Ali Khamenei

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Posted by r2d2 03/17/2009 @ 06:07

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Could Ayatullah Khamenei Be Vulnerable? - TIME
15, 2009 The news that Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has ordered an investigation into charges of voter fraud in his country's presidential elections has been greeted with skepticism by many in the West. After all, it was Ayatullah Khamenei,...
Khamenei asks for election inquiry as tens of thousands march in ... - SmartBrief
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei announced there would be in inquiry into the disputed Iranian election. The decision gives hope to the supporters of moderate candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, whose supporters rallied in great numbers...
Op-Ed Columnist Iran on a Razor's Edge - New York Times
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader, said “the miraculous hand of God” was evident in the “great epic” of the election. I guess that's one way of explaining results of an implausible strangeness. Later, perhaps playing for time, Khamenei said...
Iran election Two views - Atlanta Journal Constitution
(it) wouldn't have changed one fundamental fact: Iran's policies ultimately are controlled by its supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. As America learned only too well during the l979-'80 American embassy hostage crisis, Iranian leaders such as...
With Unrest in Iran, Cyber-attacks Begin - PC World
On Monday, sites belonging to Iranian news agencies, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, were knocked off-line after activists opposed to the Iranian government posted tools designed to barrage these Web...
Other countries' elections - msnbc.com
“But since Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has already congratulated President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on his apparent reelection, some observers dismissed the investigation as an attempt to diffuse the anti-government demonstrations.” The New York Times: "The main...
Khamenei: Muslims hate US - United Press International
TEHRAN, June 4 (UPI) -- Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran, said Thursday "beautiful speeches" cannot overcome Muslims' hatred of the United States. Khamenei spoke at a ceremony in Tehran marking the 20th anniversary of Ayatollah...
Moussavi followers refuse to fade away - Financial Times
After meeting on Sunday with Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader who has backed the election results, Mr Moussavi initially called off Monday's protest fearing fresh violence – but then joined the demonstrators on the streets....
Amid unrest, Iran's supreme leader orders fraud probe - Foreign Policy
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ordered the Guardian Council to probe claims of election fraud Monday, as tens of thousands of supporters of opposition candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi took to the streets of Tehran in defiance of a ban on...
Iranian democracy - Examiner.com
At first, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei gave his blessing to the election results, but unrest in the street has caused him to call for an investigation into allegations of fraud. Even the Supreme Leader is not totally immune to anger in the...

Ali Khamenei

Ali Khamenei

Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Hoseyni Khāmene’i (help·info) (علی حسینی خامنه‌ای, pronounced born 17 July 1939) (not to be confused with Ruhollah Khomeini), also known as Ali Khamenei, is an Iranian politician and cleric. He has been Supreme Leader of Iran since 1989 and before that was president of Iran from 1981 to 1989. He has been described as one of only three people having "defining influences" on the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Born to an Iranian Azeri father and a Yazdi mother in Mashhad, Ali Khamenei began religious studies before completing elementary education.

The son of a cleric, he is second eldest of eight children, and two of his brothers are also clerics. His younger brother, Hadi Khamenei, is a notable newspaper editor and cleric.

He attended religious studies classes at the rudimentary and advanced levels in the hawza of Mashhad, under his mentors such as Haj Sheikh Hashem Qazvini, and Ayatollah Milani, and then went to Najaf in 1957. After a short stay he left Najaf to Mashhad, and in 1958 he settled in Qom. Khamenei attended the classes of Ayatollahs Husain Borujerdi and Ruhollah Khomeini. Later, he was involved in the Islamic activities of 1963 which led to his arrest in the city of Birjand, in Southern Khorasan Province. Shortly thereafter, he was released and resumed teaching in Mashhad's religious schools and mosques, teaching the Nahj al-Balagheh.

Khamenei is a fluent speaker of both Persian and Arabic. He has translated several books into Persian from Arabic, including the works of the famous Egyptian Islamist theoretician Sayyid Qutb. He is a less fluent speaker of the Azeri language, his father's mother language and has some understanding of English.

In Persian, he likes poetry. In his analysis of the Persian poetry of Allameh Muhammad Iqbal, he states that "Iqbal was not acquainted with Persian idiom, as he spoke Urdu at home and talked to his friends in Urdu or English. He did not know the rules of Persian prose writing." Nevertheless, he admires Iqbal.

Like many other politically active clerics at the time, Khamenei was far more involved with politics than religious scholarship.

Khamenei was a key figure in the Islamic revolution in Iran and a close confidant of Ayatollah Khomeini.

Khomeini appointed Khamenei to the post of Tehran's Friday Prayer Leader in the autumn of 1979, after the resignation of Grand Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri from the post. He served briefly as the Deputy Minister for Defence and as a supervisor of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards. Also he went to battlefield as a representative of defense commission of the parliament. In June 1981, Khamenei narrowly escaped an assassination attempt when a bomb, concealed in a tape recorder at a press conference, exploded beside him. He was permanently injured, losing the use of his right arm,.

In 1981, after the assassination of Mohammad Ali Rajai, Khamenei was elected President of Iran by a landslide vote in the Iranian presidential election, October 1981 and became the first cleric to serve in the office. Ayatollah Khomeini had originally wanted to keep clerics out of the presidency but later changed his views.

In his presidential inaugural address Khamenei vowed to eliminate `deviation, liberalism, and American-influenced leftists.` Vigorous opposition to the regime, including nonviolent and violent protest, assassinations, guerrilla activity and insurrections, was answered by state repression and terror in the early 1980s, both before and during Khamenei's presidency. Thousands of rank-and-file members of insurgent groups were killed, often by revolutionary courts. By 1982, the government announced that the courts would be reined in, although various political groups were repressed by the government in the first half of the decade.

Khamenei helped guide the country during the Iraq-Iran War in the 1980s, and developed close ties with the now-powerful Revolutionary Guards. As president, he had a reputation of being deeply interested in the military, budget and administrative details.

He was re-elected to a second term in 1985, capturing 85.66% of total votes.

Seyyed Ali Khamene'i was preceded by Ayatollah Khomeini, the leader of Islamic Revolution in Iran. When Khomeini died, Khamenei was elected as the new Supreme Leader by the Assembly of Experts on June 4, 1989. Initially, a council of three members, "Ali Meshkini, Mousavi Ardabili and Khamenei", was proposed for Leadership. After rejection of a Leadership Council by the assembly, and lack of votes for Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Reza Golpaygani, Khamenei became the Supreme Leader by two third of the votes.

The concept of an Islamic jurist as "guardian" or ruler of the land was developed by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in a lecture/series book. In this kind of theocratic leadership, no political decision is lawful until it is approved by the supreme leader (Vali e Faqih, ولی فقیه in Persian). Even the taking of office by the democratically elected president is subject to the approval of the Supreme Leader.

At the time of Khomeini's death Khamenei was not a marja or even an ayatollah, and the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Iran required the Supreme Leader to be a marja. However, the Ayatollah Khomeini had not been satisfied with the field of candidates to replace him and in April 1989, three months before his death, assigned a team to revise the constitution so that the Supreme Leader of Iran need only be an expert on Islamic jurisprudence and possess the "appropriate political and managerial skills". This new amendment to the constitution had not been put to a referendum yet, so upon choosing Khamenei the Assembly of Experts internally titled him a temporary office holder until the new constitution became effective. The choice of Khamenei is said to be a political one, but the "political elite" of the Islamic Republic "rallied behind Khamenei" and his status was "elevated overnight" from Hojjat ol-Islam to Ayatollah.

His status as marja is controversial. In 1994, after the death of Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Ali Araki, the Society of Seminary Teachers of Qom declared Khamenei a new marja. However, four of Iran's dissident grand ayatollahs declined to recognize Khamenei as a marja. Nevertheless, according to narjes.org a cleric only needs acceptance of a few grand ayatollahs to be recognized as marja. Khamenei refused the offer of marja'iyat for Iran, as he explained, due to other heavy responsibilities, but agreed to be the marja for the Shi'as outside of Iran. His acceptance of marja'iyat for Shi'as outside Iran does not have traditional precedence in Shi'ism. Marja'iyat can be, and in modern times it increasingly is, transitional.

Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Shirazi, who was under house-arrest at the time for his opposition to Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, did not accept Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as a marja. According to "Human Rights in Iran" (2001) by Pace University's Reza Afshari, Shirazi was "indignant" over recognition of Khamenei as the Supreme Leader and a marja. Shirazi (who died in late 2001) apparently favored a committee of Grand Ayatollahs to lead the country. Other marjas who questioned the legitimacy of Khamenei's marja'yat were dissident clerics: Grand Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri, Grand Ayatollah Hassan Tabatabai-Qomi and Grand Ayatollah Yasubedin Rastegari.

In his speeches Khamenei consistently dwells on familiar themes of the 1979 revolution: the importance of justice, independence, self-sufficiency, and Islam; the need for resolute opposition to Israel and United States. Dealing with the presidents who have served during his reign, Khamenei has successfully scuttled President Rafansjani's attempts to find a modus vivendi with the United States, President Khatami's aspirations for a more democratic Islamic state, and President Ahmadinejad's desire for confrontation.

Khamenei is widely regarded by some as the figurehead of the country's conservative establishment.

Ali Khamenei has been supportive of scientific progress in Iran. He was among the first Islamic clerics to allow stem cell research and therapeutic cloning. In 2004, Khamenei said that the country's progress is dependent on investment in the field of science and technology. He also said that attaching a high status to scholars and scientists in society would help talents to flourish and science and technology to become domesticated, thus ensuring the country's progress and development.

In 2007, Khamenei requested that government officials speed up Iran's move towards economic privatization. Its last move towards such a goal was in 2004, when Article 44 of the constitution was overturned. Article 44 had decreed that Iran's core infrastructure should remain state-run. Khamenei also suggested that ownership rights should be protected in courts set up by the Justice Ministry; the hope was that this new protection would give a measure of security to and encourage private investment.

In April 30 2008, Ali Khamenei backed President Ahmadinejad’s economic policy and said the West was struggling with more economic difficulties than Iran, with a "crisis" spreading from the United States to Europe, and inflation was a widespread problem. Iranian leader said that the ongoing economic crisis which has crippled the world has been unprecedented in the past 60 years. “This crisis has forced the UN to declare state of emergency for food shortages around the globe but foreign radios have focused on Iran to imply that the current price hikes and inflation in the country are the results of carelessness on the part of Iranian officials which of course is not true”, he said. Khamenei emphasized that no one has the right to blame Iranian government for Iran’s economic problems. He also advised people and the government to be content and avoid waste in order to solve economic problems. “I advise you to keep in your mind that this great nation is never afraid of economic sanctions”, he added.

In 2000, Ali Khamenei sent a letter to the Iranian parliament forbidding the legislature from debating a revision of the Iranian press law. He wrote: "The present press law has succeeded to a point in preventing this big plague. The draft bill is not legitimate and in the interests of the system and the revolution." His use of "extra-legislative power" has been criticized widely by reformists and opposition groups. In reaction to the letter, some Parliament members voiced outrage and threatened to resign. Kayhan and Jomhuri-ye Eslami are two newspapers published under the management of Khamenei.

In late 1996, following a fatwa by Khamenei stating that music education corrupts the minds of young children, many music schools were closed and music instruction to children under the age of 16 was banned by public establishments (although private instruction continued). Khamenei stated: "The promotion of music in schools is contrary to the goals and teachings of Islam, regardless of age and level of study".

In July 2007, Khamenei criticized Iranian women's rights activists and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW): "In our country ... some activist women, and some men, have been trying to play with Islamic rules in order to match international conventions related to women," Khamenei said. "This is wrong." However, he is positive on reinterpreting Islamic law in a way that it is more favorable to women - but not by following Western conventions. Khamenei made these comments two days after Iranian women's rights activist Delaram Ali was sentenced to 34 months of jail and 10 lashes by Iran's judiciary. Iran's judiciary works under the auspices of the supreme leader and is independent from the government.

With regard to women's dress, Khamenei believes in the need for compulsory hijab.

Khamenei claims that "Today, homosexuality is a major problem in the western world. They however ignore it. But the reality is that homosexuality has become a serious challenge, pain and unsolvable problem for the intellectuals in the west." Khamenei did not name these western intellectuals.

In 2007, Iranian police which acts under the control of Supreme leader, launched a "Public Security Plan": The police arrested dozens of "thugs" to increase public security. The arrested "thugs" are sometimes beaten on camera in front of neighborhood inhabitants, or forced to wear hanging watering cans used for lavatory ablutions around their necks. During the first three months of the campaign against women not adhering fully to the strict Islamic dress code, in Tehran alone 62,785 women were stopped by police, and of these 1,837 were arrested. In the first three months, police arrested in the capital more than 8,000 young "criminals" who have offended public morals.

The Islamic Republic has not yet allowed a single Sunni mosque to be built in Tehran; although President Mohammad Khatami promised during election time to build a Sunni mosque in Tehran. After he won the elections, he was reminded of his promise but he said that the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had not agreed to the proposal.

In February 2004 Parliament elections, the Council of Guardians, a council of twelve members, half of whom are appointed by Khamenei, disqualified thousands of candidates, including many of the reformist members of the parliament and all the candidates of the Islamic Iran Participation Front party from running. It did not allow 80 members of the 6th Iranian parliament (including the deputy speaker) to run in the election. The conservatives won about 70% of the seats. The parliamentary election held on February 20, 2004 in Iran was a key turning point in that country's political evolution. The election marked the conclusive end of the campaign for political and social reform initiated by Mohammad Khatami after he was elected president in a landslide vote in May 1997.

During the 2005 presidential election, Khamenei's comments about importance of fighting corruption, being faithful to the ideals of the Islamic revolution, as well as on the superior intelligence and dynamism of those who studied engineering, were interpreted by some as a subtle endorsement of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (who had a Ph.D. in traffic engineering). After the election and until recently Khamenei was outspoken in his support for Ahmadinejad, and "defended him publicly in ways which he never" had reformist president Khatami.

Khamenei has called human rights wrongly a fundamental principle underlying Islamic teachings, that precedes western concern for human rights by many centuries. Human Rights in Islam include the rights to live, to be free, and to benefit from justice and welfare. He has attacked Western powers who have criticized the rights record of the Islamic Republic for hypocrisy by economically oppressing people in Third World countries and supporting despots and dictators.

However under Khamenei's interpretation this does not extend to religious rights for Bahá'ís. Khamenei supported persecution of Bahá'ís and signed documents recommending several organized methods of oppression and ways of decreasing the influence of Bahá'ís in Iran and abroad. According to a letter from the Chairman of the Command Headquarters of the Armed Forces in Iran addressed to the Ministry of Information, the Revolutionary Guard and the Police Force, Khamenei has also ordered the Command Headquarters to identify people who adhere to the Bahá'í Faith and to monitor their activities and gather any and all information about the members of the Bahá'í Faith.

In response to Western complaints of human rights abuses in Iran he has stated that the American administration has committed many crimes and is therefore not fit to judge the Islamic Republic.

In a visit with hardline cleric Mohammad Taghi Mesbah Yazdi, Khamenei praised Mesbah’s books and thoughts as being original, very useful, solid and correct. He also stated that the Islamic world needs these ideas today more than any time in the past. Mesbah Yazdi advocates a return to the values of the 1979 Iranian revolution and is a prominent opponent of the Reformist movement in Iran.

Khamenei's foreign policy is said to steer a course that avoids either confrontation or accommodation with the West.

During 1980-90, Khamenei's administration faced the brunt of the first-generation US economic sanctions. He failed to arrest the Iranian Rial plunging in value from 70 to 415 to the US Dollar effectively evaporating the foreign exchange reserves of the government.

On June 4, 2006, Khamenei said that Iran would disrupt energy shipments from the Persian Gulf region (about 20% of the world's daily supply of oil passes from the Persian Gulf through the Strait of Hormuz very close to Iran's coast) should the country come under attack from the US, insisting that Tehran will not give up its right to produce nuclear fuel.

On September 14, 2007, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (on 1st Friday prayer of Ramadan) predicted that George Bush and American officials will one day be tried in an international criminal court to be held "accountable" for the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. He has also blamed the United States for "blind terrorism" after its invasion of Iraq. He asserts that the United States is the main cause of insecurity in Iraq.

After the September 11, 2001 attacks, Khamenei condemned the act and the attackers and called for a condemnation of terrorist activities all over the world, but warned strongly against a military assault on the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. He is quoted as saying, "Mass killings of human beings are catastrophic acts which are condemned wherever they may happen and whoever the perpetrators and the victims may be".

