and analysts after it came to light that a doctoral degree purportedly awarded to Kordan was fabricated, and that the putative issuer of the degree, Oxford University, had no record of Kordan receiving any degree from the University.[240] It was also revealed that he had been jailed in 1978 for moral charges.[241]

In November 2008, Ahmadinejad announced that he was against impeachment of Kordan by Iranian parliament. He refused to attend the parliament on the impeachment day.[242] Kordan was expelled from office by Iranian parliament on 4 November 2008. 188 MPs voted against him. An impeachment of Kordan would push Ahmadinejad close to having to submit his entire cabinet for review by parliament, which was led by one of his chief political opponents. Iran's constitution requires that step if more than half the cabinet ministers are replaced, and Ahmadinejad replaced nine of 21 until that date.[243][244]

Conflict with Parliament

File:Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the Iranian Majlis (1).jpg
Ahmadinejad speaking in the Majlis, Chairman Ali Larijani is also pictured

In February 2009, after Supreme Audit Court of Iran reported that $1.058 billion of surplus oil revenue in the (2006–2007) budget hadn't been returned by the government to the national treasury,[245] Ali Larijani, Iran's parliamentary speaker, called for further investigations to make sure the missing funds are returned to the treasury as soon as possible.[246] Tensions between Larijani and Ahmadinejad continued into 2013.[247]

Ahmadinejad criticized the National Audit Office for what he called its "carelessness", saying the report "incites the people" against the government.[248] The head of the parliament energy commission, Hamidreza Katouzian, reported "The government spent $5 billion to import fuel, about $2 billion more than the sum parliament had authorized." Katouzian quoted Iran's Oil Minister, Gholam-Hossein Nozari, as saying that President Ahmadinejad had ordered the extra purchase.[249]

In May 2011, several members of parliament threatened to initiate impeachment proceedings against Ahmadinejad after his merger of eight government ministries and the firing of three ministers without parliament's consent. According to the Majles news website, MP Mohammad Reza Bahonar stated, "legal purging starts with questions, which lead to warnings and end with impeachment." On 25 May, parliament voted to investigate another allegation, that Ahmadinejad had committed election irregularities by giving cash to up to nine million Iranians before the 2009 presidential elections. The vote came within hours after the allegations appeared in several popular conservative news sites associated with supreme leader Ali Khamenei, suggesting the supreme leader supported the investigation.[250] The disputes were seen as part of the clash between Ahmadinejad and other conservatives and former supporters, including supreme leader Khamenei, over what the conservatives see as Ahmadinejad's confrontational policies and abuse of power.[250][251]

Relations with Supreme Leader of Iran

Early in his presidency, Ahmadinejad was sometimes described as "enjoy[ing] the full backing" of the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei,[252] and even as being his "protege."[253] In Ahmadinejad's 2005 inauguration the supreme leader allowed Ahmadinejad to kiss his hand and cheeks in what was called "a sign of closeness and loyalty,"[254] and after the 2009 election fully endorsed Ahmadinejad against protesters.[255] However, as early as January 2008 signs of disagreement between the two men developed over domestic policies,[252] and by the period of 2010–11 several sources detected a "growing rift" between them.[126] The disagreement was described as centering on Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, a top adviser and close confidant of Ahmadinejad[127] and opponent of "greater involvement of clerics in politics",[256] who was first vice president of Iran until being ordered to resign from the cabinet by the supreme leader. In 2009 Ahmadinejad dismissed Intelligence Minister Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Eje'i, an opponent of Mashaei. In April 2011, another Intelligence minister, Heydar Moslehi, resigned after being asked to by Ahmadinejad, but was reinstated by the supreme leader within hours.[253][257] Ahmadinejad declined to officially back Moslehi's reinstatement for two weeks and in protest engaged in an "11-day walkout" of cabinet meetings, religious ceremonies, and other official functions.[126][257] Ahmadinejad's actions led to angry public attacks by clerics, parliamentarians and military commanders, who accused him of ignoring orders from the supreme leader.[127] Conservative opponents in parliament launched an "impeachment drive" against him,[256] four websites with ties to Ahmadinejad reportedly were "filtered and blocked",[253] and several people "said to be close" to the president and Mashaei (such as Abbas Amirifar and Mohammed Sharif Malekzadeh) were arrested on charges of being "magicians" and invoking djinns.[126] On 6 May 2011, it was reported that Ahmadinejad had been given an ultimatum to accept the leader's intervention or resign,[258] and on 8 May he "apparently bowed" to the reinstatement, welcoming back Moslehi to a cabinet meeting.[259] The events have been said to have "humiliated and weakened" Ahmadinejad, though the president denied that there had been any rift between the two,[127] and according to the semiofficial Fars News Agency, he stated that his relationship with the supreme leader "is that of a father and a son."[256]

In 2012, Khamenei ordered a halt to a parliamentary inquiry into Ahmadinejad's mishandling of the Iranian economy.[260]

In 2016, Khamenei advised Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, his former ally with whom his relationship was strained after Ahmadinejad accused his son Mojtaba Khamenei of embezzling from the state treasury,[261] to not run for president again.[262][263][264][265][266]

