Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

On 24 June 2005 Mahmoud Ahmadi Nejad [mah-MOOD ah-mah-dih-nee-ZHAHD ] was elected as Iran's president. Ahmadinejad swept to the presidential post with a stunning 17,046,441 votes out of a total of 27,536,069 votes cast in the runoff election. His rival and Expediency Council Chairman Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani gained only 9,841,346. A few days before the vote, Rafsanjani said that the race was "very close" but he believed he was "slightly ahead" of Ahmadinejad. When he took office in August 2005, Ahmadinejad became the first non-cleric president to lead Iran in 24 years.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was born in Garmsar, southeast of Tehran on October 28th, 1956. He is the fourth child of an ironworker who had seven children. Mahmoud and his family migrated to Tehran when he was one-year-old. He received his diploma and was admitted to the University of Science and Technology in the field of civil engineering after he ranked 130th in the nationwide university entrance exams in 1975. He was accepted as an MS student at the same university in 1986 and obtained his doctorate in 1987 in the field of engineering and traffic transportation planning.

Following the 1979 Islamic revolution, he became a member the ultra-conservative faction of the Office for Strengthening Unity [OSU] Between Universities and Theological Seminaries. The OSU was established by Ayatollah Mohammad Beheshti, one of Khomeini’s key collaborators, to organise Islamist students against the rapidly growing Mojahedin-e Khalq (MeK). It was reported that when the idea of storming the American embassy in Tehran was raised by the OSU, Ahmadinejad suggested storming the Soviet embassy at the same time. Reports from hostages at the American embassy alleged Ahmadinejad was among their captors, but he and other captors have denied the allegations.

With the start of the Iraq war in 1980, Ahmadinejad rushed to the western fronts to fight against the enemy and voluntarily joined the special forces of the Islamic Revolution's Guards Corps (IRGC) in 1986. He served in the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps intelligence and security apparatus. Little reliable biographical information is avaliable about Ahmadinejad during these years.

He served as governor of Maku and Khoy cities in the northwestern West Azarbaijan province for four years in the 1980s and as an advisor to the governor general of the western province of Kurdestan for two years. While serving as the cultural advisor to the Ministry of Culture and Higher Education in 1993, he was appointed governor general of the newly established northwestern province of Ardebil. He was elected as the exemplary governor general for three consecutive years.

In 1997, the newly-installed, moderate Khatami administration removed Ahmadinejad from his post as Ardebil's governor general. Ahmadinejad returned to Elm-o Sanaat University to teach in 1997 and became a member of the scientific board of the Civil Engineering College of the University of Science and Technology. There, he participated in various scientific, cultural, political and social activities. He also worked with Ansar-i Hizbullah (Followers of the Party of God), the violent Islamic vigilante group.

In April 2003 Ahmadinejad was appointed mayor of Tehran by the capital's municipal council, which was dominated by the hard-line Islamic Iran Developers Coalition (Etelaf-i Abadgaran-i Iran-i Islami). In some of Ahmadinejad's public statements, he appeared to identify himself as a Developer.

Ahmadinejad was also a member of the central council of the hard-line Islamic Revolution Devotees' Society (Jamiyat-i Isargaran-i Inqilab-i Islami). The Devotees publicly endorsed another candidate -- Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf -- in 17 June 2005 during the first round of the presidential election. Both the Developers and the Devotees represented the younger generation of Iranians whose political memory, like that of Ahmadinejad, centered around the Revolutionary Guards and the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War.

On 26 April 2005 Ahmadinejad said that, in accord with the decision of the city council, the municipality would install a plaque in memory of the victims of Iraqi chemical warfare. "Major crimes have been perpetrated against the Iranian nation, the youth and the war veterans affected by chemical warfare syndrome. We should support the rights of the victims by installing the plaque of remembrance," Ahmadinejad said. "The big powers possess technology to produce chemical weapons and they used the deadly weapons against Iranian soldiers during the Iraqi-imposed war (1980-1988)."

According to sources, Ahmadinejad projected himself as a simple man and reportedly lived a very Spartan lifestyle in a simple apartment flat with his family. He is married with two sons and one daughter.

Source: Global Security, 6/2005