According to anti-regime change activist Abbas Edalat, in 2005 Khamenei responded to President Ahmadinejad's alleged remark that Israel should be "wiped off the map" by saying that "the Islamic Republic has never threatened and will never threaten any country." Moreover Khamenei's main advisor in foreign policy, Ali Akbar Velayati, refused to take part in a Holocaust conference. In contrast to Ahmadinejad's remarks, Velayati said that the Holocaust was a genocide and a historical reality.

In a sermon for Friday prayers in Tehran on 19 September 2008, Khamenei stated that "it is incorrect, irrational, pointless and nonsense to say that we are friends of Israeli people," and that he had raised the issue "to spell an end to any debates". The remarks were made in reference to earlier comments by Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, a vice president in charge of tourism, and president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who had both insisted that Iran was the enemy of the Zionist state but not of the Israeli people.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has issued a fatwa saying the production, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons was forbidden under Islam (although it is not;There are orders which confirms Muslims should have the most advanced weapons, and can hide it with the help of Taqia, an islamic right which allows Shia's to hide the secrets from enemies). The fatwa was cited in an official statement by the Iranian government at an August 2005 meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna. However, powers such as the United States and Israel hold the suspicion that Iran is attempting to create a nuclear weapon. Iran has repeatedly denied this claim, and states that her nuclear program is for creating energy for civilians.

3 Iranian-Kurdish opposition leaders and their interpreter were assassinated in the Mykonos restaurant in Berlin on 17 September 1992. On 10 April 1997 Berlin's highest criminal court issued an international arrest warrant for the Iranian intelligence minister for ordering the assassination and implied Khamenei was one of the masterminds behind the attack.

Khamenei has six children. According to Gholam Ali Haddad-Adel he leads a modest lifestyle.

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History of fundamentalist Islam in Iran

Upon the emergence of Cinema in Iran a century ago, Sheikh Fazlollah Nouri declared watching films an unpardonable sin and very few pious souls dared go to the movies.[41] Nouri was a senior cleric who was later hanged for siding with the absolutist monarchy.[42] Today Ali Khamenei is against both Iranian and Western music.[43]

The history of fundamentalist Islam in Iran (or History of Principle-ism) covers the history of Islamic revivalism and the rise of political Islam in modern Iran. Today, there are basically three types of Islam in Iran: traditionalism, modernism, and a variety of forms of revivalism usually brought together as fundamentalism. Neo-fundamentalists in Iran are a subgroup of fundamentalists who have also borrowed from Western countercurrents of populism, fascism, anarchism, Jacobism, and Marxism.

The Islamist version of political Islam ("neo-fundamentalism" in this article) emerged in response to the perceived shortcomings of fundamentalism. The Islamists, with their cosmopolitan backgrounds, introduced various tools they had borrowed from the West into their organizational arsenal. Ideologically, they drew on antimodernist philosophies that embodied Western dissatisfaction with the consequences of industrialization and positivism.

Iranian fundamentalists and conservatives, commonly describe themselves as "principalist" (also spelled principle-ist); that is, acting politically based on Islamic and revolutionary principles.

Traditionists who account for the majority of clerics keep themselves away from modernity and neither accept nor criticize it. Traditionalists believe in eternal wisdom and are critics of humanism and modernity. Traditionalists believe in a sort of religious pluralism which makes them different from Fundamentalists. Fundamentalists are also against modernity. Contrary to traditionists, fundamentalists openly criticize modernity. Moreover fundamentalists believe that for reviving the religion in the modern era and for opposing modernity, they need to gain social and political power. This makes fundamentalists different from traditionists and traditionalists who are not interested in gaining political power.

As an example of different views on fundamentalism, one can refer to Ruhollah Khomeini who is considered as populist, fundamentalist and reformer by various observers. In July 2007 Iranian reformist president Mohammad Khatami said that Ruhollah Khomeini was the leading "reformist" of our time.

The birth of fundamentalist Islam in Iran is attributed to the early 20th century, almost a century after secular humanism and its associated art and science entered Iran. Sheikh Fazlollah Nouri and Navvab Safavi were among the pioneers of religious fundamentalism in Iran and today serve as the Islamic Republic’s foremost heroes and role models.

Iran was the first country in the post-World War II era in which political Islam was the rallying cry for a successful revolution, followed by the new state formally adopting political Islam as its ruling ideology. The grand alliance that led to the 1979 revolution abandoned the traditional clerical quietism, adopting a diverse ideological interpretation of Islam. The first three Islamic discourses were Khomeinism, Ali Shariati’s Islamic-left ideology, and Mehdi Bazargan’s liberal-democratic Islam. The fourth discourse was the socialist guerrilla groups of Islamic and secular variants, and the fifth was secular constitutionalism in socialist and nationalist forms.

While some researchers refute explanations of "Islamic fundamentalism" as an anti-imperialist political force directed against Western dominance in the Islamic world, others, such as Moaddel, argue that Islam has been politicized only during the second half of the twentieth century as a discourse of opposition, not to Western domination in the state system, but to the ideas, practices, and arbitrary political interventions of a westernizing secularist political elite. This elite has established ideologically uniform, repressive states which have imposed a Western model and outlook in Muslim societies by coercive means. Islamic fundamentalism thus emerged as a competing narrative contending for state power against a secularist discourse. Its goal was to seize state power through an Islamization of all aspects of life in a Muslim society.

In January 2007, a new parliamentary faction announced its formation. The former Osulgarayan ("fundamentalist") faction divided into two due to "lack of consensus" on Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's policies. The new faction was named "Faction of creative fundamentalists" which is said to be critical of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's neo-fundamentalist policies and to reject conservatism on such matters related to the government. The main leaders of the faction are Emad Afroogh, Mohammad Khoshchehreh, Saeed Aboutaleb and MP Sobhani.

There is a lot that is unique about Iranian fundamentalism but it nonetheless must be seen as one of the Abrahamic revivalisms of the twentieth century. As in the course of the Persian Constitutional Revolution nearly a century earlier, the concept of justice was at the center of the ideological debates among the followers of the three Islamic orientations during and after the revolution. The conservatives (fundamentalists) adhered to the traditional notion of Islamic justice, one which, much like the Aristotelian idea of justice, states that "equals should be treated alike, but unequals proportionately to their relevant differences, and all with impartiality." The radicals (neo-fundamentalists), on the other hand, gave a messianic interpretation to the concept, one that promised equal distribution of societal resources to all—including the "unequals." And finally, those with a liberal orientation to Islam understood the notion of justice in terms of the French revolutionary slogan of egalité, i.e., the equality of all before the law.

While the fundamentalists (conservatives) were generally suspicious of modern ideas and resistant to modern lifestyles at the time of the Iranian revolution, the Islamic radicals (neo-fundamentalists) were receptive to many aspects of modernity and willing to collaborate with secular intellectuals and political activists.

Many of the so-called neo-fundamentalists, like Christian fundamentalists, pull out a verse from the scriptures and give it a meaning quite contrary to its traditional commentary. Also, even while denouncing modernism as the "Great Satan", many fundamentalists accept its foundations, especially science and technology. For traditionalists, there is beauty in nature which must be preserved and beauty in every aspect of traditional life, from chanting the Qur'an to the artisan's fashioning a bowl or everyday pot. Many fundamentalists even seek a Qur'anic basis for modern man's domination and destruction of nature by referring to the injunction to 'dominate the earth' -- misconstruing entirely the basic idea of vicegerency: that man is expected to be the perfect servant of God. An example of an environmental problem is the overpopulation of the earth. The Neo-fundamentalists's family policy is to increase the population dramatically. Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's call for increasing Iran's population from 70 to 120 millions can be understood in the same line.

A major difference between fundamentalism in Iran and main stream Islamic fundamentalism is that the former has nothing to do with Salafism. According to Gary Legenhausen: "The term Islamic Fundamentalism is one that has been invented by Western journalists by analogy with Christian Fundamentalism. It is not a very apt term, but it has gained currency. In the Sunni world it is used for groups descended from the Salafiyyah movement, such as the Muslim Brotherhood." It is worth noting that the concept of "Salaf" (السلف) does not exist in Shia theology in contrast to Sunni Islam as well as Christianity (a similar concept referred to as "original Christianity"). Political Islam consists of a broad array of mass movements in the Muslim world, which share a conviction that political power is an essential instrument for constructing a God-fearing society. They believe that Muslims can fulfill their religious obligations only when public law sanctions and encourages pious behavior. To this end, the majority of these movements work to take control of state power, whether by propaganda, plebiscite, or putsch.