Hugo Chavez's funeral

Ahmedinejad was criticised by the religious and political groups in Iran for photographs taken of him embracing Elena Frias de Chavez, the mother of recently deceased Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, at his funeral. In the image, Ahmedinejad was thought to be holding her hands and in a cheek-to-cheek embrace; such an act, touching an unrelated woman, is considered haraam (forbidden) in Islam.[267][268] Iranian government officials responded by stating that the image was a fake, then released a second photo showing Ahmadinejad in the same pose, but in this case hugging a man.[269] This later photograph was debunked when it was discovered that the other man was Egyptian opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei, who had not been at the funeral.[269]


One of the most frequent criticisms about Ahmedinejad has been nepotism in his governments. Nepotism was one of his habits in appointing senior government officials.[270][271] His elder brother, Davoud, was appointed chief inspector at the presidency in 2005 and was in office until 2008.[272][273] His sister, Parvin, served at the presidential's women's center.[270] His nephew, Ali Akbar Mehrabian, served as the mining and industry minister in his cabinet.[270] His daughter's father-in-law, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, served at several senior positions.[273][274] His brother-in-law, Masoud Zaribafan, served as cabinet secretary.[272]

Foreign relations

Countries visited by President Ahmadinejad during his terms in office

During Ahmadinejad's tenure as President of Iran the foreign policy of the country took a different approach from the previous administration. Relations with developed countries generally soured while relations with less-developed countries, including Africa and Latin America, rose. In light of the calls for sanctions on Iran for its nuclear weapons programme, Ahmadinejad and his foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, traveled extensively throughout the two regions, as well as hosted other leaders. Relations with the ALBA states, and Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador, in particular, were most strengthened. Relations with America during the Bush administration and Israel deteriorated further.

Ahmadinejad meeting with former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in Tehran

Ahmadinejad is an outspoken critic of the Western world and is often criticized for his hostility towards the United States, Israel, the United Kingdom and other Western nations.[275][276]


Ahmadinejad with leaders of the Caspian sea bordering nations

Ahmadinejad abides by Iran's long-standing policy of refusing to recognize Israel as a legitimate state, and wants the Jewish people who immigrated to Israel to return to their "fatherlands" (translated).[277]

In 2005, Ahmadinejad, in a speech praising the Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini, was translated by Iranian state-run media as saying that "Israel must be wiped off the map."[278][279][280] A controversy erupted over the translation, with specialists such as Juan Cole of the University of Michigan and Arash Norouzi of the Mossadegh Project pointing out that the original statement in Farsi did not say that Israel should be wiped off the map, but instead that it would collapse.[281][282][283] The words ‘Israel’, ‘map’, and ‘to wipe off’ are non-existent in the Iranian speech's original. According to another IRNA translation, on the occasion of a commemoration of the anniversary of Khomeini's death on 3 June 2008, Ahmadinejad stated that "The corrupt element will be wiped off the map."[284] Contextually, Ahmadinejad was quoting Khomeini's words about the imminent disappearance of the Soviet Union and the Shah's regime, and tacked on his remarks concerning Israel. In Katajun Amirpur's analysis, there is no implication in the text that Iran intended destroying Israel or annihilating the Jewish people, any more than Khomeini was suggesting with his words that the Russians, or the Iranian people themselves under the Shah would be extinguished.[284] Ahmadinejad is on the record as stating that Iran had no plans to attack Israel.[284] The statement itself was in fact a citation, with a minute verbal variation, of a remark made by Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979, which had created no furor at the time, but did so when Ahmadinejad quoted them in 2005.[285] Dan Meridor, Israel's minister of intelligence and atomic energy said during an Al Jazeera interview that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had repeatedly said “that Israel is an unnatural creature, it will not survive. They didn’t say, ‘We’ll wipe it out,’ you’re right, but, ‘It will not survive.’" adding "If Iran says this, and continues to pile up uranium that they enrich, and build missiles in big numbers, and have a nuclear military plan -- if you put all this together, you can't say, they don't really mean it."[286] The Washington Post's fact-checker editor Glenn Kessler says the interpretation gets murkier when Ahmadinejad's quote is set against other Iranian propaganda. Karim Sadjadpour, an Iranian specialist at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, cites proof that the Iranian government releases propaganda that clearly says Israel should be "wiped off." Joshua Teitelbaum of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs discovered pictures of Iranian propaganda banners that clearly say in English: "Israel should be wiped out of the face of the world."[287][288] In March 2016, Iran tested a ballistic missile painted with the phrase "Israel should be wiped off the Earth" in Hebrew. The missile is reported to be capable of reaching Israel.[289][290][291][292]

The Official Web site of the President of Iran quoted Ahmadinejad as saying on 15 May 2011 "The reason for our insistence that the Zionist regime should be wiped out and vanished is that the Zionist regime is the main base for imposing oppression and harbors the main terrorists of the world."[293]

He was strongly criticized after describing the Holocaust as a myth[294] and after delivering other statements influenced by "classic anti-Semitic ideas,"[295] which has led to accusations of antisemitism,[296] though he has denied these accusations, saying that he "respects Jews very much" and that he was not "passing judgment" on the Holocaust.[276][297][298][299]


