(1956 - )
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (Ahmadi-Nejad) was elected the sixth President of Iran on June 24, 2005, and was confirmed in office on August 3, 2005. He is preceded by Mohammad Khatami, Iran’s president since 1997. Ahmadinejad was born in Garmsar, near Tehran, in 1956, the son of a blacksmith, and holds a Ph.D. in traffic and transport from Tehran's University of Science and Technology, where he was a lecturer. From May 3, 2003, until June 28, 2005, Ahmadinejad was the mayor of Tehran.
Ahmadinejad is widely considered to be a religious, ultra-conservative Islamist, with a commitment to an agenda of economic populism and sociopolitical conservatism, bearing ample resemblance to the Taliban’s. However, unlike his predecesor, Mohammad Khatami, and his main electoral rival, Ali Akbar Rafsanjani (Iran’s fourth president from 1989-1997), Ahmadinejad has no formal religious education and has stressed his modest origins and simple lifestyle. Politically, Ahmadinejad is a member of the Central Council of the Islamic Society of Engineers, but he has a more powerful base inside the Alliance of Builders of Islamic Iran (also known as Abadgaran), in which Ahmadinejad is considered one of the main figures.
Confusion surrounds his role in the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Several of the 52 Americans who were held hostage in the U.S. embassy in the months after the revolution say they are certain Ahmadinejad was among those who captured them. He insists he was not there, and several known hostage-takers – now his strong political opponents – deny he was with them. His website says he joined the Revolutionary Guards voluntarily after the revolution, and he is also reported to have served in covert operations during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war. Indeed, Ahmadinejad's primary base of support comes from the millions of Iranians for whom fighting in the Iran-Iraq war was the defining event of their lives. This so-called ‘war generation’ is distinct from the revolutionary generation that brought Iran’s Islamist Shi’ite clerics to power in 1979.
Moreover, Ahmadinejad has praised the acts of suicide terrorists, stating, “Is there art that is more beautiful, more divine, and more eternal than the art of martyrdom? A nation with martyrdom knows no captivity. Those who wish to undermine this principle undermine the foundations of our independence and national security. They undermine the foundation of our eternity.” Ahmadinejad also defends his country's nuclear programme, which the European Union, the United States and many others in the international community fear is intended to develop nuclear weapons.
Sources: BICOM, BBC Online, The New Republic