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Supreme Leader

Ali Hosseini Khamenei June 1989-
Ruhollah Musavi Khomeini Dec 1979-June 1989


Hassan Rouhani Aug 2013-
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Aug 2005-Aug 2013
Mohammad Khatami Aug 1997-Aug 2005
Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani Aug 1989-Aug 1997
Sayyed Ali Khamenei Nov 1981-Aug 1989
Mohammed Ali Rajai Aug 1981-Aug 1981
Abolhassan Bani-Sadr Feb 1980- June 1981

Prime Minister
(Post Abolished in August 1989)

Mir Hossein Moussavi Oct 1981-Aug 1989
Mohammad Reza Mahdavi-Kani Sept 1981-Oct 1981
Mohammad Javad Bahonar Aug 1981-Aug 1981
Mohammad Ali Raja'i Aug 1980-Aug 1981
Mehdi Bazargan Feb 1979-Nov 1979
Shahpur Bakhtiar Jan 1979-Feb 1979
Gholam Reza Azhari Nov 1978-Jan 1979
Jaafar Sharif-Emami Aug 1978-Nov 1978
Jamshid Amouzegar Aug 1977-Aug 1978
Amir Abbas Hoveida Jan 1965-Aug 1977
Hassan Ali Mansur Mar 1964-Jan 1965
Asadullah Alam July 1962-Mar 1964
Ali Amini May 1961-July 1962
Jaafar Sharif-Emami Aug 1960-May 1961
Manuchehr Ekbal Apr 1957-Aug 1960

Ali Hosseini Khamenei

Ali Hosseini Khamenei is the Grand Ayatollah, or Supreme Leader, of Iran. Khamenei belongs to the Twelver Shi'a sect which is the largest branch of Shi'a Islam.

Khamenei (born July 17, 1939) was born in the northern Iranian city of Mashhad as the second of eight children. He attended religious studies classes at the basic and advanced levels in the seminary of Mashhad and then went to study in the small town of Najaf in 1957. After a short stay, Khamenei left Najaf and in 1958 he settled in the religious city of Qom. Khamenei attended the classes of Ayatollahs Husain Borujerdi and Ruhollah Khomeini. It was in Qom that Khamenei became a close disciple and confidant of Khomenei.More...

In 1979, Ayatollah Khomeini launched the Islamic Revolution in Iran and Khamenei was elected president of the country in a landslide vote after the 1981 assassination of Mohammad-Ali Rajai. Khamanei thus became the first cleric to serve in the Iranian presidency and in his inaugural address as president he promised to eradicate "deviation, liberalism, and American-influenced leftists."

From 1981-89, Khamenei served as the Iran’s president, being relected in another landslide victory in 1985. He also served in a number of other political capacities during that time, including: Chairman of the High Council of Revolution Culture Affairs (1982); President of the Expediency Council (1988); and Chairman of the Constitutional Revisal Committee (1989). In June 1981 an assassination attempt paralyzed his right arm.

In June 1989, following the death of Khomeini, the Iranian Assembly of Experts elected Khamenei as the new Supreme Leader of the Iranian Revolution. Though he lacks the charisma and clerical standing of his predecessor, Khamanei has assured his position by brining many of the powers of the presidency with him into the office of Supreme Leader, turning himself into an "omnipotent overseer of Iran's political scene".

Regarding his leadership, Khamenei issued a fatwa - religious prohibition - against any insult to the companions or wives of Muhammad. Additionally, he issued a fatwa that the production, stockpiling, and use of nuclear weapons are forbidden according to Islam. In 2000, Khamenei was listed by the Committee to Protect Journalists as "one of the top ten enemies of the press and freedom of expression." Under his leadership, countless reporters have been arrested and interrogated for unclear and unproven charges. In 2010, Forbes listed Khamenei as among the "World’s Most Powerful People" and Time named him one of the "Time 100" in 2007.

Ruhollah Musavi Khomeini

Ruhollah Musavi Khomeini was an Iranian religious leader, politican, and leader of the 1979 Iranian Revolution which overthrew the Shah of Iran and instituted an Islamic government.

Khomenei (born September 22, 1902) was born in the small town of Khomein in central Iran. As an infant Khomeini's father was murdered in 1903 and he was raised by his mother, who passed away when he was 15 years old. Raised in the study of Koran, he learned many traditional Persian subjects in school and continued his religious education throughout his early year through the assistance of his family. During World War I, Khomeini studied Islamic theology in Arāk, a town in central Iran, and years later completed his studies in the holy city of Qom.More...

In 1961 and 1963 Khomeini showed strong opposition to Mohammad Reza Shah's reforms, leading demonstrations and riots against the Shah. He consistently blamed the U.S. and Israel for all the corruption and backwardness in Iran. On June 3, 1963, he gave a provocative speech mainly against what he called the dependence of the Shah's regime upon the U.S. and Israel. Two days later he was arrested, which resulted in anti-Shah demonstrations in Qomm and in other cities of Iran. The slogan "Death to the Shah, Death to America, and Death to Israel" was seen and heard almost everywhere. The demonstrations were crushed by the Shah's troops; many were killed or wounded. On November 4, 1963, Khomeini was sent into exile, first to Turkey and then to Iraq where he resided in the Shi'i holy city of Najaf.