Demonstration against Ahmadinejad during the Rio+20 conference in Brazil

He advocates "free elections" for the region, and believes Palestinians need a stronger voice in the region's future.[300] On Quds Day in September 2010 Ahmadinejad criticized the Palestinian Authority over its president's decision to renew direct peace talks with Israel saying the talks are "stillborn" and "doomed to fail", urging the Palestinians to continue armed resistance to Israel.[301][302] He said that Mahmoud Abbas had no authority to negotiate on behalf of the Palestinians.[303][304] Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for the Palestinian Authority, fired back, saying, Ahmadinejad "does not represent the Iranian people,..., is not entitled to talk about Palestine, or the President of Palestine"[305][306]

United States

In September 2010, Ahmadinejad sparked controversy at the 65th session of the United Nations General Assembly by claiming that most people believe the United States government was behind the 9/11 attacks and later called for an inquiry, stating: "The fact-finding mission can shed light on who the perpetrators were, who is al-Qaeda... where does it exist? Who was it backed by and supported? All these should come to light."[307][308] The speech triggered many countries' United Nations representatives to walk out, and US President Barack Obama described the claims as "inexcusable," "offensive" and "hateful."[309] In 2010, Ahmadinejad reiterated the 9/11 conspiracy, and wrote:

Establishing an independent and impartial committee of investigation, which would determine the roots and causes of the regrettable event of 9/11, is the demand of all the peoples of the region and the world. [...] Any opposition to this legal and human demand means that 9/11 was premeditated in order to achieve the goals of occupation and of confrontation with the nations.[310]

He made similar comments at the 66th session in September 2011.[311][312]


Ahmadinejad is said to have "forged a close public friendship" with Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. On Chavez's death in March 2013, Ahmadinejad posted a condolence message on his website stating, "I have no doubt that he [Chavez] will return alongside Jesus Christ and Mahdi to establish peace and justice in the world".[313]

After presidency

File:Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in his office as former President of Islamic Republic of Iran 02.jpg
Ahmadinejad in his presidential museum, known as Office of the Former President of Islamic Republic of Iran

Ahmedinejad left his office at Pasteur st. on 3 August 2013 and returned to his private house in Narmak.[314]

In an interview with CNN, Ahmadinejad said that, after the end of his presidency, he would return to the university and retire from politics. However, Ahmadinejad announced from Russia on the sidelines of an OPEC summit on 2 July 2013 that he might stay involved with politics by creating a new party or non-governmental organization.[315] In late July, Mehr news agency reported that Ahmadinejad obtained permission from the Supreme Cultural Revolution Council to launch a university for post-graduate studies in Tehran.[316] On 5 August 2013, the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei issued a decree appointing Ahmedinejad as a member of the Expediency Council.[317] On 15 June 2015, a number of Ahmadinejad's cabinet ministers established a new political party, called YEKTA Front. The party published list for 2016 legislative election and some of Ahmadinejad's cabinet members (like Hamid-Reza Haji Babaee, Sadeq Khalilian, Mohammad Abbasi and Mahmoud Bahmani) registered for the election, but Ahmadinejad did not support any list in the election.

2017 presidential election

It was rumored that Ahmadinejad would run for presidency again in 2017 after he did not deny plans when questioned by the media in 2015.[318] Ahmadinejad remained mostly out of the public eye since leaving office, but his anti-Western rhetoric and combative style remained popular among many Iranian Principlists, and he was widely viewed as among the most formidable political figures capable of unseating Hassan Rouhani. In December 2015, it was reported that he had begun his presidential campaign by appointing his campaign's chiefs. He also began provincial travels in April 2016 by traveling to Amol. Travels were continued until September 2016, when he traveled to Gorgan.[319] Ahmadinejad's advisors said his travels were not electoral and he only delivered speeches due to public demand.[320] In September 2016, it was rumored that Ahmadinejad had asked Ali Khamenei, Supreme Leader of Iran, for permission to run for the office and was rejected by Khamenei, who said that it was not in the best interests of Iran.[321][322] On 26 September 2016, Ayatollah Khamenei confirmed the news, stated that it was only advise, not an order.[323] It was the first time since Khamenei's election as Supreme Leader in 1989 that he advised a person to not run for election. Formerly, some candidates had asked him for advice (former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani for his campaign in 2005 and 2013), but Khamenei chose to not give his opinion on those occasions. The following day, Ahmadinejad officially announced he will not run in the upcoming 2017 presidential election.[324] He later supported Hamid Baqai's candidacy.[325] However, Ahmadinejad registered as presidential candidate on 12 April 2017.[130] He was disqualified by the Guardian Council on 20 April 2017, making him the second person after Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani to be barred from running the office for a third term.[326]

Party affiliation

Ahmadinejad has been an active and prominent member of the right-wing Islamic Society of Engineers since its establishment until 2005.[327] As of 2014, he is still a member of the party but is not active since 2005.[328] He was also a founding member of the Society of Devotees of the Islamic Revolution,[329] but left in 2011.[330]

