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Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

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Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

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 Guardian ref 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.

In 1976 Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took the national university entrance exam, in which he later claimed that he scored 132 among 400,000 applicants. ref 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, ref or 1997 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 the university.

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 Sunni Muslim countries.

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 different areas:

Ahmadinejad and the Mahdi - Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a Twelver Shiite. He believes in the return of the Mahdi, a Messiah like figure who is the Twelfth imam in the line of Ali and rightful successor to the Caliphate. 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 he said:

"'... 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 Islamic world.

"'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 clearly. 

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 hand.

In December of 2006, Iran, at the instigation of Ahmadinejad, held a "Holocaust conference" 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: ref

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. ref

At the opening of the Second UN Durban conference on racism on April 20, 2009,  Ahmadinejad was invited to give an address. He stated:

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. ref

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" ref 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.

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 issue, 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 

Ahmadinejad Reelected

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.   

Ami Isseroff

August 2, 2009

Synonyms and alternate spellings:

Further Information: History of Iran    

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The "Gh" combination, and sometimes the "G," designate a deep guttural sound that Westerners may hear approximately as "r." The "r" sound is always formed with the back of the tongue, and is not like the English "r."

More information: Hebrew, Arabic

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