Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (Farsi: محمود احمدی نژاد, Mahmood Ahmadinezhahd )
was born Mahmoud Saborjhian on October 28, 1956, and is currently
serving a second term as President of the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI).
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Family and Early Life
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was born near Garmsar in the village of Aradan on
October 28, 1956. When he was about a year old, his family moved to the Narmak
district of southern Tehran to improve their economic status. Ahmadinejad's
father was a blacksmith. After moving to Tehran, the family changed their name
to Ahmadinejad, meaning "Of virtuous lineage." Some claim this was done to hide
Jewish family background. A story in the Daily Telegraph
ref had reported that Sabourjian was a Jewish name, and that the word "Sabour" is related to the trade
of weaving the tzitzit, a Jewish religious garment. However, a story in the
insisted that Sabour does not refer to any Jewish religious garment and that
Ahmadinejad's family had a strongly religious Shi'ite Muslim background. Perhaps it was done to evade creditors or the law.
Little is known of his childhood.
1976 Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took the national university entrance exam, in which he
later claimed that he scored 132 among 400,000 applicants.
Ahmadinejad enrolled in the Iranian University of Science and Technology. In
1979, according to eye witnesses, he was among the students who took hostages at
the U.S. embassy and was involved in interrogation of captives.ref
Either in 1987
ref he received a PhD in Civil Engineering from the Iranian University of
Science and Technology. Meanwhile, Ahmadinejad had enlisted in the Iranian
National Guard Corps (Pasdaran, IRGC) sometime between 1984 and 1986, and saw
service undercover in Kirkuk apparently. But it is also claimed that he was
never officially enlisted in the IRGC and only served as a volunteer.ref Supposedly,
Ahmadinejad started his political career when he was still as student, as
political consultant to the mayor of the southwestern city of Shahr Kord
in the 1970s. In the 1980s he was made mayor of Maku. From 1993 to 1997, he was
governor of the northwestern province of Ardabil, a post that brought him the
annual honor of "Model Governor" thrice in succession.ref
The reformist president Khatami dismissed him in 1997. Ahmadinejad has been a
lecturer at the University since 1989 and evidently still receives a salary from
A poor turnout (12%) in Tehran elections resulted in the election of
conservatives to the municipal council. They appointed Ahmadinejad as mayor in
2003. As mayor of Tehran he was extremely popular and supposedly efficient,
though he repealed many reformist laws, and supported a law to institute
separate elevators for men and women.
In 2005, Ahmadinejad was elected President of Iran for the first time. This
is not the top political post, which is reserved for the Supreme Leader,
Ayatollah Khameinei. As President, he emphasized ultranationalist and militarist
projects including the nuclear project and missile development, picked a fight
with nearby Gulf states over sovereignty in an island in the Persian Gulf and
tried to set himself and Iran up as leaders of the Muslim world, posing a clear
threat to neighboring
Ahmadinejad is populist conservative. He is considered an extremist
about Islamist issues of foreign policy even in extremist Iran, but is not as
strict as some in application of rules for modesty of women and separation of
the sexes. His support base is the Ayatollah Khameinei, the Iranian Republican
Guards and the Basij
- a fanatic volunteer group created during the Iran-Iraq war, that originally
consisted in the main of under-age children who volunteered for suicidal
missions. His populism is expressed both in legislative measures such as
continuance of subsidies and in demonstrative gestures, such as removing a fancy
rug or rugs from the presidential offices and replacing it with a plain one(s),
refusing to use a private jet or allegedly refusing a salary for his work as
president, and supposedly joining street cleaning crews near his home or office.ref
Ahmadinejad and Controversial Issues
As President of Iran, Ahmadinejad has created controversy in several
Ahmadinejad and the Mahdi - Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
Shiite. He believes in the return of the
a Messiah like figure who is the Twelfth imam in the line of Ali
and rightful successor to the
A New Yorker article explains:
Ahmadinejad is a Twelver Shiite and a fervent Mahdist,
which means that, in the modern Iranian context, he is the equivalent of a
born-again Christian. In the Shia tradition, the Twelfth Imam, or the Mahdi,
disappeared in the ninth century, hidden by God. His return, together with
that of Jesus Christ, will herald an earthly paradise. (In Islam, Christ is
regarded as an early prophet.) This explains Ahmadinejad's evangelizing
allusions to the "promised one" when he has addressed the U.N. General
Assembly. His public zeal has earned him criticism from Iranians at home,
including senior clerics, one of whom scolded him for appearing to claim a
special link to the hidden Imam. At the breakfast I attended, Ahmadinejad
referred to the Mahdi as "the perfect man."