Since 2005, Ahmadinejad has introduced himself as non-partisan, even anti-party and did not try to gain support of political parties despite being supported by the conservative camp.[331]

Public image

According to a poll conducted by Information and Public Opinion Solutions LLC (iPOS) in March 2016, Ahmadinejad is the least popular political figure in Iran, while he has 57% approval and 39% disapproval ratings, thus a +18% net popularity.[332]

Polls conducted by Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland (CISSM) & IranPoll with +/- 3.2 % margin of error shows his approval rating as follows:[333]

Date Very favorable Somewhat favorable Somewhat unfavorable Very unfavorable Don’t recognize the name DK/NA
July 2014 34% 33% 14.0% 16.0% 1.0% 3.0%
August 2015 27.5% Decrease 33.5% Increase 13.0% Decrease 22.8% Increase 0.2% 3.0%
January 2016 24.2% Decrease 32.8% Decrease 15.0% Increase 23.9% Increase 0.4% 3.7%
June 2016 28.0% Increase 37.3% Increase 14.9% Decrease 16.1% Decrease 0.4% 3.3%
December 2016 27.2% Decrease 33.6% Decrease 13.9% Decrease 19.5% Increase 0.4% 5.4%

Electoral history

Year Election Votes  % Rank Notes
1999 City Council of Tehran Lost
2000 Parliament 280,046 9.55 68th Lost
2005 President 5,711,696 19.43 2nd Went to run-off
President run off Increase 17,284,782 Increase 61.69 1st Won
2009 President Increase 24,527,516 Increase 62.63 1st Won
2017 President Disqualified

Personal life

Ahmadinejad is married, and has one daughter and two sons.[334] His oldest son married a daughter of Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei in 2008.[335][336] One of his sons studied at the Amirkabir University of Technology (Tehran Polytechnic).[337]

Supporters of Ahmadinejad consider him a simple man who leads a modest life.[338] As president, he wanted to continue living in the same house in Tehran his family had been living in until his security advisers insisted that he should move. Ahmadinejad had the antique Persian carpets in the Presidential palace sent to a carpet museum, and opted instead to use inexpensive carpets. He is said to have refused the VIP seat on the Presidential plane, and that he eventually replaced it with a cargo plane instead.[112][339] Also upon gaining Iran's presidency, Ahmadinejad held his first cabinet meeting in the Imam Reza shrine at Mashhad, an act perceived as "pious".[340]

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  317. News, پایگاه خبری تحلیلی فردا. "سفرهای انتخاباتی احمدی‌نژاد به ایستگاه آخر رسید". Retrieved 14 January 2017. 
  318. سفرهای اخیر احمدی‌نژاد انتخاباتی نیست
  319. Bengali, Ramin Mostaghim and Shashank. "Iran's supreme leader tells former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad not to run again". Retrieved 14 January 2017. 
  320. "Iran’s top leader tells Ahmadinejad not to run for president again". Retrieved 14 January 2017. 
  321. "Iran’s Supreme Leader Advises Ahmadinejad Not to Run for President". 27 September 2016. Retrieved 14 January 2017 – via The New York Times. 
  322. دکتر احمدی نژاد رئیس دولت های نهم و دهم در نامه ای خطاب به مقام معظم رهبری اعلام کرد: برنامه ای برای حضور در عرصه رقابت های انتخاباتی سال آینده ندارم
  323. "احمدی‌نژاد از بقایی حمایت کرد". 20 March 2017. 
  324. "Iran disqualifies Ahmadinejad from bid to regain presidency". 20 April 2017. 
  325. Asayesh, Hossein; Halim, Adlina Ab.; Jawan, Jayum A.; Shojaei, Seyedeh Nosrat (March 2011). "Political Party in Islamic Republic of Iran: A Review". Journal of Politics and Law. Canadian Center of Science and Education. 4 (1): 221–230. ISSN 1913-9047. 
  326. ""جامعه اسلامی مهندسین"؛ حزبی که پس از انحلال حزب جمهوری اسلامی ایجاد شد" ["Islamic Society of Engineers", a party established arter dissolution of Islamic Republican Party] (in Persian). Young Journalists Club. 27 March 2014. Retrieved 11 July 2016. 
  327. Bill Samii (7 November 2005). "Iran: A Rising Star In Party Politics". Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Retrieved 1 March 2017. 
  328. "جايگزين احمدي نژاد در جمعيت ايثارگران مشخص شد" [Ahmadinejad's replacemebt in Society of Devotees anticipated] (in Persian). Alef. 28 December 2014. Retrieved 11 July 2016. 
  329. Moghadas, Azam; Ghaffari, Masuod (November 2016). "Civil Society and Democratization in Iran (1979-2009)" (PDF). Asian Journal of Social Sciences & Humanities. Chikusei, Japan. 5 (4): 37–44. ISSN 2186-8492. 
  330. "ظریف محبوب‌ترین چهره سیاسی ایران". Information and Public Opinion Solutions LLC (in Persian). 24 May 2016. Retrieved 24 May 2016. 
  331. "Iranian Public Opinion on Key National and International Issues" (PDF). Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland (CISSM) & January 2017. Retrieved 4 April 2017. 
  332. "Bio: Ahmadinejad". JPost. 16 May 2006. Archived from the original on 18 July 2011. Retrieved 18 June 2011. 
  333. Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei: Iran's Next President? Kourosh Rahimkhani PBS 31 March 2011
  334. "A loyal liability". The Majalla. 22 December 2010. Retrieved 29 June 2013. 
  335. "Iran's Ahmadinejad Heckled at University". Newsmax. 12 December 2006. Archived from the original on 6 May 2008. Retrieved 18 June 2011. 
  336. "Khamenei offers implicit support to Ahmadinejad". Google News. AFP. 12 May 2009. Retrieved 7 September 2010. 
  337. "Africa can Learn from President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad". The African Executive. 
  338. Escobar, Pepe (September 15, 2015). "Travels in Ahmadinejadland". Asia Times. 