A look through several generations of clerics in seminaries shows significant differences in viewpoints and practical approaches. When young Ruhollah Khomeini urged his mentor Ayatullah Husain Borujerdi, to oppose the Shah more openly. Broujerdi rejected his idea. He believed in the "separation" of religion from politics, even though he was Khomeini's senior in rank. However just before his death Hossein Boroujerdi (d. 1961), expressed his opposition to the Shah’s plans for land reform and women’s enfranchisement. He also issued a fatwa for killing Ahmad Kasravi. Khomeini remained silent till his seniors Ayatollah Haeri or Ayatolla Boroujerdi's, were alive. Then he was promoted to the status of a Grand marja and started his activism and established his Islamic Republic eventually. Among Khomeini's students, there were notable clerics whose ideas were not compatible with their mentor. As examples of the prototypes of his students one can mention Morteza Motahhari, Mohammad Beheshti and Mohammad Taghi Mesbah Yazdi. Criticizing Mesbah Yazdi and Haghani school Beheshti said: "Controversial and provocative positions that are coupled with violence, in my opinion...will have the reverse effect. Such positions remind many individuals of the wielding of threats of excommunication that you have read about in history concerning the age of the Inquisition, the ideas of the Church, and the Middle Ages". Morteza Motahhari, the most notable student of Khomeini, was widely known as the main theoretician of Iranian revolution (next to Ali Shariati). While Mesbah Yazdi was an advocate of expelling secular University lecturers, Motahhari insisted that the philosophy of marxism or liberalism must be taught by a marxist and liberal respectively. Both Motahhari and Beheshti were assassinated by terrorist groups early after the revolution. Motahhari also introduced the concept of "dynamism of Islam".

After the triumph of the revolution in February 1979, and the subsequent liquidation of the liberal and secular-leftist groups, two principal ideological camps became dominant in Iranian politics, the "conservatives" (fundamentalists) and the "radicals" (neo-fundamentalists). The radicals' following of Khomeini of the revolution rather than his incumbency of the office of the Supreme Jurist (Vali-eFaqih) or his theocratic vision of the "Islamic Government." Today, Mohammad Taqi Mesbah Yazdi clearly rejects Khomeini's "Islamic Republic" and supports the idea of "Islamic government" where the votes of people has no value.

In contrast to neo-fundamentalists, fundamentalists accepts the ideas of democracy and UDHR. During his life time, Ayatollah Khomeini expressed support for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; in Sahifeh Nour (Vol.2 Page 242), he states: "We would like to act according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We would like to be free. We would like independence." However, Iran adopted an "alternative" human rights declaration, the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam, in 1990 (one year after Khomeini's death).

Fabrication of fake history and use of propaganda is common among neo-fundamentalist circles. A good example is spread of superstitions over and fabricating a fake history for Jamkaran mosque, a small ordinary mosque suddenly turned out to be the holiest place in Shia Islam. The issue has been harshly criticized even by conservative circles. Some of Iran's ayatollahs say the legend of Jamkaran is superstition. During Khatami's presidency, Mohammad Taghi Mesbah Yazdi claimed that an unnamed former CIA chief had visited Iran with a suitcase stuffed with dollars to pay opinion-formers. "What is dangerous is that agents of the enemy, the CIA, have infiltrated the government and the cultural services," he was quoted as saying. On top of its official budget for Iran, the CIA had given "hundreds of millions de dollars to our cultural officials and journalists," he added. "The former head of the CIA recently came here as a tourist with a suitcase full of dollars for our cultural centres and certain newspapers. He made contact with various newspaper chiefs and gave them dollars." Nasser Pourpirar for instance believes that a significant portion of Iranian history are baseless fabrications by Jewish orientalists and Zionists. The whole existence of Pre-Islamic Iran is no more than a Jewish conspiracy and the most important key for analyzing today’s world events is the analysis of ancient "Jewish genocide of Purim." Another neoconservative theorist, Mohammad Ali Ramin believes that contemporary western history (e.g. Holocaust) are all fabrications by Jews. He also claimed that Adolf Hitler was a Jew himself. M.A. Ramin, Hassan Abbasi, Abbas Salimi Namin, Hasan Bolkhari and others have been giving speeches about Jewish conspiracy theory, Iranian and western history intensively all over the country since the establishment of Ahmadinejad government in 2005. Currently, Abadgaran described itself as a group of Islamic neo-fundamentalist, have the control over current Iranian government. However it lost the 2006 city council election.

The problem with identity is at the heart of fundamentalism, no matter it is Islamic, Jewish or Christian. If people's religious identity becomes more prominent than the national identity, fundamentalism will rise. In other words, fundamentalism can be seen as "identity-ism." Many of the religious remarks that are made in Iran, especially from official platforms, basically rest on identity-oriented thinking and the inculcation of an identity known as a religious identity.

Under Ahmadinejad, neo-conservative forces are determined to make the Islamic Republic more Islamic than republican. Whether they will succeed is another matter. Power in Iran is a complicated matter, and various factions exist even among conservatives, who run the gamut from hard-liners to pragmatists. Some among Iran’s leadership would accept accommodation with the West in exchange for economic and strategic concessions, while others are content to accept isolation from the West. Others favor a "Chinese model," which in Iran would mean opening the economy to international investment while maintaining the clergy’s dominance. It is these complex internal forces that will decide the future of Iranian politics.

Fadayan-e Islam was founded in 1946 as an Islamic fundamentalist organization. The founder of the group was Navab Safavi, a neo-fundamentalist cleric. The group's aim was to transform Iran into an "Islamic state." To achieve their objective, the group committed numerous terrorist acts. Notable among these was the 1946 assassination of Ahmad Kasravi, an intellectual who had criticized the mullahs (Shia Islamic clergy). The group also assassinated two prime ministers (Ali Razmara and Hassan Ali Mansour, 1951 and 1965) and an ex-prime minister (Hazhir, 1949).

The MEK philosophy mixes Marxism and Islam. Formed in the 1960s, the organization was an attempt in bridging Islam and Marxism to offer a revolutionary brand of Islam. It was expelled from Iran after the Iranian Revolution in 1979, and its primary support came from the former Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein starting in the late 1980s. The MEK conducted anti-Western attacks prior to the Revolution. Since then, it has conducted terrorist attacks against the interests of the clerical regime in Iran and abroad. The MEK advocates the overthrow of the Iranian regime and its replacement with the group’s own leadership.

During the 1970s, the MEK killed US military personnel and US civilians working on defense projects in Tehran and supported the takeover in 1979 of the US Embassy in Tehran. In 1981, the MEK detonated bombs in the head office of the Islamic Republic Party and the Premier’s office, killing some 70 high-ranking Iranian officials, including Chief Justice Mohammad Beheshti, President Mohammad-Ali Rajai, and Premier Mohammad-Javad Bahonar. Near the end of the 1980-1988 war with Iran, Baghdad armed the MEK with military equipment and sent it into action against Iranian forces. In 1991, the MEK assisted the Government of Iraq in suppressing the Shia and Kurdish uprisings in southern Iraq and the Kurdish uprisings in the north.

In April 1992, the MEK conducted near-simultaneous attacks on Iranian embassies and installations in 13 countries, demonstrating the group’s ability to mount large-scale operations overseas. MKO is recognized as a terrorist group by both US and EU. The MKO maintains fascistic behaviour with all those who do not share its views and positions and routinely attacks Iranian intellectuals and journalists abroad. For instance, MEK agents attacked Iranian journalist Alireza Nourizadeh and injured him seriously.

Haghani Circle is a neo-fundamentalist school of thought in Iran founded by a group of clerics based in the holy city of Qom and headed by Ayatollah Mohammad Taghi Mesbah Yazdi, an influential cleric and theologian.

The school trains clerics with both a traditional and modern curriculum, including a secular education in science, medicine, politics, and Western/non-Islamic philosophy (the topics that are not taught in traditional schools). It was founded by Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi, Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, Ayatollah Dr. Beheshti and Ayatollah Sadoughi.

Many famous theologians and influential figures in Iran's politics after the revolution were associated (as teacher or student) with the Haghani Circle or follows its ideology.