A senior Iraqi politician who has met Ahmadinejad a number of times said
that, at a meeting in Tehran two years ago, Ahmadinejad spoke about little
but the Mahdi. The politician heard from others that Ahmadinejad had
blueprints for a planned triumphal superhighway and reception point in
Tehran, to be built for the Mahdi's eventual arrival. ref
Nuclear project - Iran has been developing nuclear capabilities. In
2003, it was discovered that Iran had evaded IAEA inspectors and set up
facilities for manufacturing centrifuges and refining uranium at Natanz, as well
as a "research" heavy water reactor at Arak that is capable of producing
fissionable plutonium. Iran claims the nuclear development is aimed at producing
electricity, but it has the world's second largest gas reserves and a very
active missile development program. Western nations have asked Iran to stop the
nuclear enrichment activity which they suspect is aimed at producing atomic
weapons. UN Security Council resolutions have imposed mild sanctions against
Iran to no avail. Ahmadinejad was not the originator of Iran's nuclear project,
but he has been an outspoken and stubborn advocate of the nuclear policy.
U.S. President Barack Obama reversed the policy of the Bush administration,
which had originally refused to negotiate with Iran until it suspended its
nuclear enrichment program. Thus far, however (July 2009), Obama's "engagement"
policy has met with no more success in effecting a compromise or even serious
negotiations than Bush's policy.
Suppression of rights - Ahmadinejad has reimposed censorship laws that
had been relaxed under the reformist president Khatami and has ordered police to
enforce the dress code for females. On the other hand, he has also been
criticized for being too lax in enforcing the code. Newspapers have been closed down and dissent
at universities was crushed. Members of the Bahai
faith continue to be persecuted and evidently members of Christian faiths do not
fare much better.
Economic Irresponsibility - Opponents charged Ahmadinejad with waste,
uneconomic subsidies and populist policies that produced economic failure.
During recent elections Ahmadinejad distributed free potatoes to bribe voters, a
move that became the butt of many jokes.
Anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism - Both at home and abroad,
Ahmadinejad's outrageous statements about Israel, Zionism, the Holocaust
and the Jews has raised vehement opposition.
Ahmadinejad and Anti-Semitism
World without Zionism - On October 26, 2005, Ahmadinejad
appeared at a conference entitled "A World without Zionism." Among other things
"'... They [ask]: 'Is it possible for us to witness a world without
America and Zionism?' But you had best know that this slogan and this goal
are attainable, and surely can be achieved.
"'Imam [Khomeini] said that Saddam [Hussein] must go, and that he would
be humiliated in a way that was unprecedented. And what do you see today? A
man who, 10 years ago, spoke as proudly as if he would live for eternity is
today chained by the feet, and is now being tried in his own country...
"'Imam [Khomeini] said: 'This regime that is occupying Qods [Jerusalem] must
be eliminated from the pages of history.' This sentence is very wise. The
issue of Palestine is not an issue on which we can compromise.
"'Is it possible that an [Islamic] front allows another front [i.e. country]
to arise in its [own] heart? This means defeat, and he who accepts the
existence of this regime [i.e. Israel] in fact signs the defeat of the
"'In his battle against the World of Arrogance, our dear Imam [Khomeini] set
the regime occupying Qods [Jerusalem] as the target of his fight.
"'I do not doubt that the new wave which has begun in our dear Palestine and
which today we are also witnessing in the Islamic world is a wave of
morality which has spread all over the Islamic world. Very soon, this
stain of disgrace [i.e. Israel] will vanish from the center of the Islamic
world - and this is attainable.
"'But we must be wary of Fitna. For more than 50 years, the World of
Arrogance has tried to give recognition to the existence of this falsified
regime [Israel]. With its first steps, and then with further steps, it has
tried hard in this direction to stabilize it.
Some confusion arose because one of the wire services claimed he had said
that "Israel must be wiped off the map." He did not literally say that, and
apologists, chief among them Juan Cole, seized on the error to confuse the
issue. It is clear from the above that Iran will not accept any state that is
not Islamic in the Middle East. Likewise it is clear that destruction of
America, the "great Satan," is a core goal of the Iranian regime. Ahmadinejad is
not alone in these goals in Iran, but it is alarming that he stated them so
In December of 2005, Ahmadinejad explicitly denied the Holocaust,
He stated in a televised speech:
"They have created a myth today that they call the
massacre of Jews and they consider it a principle above God, religions and
the prophets," ref
In February of 2006, an Iranian newspaper announced a contest to find the 12
best cartoons about the Holocaust.