  1. At the time, Revolutionary Guards rejected official ranks for its members and commanders were simply referred to with honorifics such as "brother" or "pasdar" (guard).[105]
  2. The -[e] is the Izāfa, which is a grammatical marker linking two words together. It is not indicated in writing, and is not part of the name itself, but is pronounced in Persian language when a first and last name are used together.
  3. Kasra Naji says that the name was 'Sabaghian,' which means 'dye-masters' in Persian.[135]
  4. In 2009, some media reports claimed that Sabourjian is a common Iranian Jewish name, and that Sabor is the name for the Jewish tallit (prayer shawl) in Persia.[136] Meir Javedanfar, a blogger at The Guardian, disputed this claim, citing experts.[137]

Further reading

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Hossein Taheri
as Governor of East Azerbaijan
Governor of Ardabil
Succeeded by
Hamid Tahayi
Preceded by
Hassan Malekmadani
Mayor of Tehran
Succeeded by
Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf
Preceded by
Mohammad Khatami
President of Iran
Succeeded by
Hassan Rouhani
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Abdelaziz Bouteflika
Chairperson of the Group of 15
Succeeded by
Mahinda Rajapaksa
Preceded by
Mohamed Morsi
Secretary General of the Non-Aligned Movement
Succeeded by
Hassan Rouhani

Template:Mayors of Tehran

Template:Iranian presidential election, 2017 footer

Domestic policy

See also: Economy of Iran
Khamenei at a public speech

Khamenei is regarded by some as the figurehead of the country's conservative establishment.[1]

Khamenei supported Mesbah Yazdi describing him as one of Iran's most credible ideologues prior to the 2005 election, but has reportedly "recently been concerned about Mesbah's political ambitions."[2] Mesbah is a critic of reform movement in Iran and was seen as President Ahmadinejad's spiritual guide.[citation needed]

In 2007, Khamenei requested that government officials speed up Iran's move towards economic privatization. Its last move towards such a goal was in 2004, when Article 44 of the constitution was overturned. Article 44 had decreed that Iran's core infrastructure should remain state-run. Khamenei also suggested that ownership rights should be protected in courts set up by the Justice Ministry; the hope was that this new protection would give a measure of security to and encourage private investment.[3][4]

Additionally, Khamenei has stated that he believes in the importance of nuclear technology for civilian purposes because "oil and gas reserves cannot last forever."[5][6]

On 30 April 2008, Ali Khamenei backed President Ahmadinejad's economic policy and said the West was struggling with more economic difficulties than Iran, with a "crisis" spreading from the United States to Europe, and inflation was a widespread problem. The Iranian leader said that the ongoing economic crisis which has crippled the world has been unprecedented in the past 60 years. "This crisis has forced the UN to declare state of emergency for food shortages around the globe but foreign radios have focused on Iran to imply that the current price hikes and inflation in the country are the results of carelessness on the part of Iranian officials which of course is not true", he said. Khamenei emphasized that no one has the right to blame the Iranian government for Iran's economic problems. He also advised people and the government to be content and avoid waste in order to solve economic problems. "I advise you to keep in your mind that this great nation is never afraid of economic sanctions", he added.[7][8][9][10]

Science and technology

Ali Khamenei has been supportive of scientific progress in Iran. He was among the first Islamic clerics to allow stem cell research and therapeutic cloning.[11][12] In 2004, Khamenei said that the country's progress is dependent on investment in the field of science and technology. He also said that attaching a high status to scholars and scientists in society would help talents to flourish and science and technology to become domesticated, thus ensuring the country's progress and development.[13]


The Bahá'í Faith is the largest religious minority in Iran, with around 300,000 members (8,000,000 members worldwide) and is officially considered a dangerous cult by Iranian government. It is banned in Iran and several other countries,[14] while others have expressed concern about the group. Khamenei has approved new legislation against Bahá'ís in Iran and lessen their influence abroad.[15] According to a letter from the Chairman of the Command Headquarters of the Armed Forces in Iran addressed to the Ministry of Information, the Revolutionary Guard, and the Police Force, Khamenei has also ordered the Command Headquarters to identify people who adhere to the Bahá'í Faith and to monitor their activities and gather any and all information about the members of the Bahá'í Faith.