The association is composed of right wing conservative elements of Iran’s political culture, including the nation’s foremost politicized clerics, the Friday prayer leaders in most of Iran’s metropolitan areas, the bazaar merchants, and the Supreme Leader. Not surprisingly, members of this faction support a continuation of the status quo, including strict limits on personal freedoms and the continued primacy of the clergy in the nation’s day-to-day governance. Important constituents of the Militant Clergy Society include the Islamic Coalition Society and the Coalition of Followers of the Line of the Imam.

The Combatant Clergy Association was the majority party in the 4th and 5th parliaments after the Iranian revolution. It was founded in 1977 by a group of clerics with intentions to use cultural approach to overthrow the Shah. Its founding members were Ali Khamenei, Motahhari, Beheshti, Bahonar, Rafsanjani and Mohammad Mofatteh and its current members include Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Ahmad Jannati, Mahdavi Kani, Reza Akrami and Hassan Rohani.

As the foremost advocates of the Iranian status quo that has left millions disenfranchised, the Militant Clergy Society is exceedingly unpopular among rank-and-file Iranians.

Ansar-e-Hezbollah is a militant neo-fundamentalist group in Iran. Mojtaba Bigdeli is a spokesman for the Iranian Hezbollah. Human Rights Watch strongly condemned the brutal assault on students at Tehran University halls of residence in the early hours of Friday July 9, 1999 by members of the Ansar-e Hezbollah.

Basij is a military fundamentalist network established after the Iranian revolution. In July 1999, Ezzat Ebrahim-Nejad was shot dead in Tehran University dormitory by a member of Basij military force. The event initiated a huge demonstration. In 2001, a member of the Basij, Saeed Asgar attempted to assassinate Saeed Hajjarian a leading reformist and political advisor to reformist Iranian President Mohammad Khatami. Asagar was arrested and sentenced to spend 15 years in jail, but was released after spending only a short term in prison. Human Rights Watch informs that the Basij belong to the "Parallel institutions" (nahad-e movazi), "the quasi-official organs of repression that have become increasingly open in crushing student protests, detaining activists, writers, and journalists in secret prisons, and threatening pro-democracy speakers and audiences at public events." Under the control of the Office of the Supreme Leader these groups set up arbitrary checkpoints around Tehran, uniformed police often refraining from directly confronting these plainclothes agents. "Illegal prisons, which are outside of the oversight of the National Prisons Office, are sites where political prisoners are abused, intimidated, and tortured with impunity." On March 8 2004 the Basij issued a violent crackdown on the activists celebrating the International Women's Day in Tehran. On 13 November 2006, Tohid Ghaffarzadeh, a student at Sabzevar University was murdered by a Basij member at the University. The murderer reportedly said that what he did was according to his religious beliefs. Tohid Ghaffarzadeh was talking to his girlfriend when he was approached and stabbed with a knife by the Basij member.

Basij has also become active in such nonmilitary projects as nationwide polio vaccination of children and the distribution of millions of oral polio vaccine drops throughout the country. Basij contributed a great deal to the success of two health programs implemented in Iran, particularly the nationwide polio and measles vaccination schemes.

Since the election of pro-reform president Mohammad Khatami in 1997, there have been two basic approaches, two outlooks, toward the achievement of reform in Iran: "Reformists" within the regime (in-system reformers) essentially believe that the Constitution has the capacity—indeed, the positive potential—to lead the "Revolutionary" government of Iran toward "democracy." By contrast, secularists, who remain outside the regime, basically think that the Constitution contains impediments profound enough to block meaningful reform.

On the other hand, fundamentalists and in-system reformers on one side and neo-fundamentalists on the other side are struggling over "Khomeini’s Islamic Republic" versus "Mesbah’s Islamic administration." Mohammad Taghi Mesbah Yazdi and Ansar-e-Hezbollah call for a change in the Iranian constitution from a republic to an Islamic administration. They believe the institutions of the Islamic Republic, such as the Majlis (Iran's Parliament), are contradictory to Islamic government which is completely centered around Velayat-e Faqih and total obedience to him.

Ali Khamenei, himself, has remained silent on the issue of whether Iran should have an Islamic Republic or an Islamic Administration. However, he clearly rejected the supervision of Assembly of Experts on the institutions that are governed directly under his responsibility (e.g. Military forces, Judiciary system and IRIB).

Neo-fundamentalists believe that the supreme leader is holy and infallible and the role of people and elections are merely to discover the leader. However, the legitimacy of the leader comes from God and not the people. In January 2007, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani who won the 2006 election for Assembly of Experts, clearly rejected this idea and emphasized on the fact that the leader and the cleric members of the Assembly of Experts may make wrong decisions and the legitimacy of the leader comes from the people not the God.

Beyond these theoretical debates, elements of the "Islamic Administration" are (in practice) slowly replacing those of the "Islamic Republic".

Upon establishment of Islamic Republic, the two factions (conservatives and radicals) differed on foreign policy and cultural issues. The radicals (neo-cons) adamantly opposed any rapprochement with the United States and, to a lesser extent, other Western countries, while seeking to expand Iran’s relations with the socialist bloc countries. They advocated active support for Islamic and liberation movements , so called "export of the revolution," throughout the world. The conservatives favored a more cautious approach to foreign policy, with the ultimate aim of normalizing Iran’s economic relations with the rest of the world, so long as the West’s political and cultural influence on the country could be curbed.

According to Iranian scholar Ehsan Naraghi, anti-western attitude among Iranian Islamists, has its root in marxism and communism rather than Iranian Islam. Iran and the west have had a good relation with mutual respects since Safavid era. However by emergence of communism in Iran, anti-western attitudes was taken by some extremists. As Naraqi states, anti-western attitude in other parts of the Muslim word has a different root than the one in Iran does.

The end of the Iran–Iraq War in 1988, the death of Ayatollah Khomeini, pragmatists (under the leadership of Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani) normalization of Iran’s relations with other countries, particularly those in the region, by playing down the once-popular adventurist fantasy of "exporting the Islamic revolution" to other Muslim lands. After the victory of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2005 elections and defeat of pragmatists and reformists (under the leadership of Mohammad Khatami), neoconservative who gained full control of both parliament and government for the first time after Iranian revolution, again recalled the idea of exporting the revolution after years of silence.

After the Iranian Revolution, the new Islamic Republic of Iran has pursued an Islamic ideologic foreign policy that had included creation of Hezbollah, subsidies to Hamas, opposition to Israel and Zionist leaders, and aid to Iraq's Shiite political parties. Hamas leaders verified in 2008 that since Israel pulled out of the Gaza strip in 2005 they have sent their fighters to Iran to train in field tactics and weapons technology. In an interview in 2007, Hezbollah Deputy Secretary-General Naim Kassem told the Iranian Arabic-language TV station al-Qawthar that all military actions in Lebanon must be approved by the authorities in Tehran; in 2008 Iran issued a stamp commemorating a recently-killed Hezbollah leader.

Fundamentalism and political realism are diplomatically incompatible. It is believed that the most evident characteristic of diplomacy is flexibility. The reason Iran’s diplomacy has encountered many shortcomings and lost numerous opportunities provided by international or regional political developments is the country’s focus on fundamental values and neglect of national interests. Fundamentalism is always accompanied with idealism while diplomacy always emphasizes realities. Therefore, the model of realistic fundamentalism will not work in the diplomatic arena.

Muslim thinkers in the world generally believe in a sort of "religious internationalism." Even religious modernists in Iran have still some inclinations towards religious internationalism and the concept of nation-state is not firmly established in their mind. These kinds of beliefs mainly rooted in traditional thinking rather that postmodernism. There are however, some religious intellectuals like Ahmad Zeidabadi who are against religious internationalism.

Also Maryam Rajavi, the leader of an Islamist-Marxist group, has been invited several times by EU parliament members to address the assembly. In 2004 Alejo Vidal Quadras, European Parliament’s first Vice President, met Maryam Rajavi whose group is listed as a terrorist group by EU and USA.