Anti-regime demonstrations motivated by Khomeini's speeches, recorded on cassettes and pamphlets in Najaf, continued however to arrive in Iran. The unrest and commotions culminated in 1977/78. The shah requested the Iraqi Government to expel Khomeini from Iraq. Khomeini chose to go to France (October 5, 1978). His frequent speeches from there, too, agitated the people against the Shah, the U.S. and Israel. The future of the Jewish community in Iran was in jeopardy. Several thousand Jews in Teheran, headed by some well-known social and religious personalities were "advised" to take part in demonstrations, which they did (December 11, 1978). Finally the Shah left Iran on January 16, 1979, and two weeks later Khomeini entered the country, being welcomed by millions of people; the Jews of Teheran once again were "advised" to join the demonstration to welcome Khomeini's arrival (February 13, 1979). Soon afterwards, an Islamic Republic was formed with a new Islamic constitution. Though it contained many discriminatory provisions against non-Muslims, it still granted second-class citizenship rights to Jews and other religious minorities, as protected non-Muslim monotheists – with the exception of the Bahais who were persecuted and over 200 of them were massacred all over Iran. The treatment of the Jews was ambivalent.

In the first two to three years of the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI), about one-third of Iran's 80,000 Jews left for Israel, Europe, and the U.S. IRI broke its relations with Israel. The regime adapted a pro-Palestinian policy declaring that Israel and Zionism must be destroyed. IRI also encouraged the foundation of Hizbollah in Lebanon by supporting it with money, arms, and military advisers. Any tie with Israel was considered war against Islam. Though upon his return from Paris Khomeini met with the heads of the Jewish community, declaring that Jews were to be protected by Islamic law, some 200 Jews were arrested and jailed. During his rule, about 20 Jews were executed by the Revolutionary Courts, among them the former head of the Jewish Organization, the industrialist millionaire Habib Elghanaian (May 9, 1979). Many were deprived of their administrative, university, and high business positions. Jewish property on a large scale, amounting to more than one billion dollars, was confiscated by the regime. In recent years the IRI has tried to demonstrate some "friendly relations" with the remaining Jews of Iran who were led by the former Tudeh Party member, Parviz (Haroon) Yeshayai, the head of the Jewish Central Organization in Teheran. Nevertheless, events, such the arrest of 13 Jews in the last decade of the 20th century, allegedly spying for Israel, show the true face of these relations. As long as the hatred against Israel and Zionism and the support of terrorist organizations such as Hizbollah continue to fuel the foreign policy of Iran, the situation of Jews in IRI will remain precarious.

Hassan Rouhani

Hassan Rouhani is the seventh and current President of Iran. He was elected to succeed Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in June 2013. Rouhani is also a former Iranian diplomat who led the country's nuclear negotiating team in the 1990's.

Rouhani (born November 12, 1948) was born in Sorkheh, a town in northern Iran. He started religious studies in 1960, first at Semnan Seminary before moving on to the Qom Seminary in 1961. In addition to his religious studies, Rouhani also studied modern courses and was admitted to the University of Tehran in 1969 where he later obtained his bachelor's degree in judicial law in 1972. Rouhani also graduated from Glasgow Caledonian University in 1995 with an M.Phil. followed by a Ph.D. degree in Law in 1999.More...

As a young cleric, Rouhani started his political activities by following Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini during the beginning of the Iranian Islamic movement. In 1965, he began traveling throughout Iran making speeches against the government of the Shah. During those years he was arrested many times and was banned from delivering public speeches. In November 1977, at a public ceremony held at Tehran's Ark Mosque to commemorate the death of Ayatollah Khomeini's son, Rouhani used the title "Imam" for the first time as a reference to Khomeini, the then exiled leader of the Islamic movement.

When the Islamic Revolution became victorious in Iran, Rouhani returned and set to work trying to stabilize the new government. He was first elected to the Islamic Consultative Assembly (Majlis) in 1980 and would spend five terms, 20 years, in the assembly. He served in various capacities including deputy speaker of the Majlis as well as the head of defense committee and foreign policy committee. From 1980 to 1983, he served as the leader of the Supervisory Council of the Iranian national radio and television network. During the Iran-Iraq war, Rouhani was a member of the Supreme Defense Council, member of the High Council for Supporting War and headed its Executive Committee, deputy commander of the war, commander of the Khatam-ol-Anbiya Operation Center and commander of the Iran Air Defense Force. From 1988 to 1989, he was appointed and served as Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces.

In 1989, after Iran established the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC), Rouhani became Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's personal representative to the council. Rouhani also served as the first secretary of the SNSC and kept that post until 2005. Between 1989 and 1997, and then again from 2000 to 2005, Rouhani served as national security advisor to Presidents Rafsanjani and Khatami. In 1991, Rouhani was appointed to the Expediency Council, where he heads the Political, Defense, and Security Committee.

In the elections of February 2000, Rouhani was elected to the Assembly of Experts from Semnan and in 2006 he was elected as Tehran's representative to the Assembly. From 2001 to 2006, he was the head of the political and social committee of the Assembly, member of the presiding board and head of the Tehran office of the secretariat of the assembly.