Interpretation of Islamic law

In 2000, Ali Khamenei sent a letter to the Iranian parliament forbidding the legislature from debating a revision of the Iranian press law. He wrote: "The present press law has succeeded to a point in preventing this big plague. The draft bill is not legitimate and in the interests of the system and the revolution."[16] His use of "extra-legislative power" has been criticized widely by reformists and opposition groups. In reaction to the letter, some Parliament members voiced outrage and threatened to resign.[17] Kayhan and Jomhuri-ye Eslami are two newspapers published under the management of Khamenei.

In late 1996, following a fatwa by Khamenei stating that music education corrupts the minds of young children, many music schools were closed and music instruction to children under the age of 16 was banned by public establishments (although private instruction continued).[18] Khamenei stated, "The promotion of music [both traditional and Western] in schools is contrary to the goals and teachings of Islam, regardless of age and level of study."[19]

In 1999, Khamenei issued a fatwa stating that it was permitted to use a third-party (donor sperm, ova or surrogacy) in fertility treatments. This was in clear opposition to the fatwa on ART by Gad El-Hak Ali Gad El-Hak of Egypt's Al-Azhar University in the late 1980s which permitted ART (IVF and similar technologies) as long there is no third-party donation (of sperm, eggs, embryos, or uteruses).[20] This led to an upsring of fertility tourism in Iran.[21]

In 2002, he ruled that human stem cell research was permissible under Islam, with the condition that it be used to create only parts as opposed to a whole human.[22]

In 2002, after protests erupted in the capital, Khamenei intervened against the death sentence given to Hashem Aghajari for arguing that Muslims should re-interpret Islam rather than blindly follow leaders. Khamenei ordered a review of the sentence against Aghajari and it was later commuted to a prison sentence.[1]

Women's rights

In July 2007, Khamenei criticized Iranian women's rights activists and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW): "In our country ... some activist women, and some men, have been trying to play with Islamic rules in order to match international conventions related to women", Khamenei said. "This is wrong." Khamenei made these comments two days after Iranian women's rights activist Delaram Ali was sentenced to 34 months of jail and 10 lashes by Iran's judiciary.[23] Iran's judiciary works under the auspices of the supreme leader and is independent from the government.

Khamenei is an advocate of Islamic practice of Hijab. He believes that hijab is aimed at honoring women. To the Western objection to the compulsory hijab in Iran, he responds by pointing out the compulsory unveiling in certain western countries and obstacles created for veiled Muslim women who want to enter universities. He further argues that women in the West have lost their honor by pointing out perceived high rate of sexual violence in the West as well as the widespread exploitation of female sexual appeal for commercial purposes: "In effect, they have been treating women like a commodity, like another of their products. If you were to look at the magazines, which are published in the West, you would see that they advertise a commodity for sale next to the naked picture of a woman. Can you imagine a bigger insult to women? They [the West] must be answerable [not Islam]."[24][25]

Ali Khamenei believes in gender segregation.[26]

Khamenei claims that "Today, homosexuality is a major problem in the western world. They [western nations] however ignore it. But the reality is that homosexuality has become a serious challenge, pain and unsolvable problem for the intellectuals in the west."[27]

In 2007, Iranian police under the direction of Khamenei launched a "Public Security Plan", arresting dozens of thugs to increase public security.[28]

Presidential, parliamentary, and Assembly of Experts elections

Ali Khamenei casting his vote in 2013 presidential election

As Supreme Leader, Khamenei has influence over elections in his appointment of half of the members of the Council of Guardians, who approve or disqualify candidates for office. In February 2004 the Council of Guardians, disqualified thousands of candidates, including 80 incumbents (including the deputy speaker), many of the reformist members of the parliament, and all the candidates of the Islamic Iran Participation Front party from running in the 2004 parliamentary elections. It did not allow to run in the election. The conservatives won about 70% of the seats. The parliamentary election held on 20 February 2004 in Iran was a key turning point in that country's political evolution. The election marked the conclusive end of the campaign for political and social reform initiated by Mohammad Khatami after he was elected president in a landslide vote in May 1997.[29]

During the 2005 presidential election, Khamenei's comments about importance of fighting corruption, being faithful to the ideals of the Islamic revolution, as well as on the superior intelligence and dynamism of those who studied engineering, were interpreted by some as a subtle endorsement of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (who had a PhD in traffic engineering).[30] After the election, and until recently, Khamenei was outspoken in his support for Ahmadinejad, and "defended him publicly in ways which he never" had reformist president Khatami. Khamenei would later certify the results of the 2009 Iranian Presidential election.[30]

Khamenei has taken a firm stand against what has been described as "the greatest domestic challenge in 30 years" to the leadership of the Islamic Republic – the 2009–10 Iranian election protests. He has stated that he will neither reconsider vote results nor bow to public pressure over the disputed reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.[31] "By Allah's favor, the presidential election was accurately held, and the current matters should be pursued legally."[32] In a public appearance on 19 June he expresses his support for the declared winner Ahmadinejad and accused foreign powers – including Britain, Israel and the United States – of helping foment protest against the election results.[33] In particular, he singled out Britain, perceiving the country as the "most evil" of its enemies.[34] He said that the Iranian people will respond with an "iron fist" if Western powers meddle in Iran's internal affairs.[35]