One of the main clarion calls raised within the geography of events known as the Cultural Revolution was the call for seminary-university unity. The original idea was a reconciliation between science and religion. In other words the meaning of seminary-university unity was a resolution of the historical battle between science and religion. Resolving this battle is a scholarly endeavour, not a political and practical one. However after the revolution, since clerics came to rule over the country, the idea of seminary-university unity, which meant understanding between seminary teachers and academics, gradually turned into submission by academics to clerics and seminary teachers, and it lost its logical and scholarly meaning and took on a political and practical sense. Appointment of Abbasali Amid Zanjani as the only cleric president of University of Tehran in 27 December 2005 can be understood in the same line. Tehran University is the symbol of higher education in Iran. Abbasali Amid Zanjani hold no academic degree and was appointed by Mohammad Mehdi Zahedi, the minister of Science, Research, and Technology in Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's cabinet.

In 2007, Mohammad Taghi Mesbah Yazdi, a well-known cleric, attacked the University people calling them the most indecent people. In April 2008, four leading clerics namely Abdollah Javadi Amoli, Ebrahim Amini , Mohammad Taghi Mesbah Yazdi and Mohammed Emami-Kashani criticized Iranian Universities, University students and Iranian Higher education system as being secular, non-Islamic, indecent and cheap.

Both Iranian fundamentalism and neo fundamentaslism are associated with their own art, cinema and literature. In cinema, the first attempts were perhaps made by Masoud Dehnamaki. Dehnamaki, a famous neo-fundamentalist, made his first documentary film "Poverty and Prostitution" in 2002. His next documentary was "Which Blue, Which Red," which is about the rivalry between the Iranian capital’s two football teams, Esteqlal and Persepolis, and their fans. He is now making his debut feature-length film "The Outcasts". Iranian journalist turned documentary filmmaker Masud Dehnamaki, was formerly the managing director and chief editor of the weeklies "Shalamcheh" and "Jebheh," which were closed by Tehran’s conservative Press Court. These journals were among main neo-fundamentalist publications. The rightist newsweekly "Shalamcheh" under the editorship of Masoud Dehnamaki, one of the strongest opponents of President Khatami and his policies, has been closed down by the press supervisory board of the Ministry of culture and Islamic guidance, presumably for insulting or criticizing the late Grand Ayatollah Kho'i, who had called the "velayat-e faqih" position unislamic, prior to his passing away.

Perhaps the most influential neo-conservative newspaper during 1990s and 2000s was Kayhan daily. Hossein Shariatmadari and Hossein Saffar Harandi (later become a minister of culture) were main editor and responsible chief of the newspaper. In 2006, British ambassador to Tehran, met Hossein Shariatmadari and acknowledged the role of Kayhan in Iran and the region.

To promote art and literature, Islamic Development Organization was founded by Ayatollah Khomeini. In 1991, Ali Khamenei revised the organization's structure and plans. The plan is to promote religious and moral ideas through art and literature. According Minister of Culture, Hossein Saffar Harandi, the funds for Qur'anic activities will increase by fourfold in the year 2007. "All of the ninth governments' cultural and artistic activities should conform to the holy book," he declared.

While promoting their own art and literature, fundamentalists are against the development of art and literature that has no "valuable content." In late 1996, following a fatwa by Ali Khamenei stating that music education corrupts the minds of young children, many music schools were closed and music instruction to children under the age of 16 was banned by public establishments (although private instruction continued). Khamenei and his followers believe that "Nihilism and Beatle-ism" have ravaged Western youth. According to the renowned novelist and the first president of Iranian Association of Writers after the revolution, Simin Daneshvar, Islamic Republic has been generally hostile toward Iranian writers and intellectuals. This is contrary to the attitude of Pahlavi regime, Daneshvar added in an interview with Etemaad Daily in 2007.

In 2007, Javad Shamghadri, artistic advisor to president Ahmadinejad publicly stated that: "Like many other countries in the world, Iran too can get along without a film industry." "Only 20 percent of people go to the cinema and their needs can be provided through the national radio and television network," he added.

In the early times of 1979 revolution Ayatollah Khomeini declared that what mattered was Islam and not the economy. In one of his comments, he dismissed the concerns of his first prime minister, Mehdi Bazargan, about the economy by simply noting that "Economics is for donkeys!" However Khomeini in many occasions advised his followers about justice and giving priority to the rights of the deprived and the oppressed members of the community.

Factional conflict dominated Iranian economic politics under the Ayatollah Khomeini from 1979 to 1989. The two principal factions were a statist-reformist group that favored state control of the economy and a conservative group that favored the private sector. Both factions claimed Khomeini's support, but by 1987, he clearly had sided with the statist-reformists because he believed state capitalism to be the best way of heading off any threat to Islam. Khomeini's death on Jun 3, 1989 left the factions without their source of legitimation.

Mehdi Bazargan, the first Prime minister of Islamic Republic, once said: "Imam wants Iran for Islam and we want Islam for Iran." Due to the commitment to Pan-Islamism inherent in Iranian Islamic revolutionary ideology, the Islamic Republic's attitude toward Sunni Islam is positive.

At the beginning of the Islamic Revolution, one of the most-notorious clerics in Iran, Sadeq Khalkhali known as the hanging judge, who was renowned for his brutality and mass executions in post-revolutionary Iran, tried to destroy 2500-year-old Persepolis, and after that the mausoleum of Ferdowsi. He was stopped by the efforts of the locals.

Iranian government in several occasions constructed dams and rail roads in the vicinity of ancient archeological sites that date back to pre-Islamic era. In January 2007, the Minister of Energy, Parviz Fattah directly ordered the opening of the Sivand Dam. Referring to the critics, he said: "I will make a museum next to the dam with my own money!" Sivand dam project has been one of the most condemned projects in post-revolution Iran due to its potential to destroy Iranian archaeological sites. Some Iranians are furious about the construction of the dam and argue that there is no objective in the world worthy to justify the construction of a dam, so close to Pasargadae. Hossein Marashi, the Iranian Vice President for Cultural Heritage and Tourism said: "We can not sacrifice the dam for cultural and historical sites." Sivand Dam became operational in 2007. Ahmadinejad's government, however, refused to buy the detectors needed for monitoring humidity of the Pasargadae. Also "Karun-3 dam" was constructed during Rafsanjani's presidency which led to destruction of ancient archeological site in Izeh.

Defaming Cyrus the Great, Islamist negationist Sadeq Khalkhali wrote an article entitled "Kourosh-e Doroughin" (Impostor Cyrus) shortly after the revolution. In 2001, Nasser Pourpirar wrote two books entitled "Twelve centuries of silence" and "A bridge to past", claiming that the Sassanid empire and Parthian Empires never existed, and are the fabrications of Jewish and American orientalists. Abbas Salimi Namin attributed Persepolis to Russian civilization. Islamist negationists Abbas Salimi Namin and Purpirar were coworkers for the hardline "Kayhan Havaei" (a weekly review of the daily Keyhan in English) after the revolution. Namin, a computer engineer and former member of Haghani circle is a close ally of Ali Khamenei, the leader of the Islamic Republic. Ignored by Iranian scholars, such figures managed to enter and influence traditional clerical circles and the policy makers of the Islamic Republic. Interestingly several of these Islamist negationists were formerly associated with Marxist groups before acting as agents of Islamic Republic.

Ruling clerics sought to stamp out many traditions, like Nowruz, a celebration with some Zoroastrian links that stretches back thousands of years to the pre-Islamic era, to mark the arrival of spring. The celebration is considered by many here the most Iranian of holidays.

Several proposals have been made by conservatists to replace or shorten Norouz celebrations but rejected because of public protests. Ayatollah Khazali, a member of the powerful Guardians Council and the Experts Assembly for Leadership, has proposed that the celebration of Ghadir (Shiites commemorate these festivities as the day prophet Mohammad is recorded to have named disciple Ali to be his successor) should replace the traditional Iranian celebration of Norouz.

Ali Khamenei in many occasions attacked the Iranian fire festival Chahar Shanbeh Suri and also called for shortening Norouz, claiming that the holidays are seriously damaging Iranian economy. Following an order by Ali Khamenei the fire festival has been banned by the regime since it is of Zoroastrian origins and is not Islamic. However, due to internal opposition, the government had to step back.

The most detailed and explicit statement about Arabic was made by Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani in 1981 in an important Sermon linking the fate of Persian language directly to that of Persian nationality: "both shall vanish as soon as Islamic unity is attained".

