(b. Garmsar, Iran, 28 Oct. 1956)
Iranian; President of the Islamic Republic of Iran 2005– The son of a blacksmith, he was born in a village about 90 km outside Tehran. His family moved to Tehran when he was one. He studied civil engineering at Tehran's Science and Technology University, where he became involved in the opposition to the Shah (see Pahlavi) prior to the Iranian Revolution in 1979. He became a member of the Revolutionary Guards and took part in the Iran–Iraq war (1980–88). After the war he had a number of public positions, latterly as Governor General of Ardabil Province (1993–7), after which he returned to Tehran as a university lecturer. He re-emerged politically as a very conservative mayor of Tehran in 2003, reversing moderate reforms made by his predecessors. He was relatively unknown at the start of the 2005 presidential election, campaigning on issues of social justice domestically and on Iran's right to develop its civil nuclear power programme. He won the final run-off against Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani (who had been President 1989–97), gaining nearly two-thirds of the vote. He was the first non-cleric for 24 years to become President, although much power still rests with the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei. Domestically he stopped the process of reform and imposed restrictions, such as the banning of Western music. However, he faced severe economic problems. By the end of 2008 inflation had reached 30 per cent and the dramatic fall in oil prices was harming the economy. Internationally, he has caused much controversy. His encouragement of Iran's civil nuclear power programme (which includes the enrichment of nuclear fuels) has been opposed by the international community, with the USA applying sanctions and threatening more direct action. He has been a strong supporter of the Palestinian cause, providing direct support to Hamas in Gaza and to Hezbollah in Lebanon, and has questioned Israel's right to exist. He will hope that his populist appeal in Iran will bring him victory at the presidential elections in 2009, in the face of his difficulties in managing the worsening economic situation in the country.
Subjects: Arts and Humanities — Politics.