In response to reformist gains in the 2015-2016 election cycle, Khamenei lamented the loss of conservative clerics from the Assembly of Experts and suggested changes to the law by which the Guardian Council vets candidates may be needed because it is currently too difficult for the Guardian Council to vet so large a number of candidates.[36]

Human rights

Khamenei has called human rights a fundamental principle underlying Islamic teachings, that precedes western concern for human rights by many centuries. He has attacked Western powers who have criticized the rights record of the Islamic Republic for hypocrisy saying that these countries economically oppress people in Third World countries and support despots and dictators. In response to Western complaints of human rights abuses in Iran he has stated that the American administration has committed many crimes and is therefore not fit to judge the Islamic Republic.[37]

The Iranian government has regularly been criticized by the United Nations and human rights groups for its human rights record. Areas of criticism include the use of torture; the holding of political prisoners; the nation's election process; and poor correspondence between seriousness of crime and magnitude of punishment.[38][39]

On his website, Khamenei wrote that "any association with the misleading Bahá'í Faith should be avoided."[40]

Foreign policy

File:Ali Khamenei and Vladimir Putin.jpg
Khamenei in meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, 23 November 2015

Khamenei has "direct responsibility" for foreign policy, which "cannot be conducted without his direct involvement and approval". He has a foreign policy team independent of the president's "which includes two former foreign ministers" and "can at any time of his choosing inject himself into the process and 'correct' a flawed policy or decision."[41] His foreign policy is said to steer a course that avoids either confrontation or accommodation with the West.[30]

Opposition to United States foreign policy

On 4 June 2006, Khamenei said that Iran would disrupt energy shipments from the Persian Gulf region (about 20% of the world's daily supply of oil passes from the Persian Gulf through the Strait of Hormuz very close to Iran's coast[42]) should the country come under attack from the US, insisting that Tehran will not give up its right to produce nuclear fuel.

Khamenei with Chinese President Xi Jinping, 2016

On 14 September 2007, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (on the 1st Friday prayer of Ramadan) predicted that George W. Bush and American officials will one day be tried in an international criminal court to be held "accountable" for the U.S. led invasion of Iraq.[43] He has also blamed the United States for "blind terrorism" after its invasion of Iraq.[44] He asserts that the United States is the main cause of insecurity in Iraq.

On 21 March 2009, a day after US President Barack Obama claimed to offer Iran a "new beginning" of diplomatic engagement between the two old foes, Khamenei said a change of US "words" was not enough and added: "We will watch and we will judge (the new US administration) ... You change, our behavior will change."[45]

In June 2011, Khamenei accuses the United States government of terrorism and rejected the American definition of terrorism; he was quoted as saying, "The U.S. and the European governments that follow it describe Palestinian combatant groups who fight for the liberation of their land as terrorists."[46]

In June 2012, Khamenei warned Western governments that the mounting sanctions on the country will only deepen the Iranians' hatred of the West.[47]

On 19 July 2015, while speaking at a mosque in Tehran, Khamenei said to his supporters that the policies of the United States in the region were "180 degrees" opposed to Iran’s political and religious movement.[48] The speech was punctuated by chants of "Death to America" and "Death to Israel". Khamenei said in regards to the 2015 nuclear deal that "Even after this deal our policy towards the arrogant U.S. will not change."[49][50][51][52][53][54] U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that if the comments reflected policy, it was "very disturbing", and "very troubling".[48][55]

Condemnation of September 11 attacks

After the September 11 attacks, Khamenei condemned the act and the attackers and called for a condemnation of terrorist activities all over the world, but warned strongly against a military intervention in Afghanistan.[56] He is quoted as saying, "Mass killings of human beings are catastrophic acts which are condemned wherever they may happen and whoever the perpetrators and the victims may be."[56]

Zionism and Israel

Khamenei is an opponent of the State of Israel and Zionism, and has been widely criticized, along with the entire Iranian government, for rhetoric described as racist and anti-Semitic, and for making threats against the State of Israel. On 15 December 2000, Khamenei called Israel a "cancerous tumor of a state" that "should be removed from the region"[57][58][59][60] and in 2013 called Israel a "rabid dog",[61] as well as in 2014 during the Gaza war.[62] In 2014 a tweet, from an account widely quoted as being associated with Khamenei, claimed that there was no cure for Israel but its annihilation.[63][64][65][66]

In a September 2008 sermon for Friday prayers in Tehran, Khamenei stated that "it is incorrect, irrational, pointless and nonsense to say that we are friends of Israeli people", and that he had raised the issue "to spell an end to any debates".[67] In 2013, Khamenei accused France of "kneeling" before Israel, while saying that Israel was led by people unworthy of the "title human".[68]

Nevertheless, according to anti-regime change activist Abbas Edalat, in 2005 Khamenei responded to a remark by then-President Ahmadinejad which had been widely translated as saying that the "regime occupying Jerusalem should be wiped off the map" by saying that "the Islamic Republic has never threatened and will never threaten any country."[69]