The tradition of banning names dates to the beginning of the Islamic Revolution in the early 1980s, when Iran's conservative leaders sought to purge the country of both Western culture and its own Persian, pre-Islamic past. Fundamentalists consider it unfortunate that Iranians used to be Zoroastrians, or that the ancient Persian empire achieved its greatest triumphs before Islam's arrival. To that end, they compiled a long list of forbidden names that included Zoroastrians gods and goddesses, commanders of ancient Persian armies, and other such tainted, best-forgotten figures. Indeed, Arabic names, except for a handful of Sunni villains, were fine. Persian ones, despite originating from the language actually spoken in Iran, had to be checked against the official list. Along the way, other politically inconvenient realities were fought on the baby name terrain. Wishing to quell an uprising by ethnically Kurdish Iranians in the north, the government banned Kurdish names. Street names had changed from old Persian names to Arabic and Muslim names .This whole shift of the Iranian identity toward a more Islamic one created a kind of crisis.

Iranian society on the other hand, identify itself as Iranian. In Iran-Iraq war for example, all Iranians irrespective of their religions and ethnic groups defended the country. Also in occasions where a conflict between nationality and religion occurs, Iranian will not put their nationality aside. For instance when Norouz and Ashura coincide, Shia Iranians celebrate the ancient Iranian celebration with other Iranians. Abdolkarim Soroush, foremost Iranian religious intellectual, once suggested to adapt the religion to Iranian culture by organizing Ashura and other Islamic festivals according to Iranian calendar instead of Islamic calendar to avoid conflicts between Iranian identity and religion.

Fundamentalists, irrespective of their genders, support a very strict life style for women in Iran. The women in the seventh Iranian parliament were against the bill on Iran joining the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which the female reformists in the sixth parliament had fought for vigorously. The women in the seventh parliament have exhibited conservative, right wing tendencies setting them apart from their counterparts in the preceding parliament. In July 2007, Ali Khamenei criticized Iranian women's rights activists and the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW): "In our country ... some activist women, and some men, have been trying to play with Islamic rules in order to match international conventions related to women," Khamenei said. "This is wrong." However he is positive on reinterpreting Islamic law in a way that it is more favorable for women - but not by following Western conventions. Khamenei made these comments two day after an Iranian women's right activist Delaram Ali was sentenced to 34 months of jail and 10 lashes by Iran's judiciary. Iranian judiciary works under the responsibility of the supreme leader and is independent from the government.

In October 2002, Ali Khamenei asked the Iranian women to avoid feminism and sexism in their campaign for better female rights. "In the process of raising women issues and solving their problems, feminist inclinations and sexism should be avoided," he told a group of female parliamentarians.

Fundamentalist scholars justify the different religious laws for men and women by referring to the biological and sociological differences between men and women. For example, regarding the inheritance law which states that women’s share of inheritance is half that of men, Ayatollah Makarim Shirazi quotes the Imam Ali ibn Musa Al-reza who reasons that at the time of marriage man has to pay something to woman and woman receives something, and that men are responsible for both their wives' and their own expenses but women have no responsibility thereof. Women, however, make up 27% of the Iranian labor force and percentage of all Iranian women who are economically active has more than doubled from 6.1% in 1986 to 13.7% in 2000.

In terms of health, life expectancy went up by eleven years between 1980 and 2000 for both Iranian men and women. With respect to family planning, "levels of childbearing have declined faster than in any other country," going from 5.6 births per woman in 1985 to 2.0 in 2000, a drop accomplished by a voluntary, but government-sponsored, birth control program. The fact that these improvements have occurred within an Islamic legal regime suggests that formal legal status may not be the key factor determining women’s well-being.

Women in Iran are only allowed to sing in chorus. Also women are not allowed to attend Sport stadiums. In 2006 Mahmoud Ahmadinejad surprisingly ordered the vice president to allocate half of Azadi Soccer Stadium to women. Six grand ayatollahs and several MPs protested against Mr Ahmadinejad's move and finally the supreme leader Ali Khamenei ordered the president to reconsider his order and follows the clergy.

Irreligious people in Islamic Republic of Iran are not recognized as citizens and do not enjoy any civil rights. While Jews, Christians and other minorities have the right to take part in University entrance exams and can become members of parliament or city councils, irreligious people are not granted even their basic rights. Most irreligious people, however, hide their beliefs and pretend to be moslems. Non-believers - atheists under Islam do not have "the right to life." Non believers such as those supporting communist ideologies have been executed purely for being non-believers. The charge against them has been made as "corrupters on earth." In an attempt to disguise the Islamic attitude to apostasy, some Muslims often quote the Koranic verse: "There shall be no compulsion in religion." For a Muslim wishing to leave Islam in Iran this is simply not true and is punishable by death. "Any newspaper or writer wanting to renounce the fundamental principles of Islam or questioning the vengeance law is an apostate and liable to the death penalty," Ali Khamenei told a gathering of several thousand troops in the northeastern town of Mashhad.

In one occasion, Persian daily "Neshat" published an article which called for abolishing the death penalty, claiming that the capital punishment is no cure to maladies afflicting modern society. In reaction to this article, conservative "Tehran times daily" stressed that writers of such articles must remember that the Iranian Muslim nation will not only never tolerate such follies but that the apostates will be given no opportunity to subvert the religion. Neshat's article drew severe criticism from the theologians and clerics, particularly the supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei, who in clear words warned that apostate journalists will be liable to death penalty, noted the article in the opinion column of the paper adding that the judiciary also promptly warned against any acts or words that undermine the pillars of the Islamic revolution.

During Mohammd Khatami's presidency, minister Ataollah Mohajerani launched a tolerance policy ("Tasahol va Tasamoh"). This policy was criticized harshly by conservatives and ended in resignation of the minister.

In February 2004 Parliament elections, the Council of Guardians, a council of twelve members, half of whom are appointed by Ali Khamenei, disqualified thousands of candidates, including many of the reformist members of the parliament and all the candidates of the Islamic Iran Participation Front party from running. It did not allow 80 members of the 6th Iranian parliament (including the deputy speaker) to run in the election. Apart from Ali Khamenei, many conservative theorists as Emad Afrough supported the decision of Guardian council and accused the reformist parliament members of "being liberal, secular and with no Iranian identity". Referring to 7th parliament members, Ali Meshkini said that the list of candidates had signed by Imam Mahdi: "...I have a special gratitude for Honorable Baqiyatullah (aj), whom when seven months ago during the Night of Power the Divine angels presented him with the list of the names and addresses of the members of the (new) parliament, , His Eminency signed all of them...".

In June 2007, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was criticized by some Iranian parliament members over his remark about Christianity and Judaism. According to Aftab News Agency, President 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 will save mankind. But Islam is the only religion that save mankind." Some members of Iranian parliament criticized these remarks as being fuels to religious war. However Musa Ghorbani, a chairman at the parliament strongly supported president's remark, calling it "in accordance with the constitution". Also Hossein Noori Hamedani advocates fighting the Jews in order to prepare the ground and to hasten the advent of the Hidden Imam, the Messiah according to Shiite belief.

In 2007, Ali Khamenei claimed that "Today, homosexuality is a major problem in the western world. They however ignore it. But the reality is that homosexuality has become a serious challenge, pain and unsolvable problem for the intellectuals in the west." Khamenei, however did not mention any names of western intellectuals.

While Iran has been quick to condemn attacks on Shia mosques and Shia holy places all over the world, it has been intolerant toward other religions. For instance in 2006, authorities in the city of Qom arrested more than 1,000 followers of the mystical Sufi tradition of Islam. Iran's hard-line daily "Kayhan" on 14 February 2006 quoted senior clerics in Qom as saying that Sufism should be eradicated in the city, while the Reuters news agency reported that in September one of Iran's hard-line clerics, Grand Ayatollah Hossein Noori Hamedani, called for a clampdown on Sufis in Qom. In 2006, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad launched a plan to suppress what he called "indecent religious associations that work under the cover of spirituality and Sufism". Morteza Agha-Tehrani, one of the closest disciples of Mesbah-Yazdi and moral advisor to President Ahmadinejad was the leader of raid on Sufi mosques in Qom.

Islamic scholarship in Iran, has a long tradition of debate and critique. This tradition has come to pose a challenge to the constitutional order of the Islamic Republic of Iran, as a number of seminary-trained scholars have applied their critical methods to basic issues of state legitimacy, in particular the state’s right to insist on interpretive closure. For example, Dr. Mehdi Ha’iri Yazdi, the son of the late Shaykh Abdolkarim Haeri, the founding member of the Qom Theology School, has written a book about criticism of velayat-e faqıh. The regime has responded with force, convening special clergy courts to silence and imprison scholars, in violation of seminary norms of scholarly debate. These conspicuous acts of discipline seem to have backfired, as each escalating punishment has generated new critics within.