The results were displayed in an Iranian museum and include a cartoon of the
Statue of Liberty giving a Nazi salute and holding the Holocaust in the other
In December of 2006, Iran, at the instigation of Ahmadinejad, held a
ref to get "expert" opinions
on whether or not the Holocaust
actually took place. No real experts came to
this conference, but former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke and other
notorious racists did come to the conference. The conference provoked protests
and derision around the world and in Iran. Iranian students said the conference
had brought Nazis to their country and called on the regime to allow banned
activists to attend university. Ahmadinejad defended the conference:
Mr Ahmadinejad responded by saying: "Everyone should know that
Ahmadinejad is prepared to be burnt in the path of true freedom,
independence and justice", according to an Iranian students' news agency. He
accused the protesters of being "Americanised."
According to Aftab News Agency, in June 2007, Mahmoud 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." Members of Iranian parliament criticized
these remarks as encouraging religious war.
At the opening of the Second UN Durban conference on racism on April 20,
2009, Ahmadinejad was invited to
give an address. He stated:
The above is from the transcript of his remarks
according to the Iranian PressTV. However, according to other sources he was
supposed to have said, in addition, "on the pretext of Jewish suffering and
the ambiguous and dubious question of the Holocaust"
but omitted that phrase from his speech. Nonetheless, at that point, there was a
mass walkout of those Western delegates who attended the conference, along with
apparently general cheering of other delegates.
Coercion and arrogance is the origin of
oppression and wars. Although today many proponents of racism condemn racial
discrimination in their words and their slogans, a number of powerful
countries have been authorized to decide for other nations based on their
own interests and at their own discretion and they can easily violate all
laws and humanitarian values as they have done so.
Following World War II, they resorted to military aggression to make an entire nation
homeless under the pretext of Jewish suffering and they sent migrants from
Europe, the United States and other parts of the world in order to establish
a totally racist government in occupied Palestine. And, in fact, in
compensation for the dire consequences of racism in Europe, they helped
bring to power the most cruel and repressive racist regime in Palestine.
Ahmadinejad's letter to Bush - In May of 2006, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
sent a bizarre and rambling 18 page letter to President George Bush, excoriating
him for the alleged crimes of the Zionists, as well as for invading Iraq and
Afghanistan, rather than tending to the problems of poor people at home. He
asked how such behavior could be in keeping with Christianity.ref
Subsequently, he declared that the letter had nothing to do with the nuclear
but rather was an invitation to Islam and the prophets.ref
Ahmadinejad at Columbia - On September 24, 2007, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad gave an address at Columbia University to a sold-out auditorium.
He cast doubt on the occurrence of the Holocaust
and in answer to a question about persecution of homosexuals, was translated as
saying, "there are no homosexuals in Iran."ref Later
it was clarified that he supposedly said "we do not have this phenomenon" and
meant to say that there are relatively few homosexuals in Iran.ref
On June 12, 2009, Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad stood for reelection. He was backed by the Ayatollah Khameinei, the
Supreme leader. His main opponent was Mir Hossein Moussavi, backed by the
Ayatollah Rafsanjani. Mousaavi had been known as a conservative, but he was
opposed to many of Ahmadinejad's excesses, economic inefficiency, and needlessly
provocative foreign policy. The "official" results were announced in great haste
and bypassed normal procedures of approval. According to those results
Ahmadinejad received over 62% of the votes against the entire field of
opponents. Supporters of Moussavi and other candidates claimed fraud and pointed
out suspicious anomalies: Ahmadejad got 57% in Moussavi's home district.
Demonstrations erupted in waves throughout Iran. Ahmadinejad also won Tehran by
over 50%, even though his popularity in larger cities is considered to be low.
Another candidate, Karroubi, who got 17 percent of the vote in the first round
of the 2005 elections, got less than one percent of the vote this time.ref
In numerous large cities, and districts, over 100% of the people were recorded
as having voted.
ref Protestors defied warnings, and
managed to organize demonstrations despite severe limitations on telephone and
Internet communications. Officially, 17-19 people were
killed in violent clashes. Unofficially, there have been as many as 150 deaths.
One young lady, Neda Soltan, was filmed in her last moments after being shot by a
Basij sniper, and became a heroine and martyr.ref Demonstrations continued despite
massive police presence and squads of Basij goons. The government remained adamant in its insistence that despite
minor irregularities, the vote was legal.
August 2, 2009
Synonyms and alternate spellings:
Further Information: History of Iran