In a September 2009 sermon, Khamenei was quoted as saying, that "the Zionist cancer is gnawing into the lives of Islamic nations."[70] In another report of the same speech, he added that "we will support and help any nations, any groups fighting against the Zionist regime across the world, and we are not afraid of declaring this."[71]

Khamenei instead proposed that "Palestinian refugees should return and Muslims, Christians and Jews could choose a government for themselves, excluding immigrant Jews."[72]

Questioning of the Holocaust

On 21 March 2014, Khamenei used a morning speech marking Nowruz, the Persian New Year, to call into question the Holocaust. He said, "the Holocaust is an event whose reality is uncertain and if it has happened, it's uncertain how it has happened".[73][74][75]

Public diplomacy

Islamic awakening

In February 2011, Ali Khamenei supported the Egyptian uprising against their government, describing it as Islamic awakening instead of Arab Spring. Trying to communicate with Arab people, he addressed Egypt's protesters in Arabic. (Iranians are not Arabs, and Iran's official language is Persian) He introduced himself as "your brother in religion", while praising the "explosion of sacred anger".[76] Later, in "Islamic Awakening conferences" which were held in Tehran, Khamenei praised the Muslim youths of Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Yemen and Bahrain for what he described as Islamic awakening. He also paralleled these events with Islamic revolution in Iran during his Nowruz oration in 2011.[77] However, major protests against the Iranian regime also broke out throughout Iran in 2011, and it became known as the 2011–12 Iranian protests.

Personal life

See also: Setad

Khamenei is married to Khojaste Bagherzadeh with whom he has four sons (Mostafa, Mojtaba, Masood, and Meysam) and two daughters (Boshra and Hoda).[78] One of his sons, Mojtaba, married a daughter of Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel.[79]

According to Mehdi Khalaji, an Iran expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Khamenei has a decent life "without it being luxurious".[80] Khamenei's official residence is the Beit Rahbari compound.[81][82][83] Khamenei rides around in BMW cars.[84] Ali Khamenei receives major commissions from the Iranian oil and arms industries and there have been regular claims that he and his son have amassed a fortune running into billions of dollars.[85] In 2015, Khamenei claimed he had a personal net worth of only $150 million.[86]


Khamenei's health has been called into question. In January 2007, after he had not been seen in public for some weeks, and had not appeared as he traditionally does at celebrations for Eid al-Adha, rumours spread of his illness or death. Khamenei issued a statement declaring that "enemies of the Islamic system fabricated various rumors about death and health to demoralize the Iranian nation", but according to author Hooman Majd, he appeared to be "visibly weak" in photos released with the statement.[87]

On 9 September 2014, Khamenei underwent prostate surgery in what his doctors described in state news media as a "routine operation".[88][89] According to a report by Le Figaro, Western intelligence sources said Khamenei has prostate cancer.[90][91]

Government posts

Ali Khamenei in military uniform during Iran–Iraq war

Since the founding of the Islamic Republic, Khamenei has held many government posts.[92]


See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named BBCNewsProfile
  2. The Significance of Iran's December Elections Mehdi Khalaji 11 December 2006
  3. "Iran: Leader calls for acceleration of privatization program". Archived from the original on 18 June 2009. Retrieved 19 June 2009. 
  4. [2] Archived 8 March 2007 at the Wayback Machine
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  6. "Iran says will not halt uranium enrichment | International". Reuters. 18 February 2007. Archived from the original on 19 June 2009. Retrieved 19 June 2009. 
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  11. Barnard, Anne (22 August 2006). "Iran looks to science as source of pride – The Boston Globe". Boston Globe. Archived from the original on 26 May 2009. Retrieved 19 June 2009. 
  12. "Science over ethics? – Channel 4 News". Channel 4. 8 March 2006. Archived from the original on 18 June 2009. Retrieved 19 June 2009. [dead link]
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  15. UN Doc. E/CN.4/1993/41, Commission on Human Rights, 49th session, 28 January 1993, Final report on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran by the Special Representative of the Commission on Human Rights, Mr. Reynaldo Galindo Pohl, paragraph 310.
  16. "Middle East | Punch-up over press law". BBC News. 6 August 2000. Retrieved 19 June 2009. 
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  20. Inhorn, Marcia C. (January 2006). "Fatwas and ARTs: IVF and Gamete Donation in Sunni v. Shia Islam (Id. vLex: VLEX-418643)". The Journal of Gender, Race & Justice – Nbr. 9-2, January 2006 (c/o Archived from the original on 24 June 2009. Retrieved 19 June 2009. 
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  • Sadiki, Larbi (2014). Routledge Handbook of the Arab Spring: Rethinking Democratization. Routledge. ISBN 9781317650041. 

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Mostafa Chamran
Minister of Defense
Succeeded by
Javad Fakoori
Preceded by
Mohammad-Ali Rajai
President of Iran
Succeeded by
Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani
New office Chairperson of the Expediency Discernment Council
Preceded by
Ruhollah Khomeini
Supreme Leader of Iran
Party political offices
Preceded by
Mohammad-Javad Bahonar
Leader of the Islamic Republican Party
Succeeded by
Party dissolved

Warning: Default sort key "Khamenei, Ali" overrides earlier default sort key "Ahmadinejad, Mahmoud".