From October 2003 to August 2005, Rouhani also took on the responsibility as Iran's top nuclear negotiator with the West. It was during this time that revelations about Iran's nuclear program were addressed by the IAEA and, under leadership from the top echelon of Iran's government, Rouhani oversaw a temporary and voluntary suspension of certain parts of their nuclear program. Following the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the presidency in 2005, Rouhani resigned from his post on the SNSC.

In October 2006, Rouhani was among a group of high ranking Iranian government officials listed in an indictment by the Argentine government prosecutor investigating the AMIA Jewish Community Center bombing from 1994. According to the indictment, Rouhani was a member of the special committee that approved the AMIA bombing. The decision for the bombing was ultimately made by Supreme Leader Khamenei, but Rouhani was present for discussions along with then-President Rafsanjani, Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati and Intelligence Minister Ali Fallahijan.

In January 2013, Rouhani announced his candidacy for president in the June 2013 elections to replace Ahmadinejad whose term limit was up. Rouhani, despite suggestions from Iranian media outlets that he may be disqualified from the race, won the election with 52% of the vote, beating out main rival Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf. He was inaugurated as the Islamic Republic's seventh president in August 2013.

Following the election, Rouhani vowed to engage with the world. "We need to be honest, have clean hearts ... and should learn from the mistakes from the past in order to save the country," he said.

Rouhani is married with three children. A fourth child committed suicide in 1992.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was the sixth President of Iran, serving from 2005 to 2013 and succeed by Hassan Rouhani. He remains one of the most controversial international figures for his blatant denial of the Holocaust, incitement against Israel, disregard for human rights and support of the Iranian nuclear power program.

Ahmadinejad (born October 28, 1956) was born near Garmsar in the small village of Aradan in the Semnan province near Tehran. In 1976, Ahmadinejad took Iran's university entrance contests and, according to his autobiography, he placed 132nd out of 400,000 participants. He enrolled in the Iran University of Science and Technology (IUST) as an undergraduate student of civil engineering and later earned his Ph.D. in 1997 in transportation engineering from IUST.More...

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 had no formal religious education and 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.

Mohammad Khatami

Mohammad Khatami is an Iranian scholar and politician who served as the fifth President of Iran from 1997 to 2005. He was succeeded by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Khatami (born October 14, 1943) was born in the small town of Ardakan in central Iran. Khatami's father, Ruhollah, was a high-ranking cleric during the early years of the Iranian Revolution. Khatami received a B.A. in Western philosophy from Isfahan University, but left academia to complete his studies in Islamic sciences at Qom, where he stayed for seven years and completed the courses to the highest level, Ijtihad. After that, he went to Germany to chair the Islamic Centre in Hamburg from 1978 to 1980.More...

Before serving as president, Khatami had been a representative in the parliament from 1980 to 1982, supervisor of the Kayhan Institute, Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance (1982–1986), and then for a second term from 1989 to May 24, 1992 (when he resigned), the head of the National Library of Iran from 1992 to 1997, and a member of the Supreme Council of Cultural Revolution.

Running on a reform agenda, Khatami was elected president on May 23, 1997 in what many have described as a remarkable election. Voter turnout was nearly 80%. Despite limited television airtime, most of which went to conservative Speaker of Parliament and favored candidate Ali Akbar Nateq-Nouri, Khatami received 70 percent of the vote. "Even in Qom, the center of theological training in Iran and a conservative stronghold, 70% of voters cast their ballots for Khatami." He was re-elected on June 8, 2001 for a second term and stepped down on August 3, 2005 after serving his maximum two consecutive terms according to the Islamic Republic's constitution.

Khatami supporters have been described as a "coalition of strange bedfellows, including traditional leftists, ... business leaders who wanted the state to open up the economy and allow more foreign investment" and "women and younger voters." The day of his election, the 2nd of Khordad, 1376, in the Iranian calendar, is regarded as the starting date of "reforms" in Iran. His followers are therefore usually known as the "2nd of Khordad Movement".

Khatami is regarded as Iran's first reformist president, since the focus of his campaign was on the rule of law, democracy and the inclusion of all Iranians in the political decision-making process. However, his policies of reform led to repeated clashes with the hardline and conservative Islamists in the Iranian government, who control powerful governmental organizations like the Guardian Council, whose members are appointed by the Supreme Leader. Khatami lost most of those clashes, and by the end of his presidency many of his followers had grown disillusioned with him.

As President, according to the Iranian political system, Khatami was outranked by the Supreme Leader. Thus, Khatami had no legal authority over key state institutions: the armed forces, the police, the army, the revolutionary guards, the state radio and television, the prisons, etc. Khatami presented the so called "twin bills" to the parliament during his term in office, these two pieces of proposed legislation would have introduced small but key changes to the national election laws of Iran and also presented a clear definition of the president's power to prevent constitutional violations by state institutions. Khatami himself described the "twin bills" as the key to the progress of reforms in Iran. The bills were approved by the parliament but were eventually vetoed by the Guardian Council.