In Iran, unlike most countries, epistemological debates have political implications. Because the Islamic Republic stakes its legitimacy on the scholarly authority of its jurist-ruler, the regime takes such debates quite seriously. Through the Special Clergy Court, the regime has tried to clamp down on relativism, calling it self-defeating. The dissident seminarians, too, have distanced themselves from relativism, calling themselves legitimate religious authorities. It is unclear how the dissidents will reconcile the two seminary norms of open debate and scholarly authority, or what political ramifications might follow from such a reconciliation. It is already clear, though, that the dissidents are creating an unprecedentedly rich documentary record of Islamic critique of the Islamic state.

Abdolkarim Soroush, advocate of Islamic pluralism, believes that fundamentalism in Iran will self-destruct as it is afflicted with an internal contradiction, which will shatter it from within. Similar ideas have been put forward by Iranian scholar Saeed Hajjarian. Abdolkarim Soroush, Mohsen Kadivar, Saeed Hajjarian and Seyyed Hossein Nasr are among most notable critics of fundamentalism in Iran. Today Iranian neofundamentalists are a very strong minority in Qom seminaries. However they enjoy supports from two Grand Marjas namely, Nasser Makarem Shirazi and Hossein Noori Hamedani as well as direct support from supreme leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei.

There was a handful of Iranian victims among the thousands of innocent dead of September 11, 2001 attacks. Behnaz Mozakka was among the victims of 7 July 2005 London bombings.

In 1943, a Saudi religious judge ordered an Iranian pilgrim beheaded for allegedly defiling the Great Mosque with excrement supposedly carried into the mosque in his pilgrim's garment.

In 1987, Saudi Arabia's fundamentalist regime attacked Iranian pilgrims who were doing a peaceful annual demonstration of Haj and killed some 275 people. 303 people were seriously injured. For years, Iranian pilgrims had tried to stage peaceful political demonstrations in the Muslim holy city of Mecca during the hajj. Iran sees 1987 massacre of Iranian pilgrims as the first major attack by Sunni extremists like Osama bin Laden and the emerging Al-Qaeda on Shia Iranians. A few days before the massacre of Iranian pilgrims by Saudi police, USS Vincennes shots down Iran Air Flight 655, killing 290 civilians.

In March 2004 (Ashura), Al-Qaeda killed 40 Iranian pilgrims at the Shia holy places in Iraq. Many others were injured in the blasts. Ashura commemorates the killing of the revered Imam Hussein at the battle of Karbala in the seventh century AD. It is the event that gave birth to the Shia branch of Islam which predominates in Iran. Ashura is by far the most significant day in the Iranian religious calendar, and it is commemorated as a slaughter of innocents by traitors and tyrants.

Justifying the attack on Iran, Saddam Hussein accused Iranians of "murdering the second (Umar), third (Uthman), and fourth (Ali) Caliphs of Islam". In March 1988, Saddam Hussein killed about 20000 Iranian soldiers immediately using nerve-gas agents. According to Iraqi documents, assistance in developing chemical weapons was obtained from firms in many countries, including the United States, West Germany, the United Kingdom, France and China. Iraq also targeted Iranian civilians with chemical weapons. Many thousands were killed in attacks on populations in villages and towns, as well as front-line hospitals. Many still suffer from the severe effects. Iran therefore is a victim, at least of one type of weapons of mass destruction. In December 2006, Sadam Hussein said he would take responsibility "with honour" for any attacks on Iran using conventional or chemical weapons during the 1980-1988 war but he took issue with charges he ordered attacks on Iraqis.

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Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani

Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani

Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani (Persian: اکبر هاشمی رفسنجانی Akbar Hāshemī Rafsanjānī, Hashemi Bahramani (هاشمی بهرمانی); born February 15, 1934) is an influential Iranian politician, businessman and former President. Currently he holds the position of Chairman of the Assembly of Experts (a deliberative body of Mujtahids that is charged with electing the Supreme Leader of Iran) and Chairman of the Expediency Discernment Council of Iran (an unelected administrative assembly that resolves legislative conflicts between the Majlis and the Council of Guardians).

He served as President of Iran from 1989 to 1997. In 2005 he ran for a third term in office, winning the first round of elections but ultimately losing to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the run-off round of the 2005 election.

Rafsanjani is reportedly associated with the Iranian business class and is hostile to Ahmandinejad and the more ideological tendency in the Islamic Republic. He has been described as a pragmatic and conservative, who supports a centrist position domestically and a moderate position internationally, seeking to avoid conflict with the United States.

He was born in the village of Bahraman near the city of Rafsanjan in Kerman Province to a poor family of pistachio farmers.

In 1948, when Rafsanjani was fourteen years old, his parents sent him to the Shia holy city of Qom to enter seminary life. It was there that he began attending classes taught by Ruhollah Khomeini, under whom Rafsanjani studied Islamic law, ethics, and science. From this time forward, Rafsanjani became dedicated to Khomeini's cause, whose aim was to establish a constitutional theocracy, and soon became a major figure in his circle.

Prior to the Iranian Revolution, Rafsanjani had been jailed five times over a period of fifteen years from 1964 to 1979 for subversive activities against the Imperial government.

Together with Mohammad Javad Bahonar, Mohammad Beheshti, The Fallahi family, Morteza Motahhari, and Abdolkarim Mousavi Ardebili, he became a key member of Iran's Revolutionary Council at the beginning of the new Islamic Republic, and became the first speaker of the Majlis of Iran, the new Parliament, serving until 1989.

He was one of the main figures in the Iran contra scandal but Khomeini issued a command banning any investigation about him.

Rafsanjani was a founding member of the Islamic Republic Party, established soon after the Iranian Revolution in 1979. The party advocated the establishment of a theocratic Islamic state, in contrast to the secularism of the Provisional Revolutionary Government.

Rafsanjani served as President of Iran from August 17, 1989 to 1997, and was the first President of Iran to step down officially, having completed his term in office. (Of his predecessors, Abolhassan Banisadr was successfully impeached; Mohammad Ali Rajai was assassinated. Until the election of Rafsanjani, Ali Khamenei was both the President and Supreme Leader, and officially stepped down as President of Iran, about two month prior to completing of his presidential term.

Rafsanjani, has been described as less revolutionary and "isolationist" than his rivals and pursuing a more pragmatic `economy-first` policy. Another source describes his administration as "economically liberal, politically authoritarian, and philosophically traditional," which put him in confrontation with more radical deputies in the majority in the Majles of Iran.

Rafsanjani advocated a free market economy. With the state's coffers full, Rafsanjani pursued an economic liberalisation policy. Rafsanjani's support for a deal with America over Iran's nuclear programme and his free-market economic policies contrasted with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his allies, who advocate showing the West no quarter while pursuing a course of budget-busting state handouts in the face of repeated warnings of future economic problems.

Among the projects he initiated are Azad University.

During his administration inflation hit a staggering record high of 49%.

He attempted to forge good relations with Arab countries and countries in Central Asia including Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan. However relations with European countries and the US remained poor. Though, Rafsanjani has a track record of handling difficult situations and defusing crises.

He condemned both the United States and Iraq during the Persian Gulf War in 1991. After the war he strove to renew close ties with the West, although he refused to lift Khomeini's fatwa against the British author Salman Rushdie.

Rafsanjani voiced support to Prince Abdullah's peace initiative and to "everything the Palestinians agree to". He was also clear that Iran's international interests must take precedence over those of Iranian allies in Syria and Lebanon.

During 1990-5, Rafsanjani's administration faced the brunt of the second-generation US economic sanctions. He failed to arrest the Iranian Rial plunging 80 per cent in value from 415 to 2,046 to the US Dollar triggering the rise of the modern underground and barter economic networks.

In 2000, in the first election after the end of his presidency, Rafsanjani ran again for Parliament but was not among the 30 representatives of Tehran elected, as announced by the Iranian Ministry of the Interior. The Council of Guardians then ruled numerous ballots void and were able to get him elected as the 30th representative. Rafsanjani thus became a Member of Parliament once more, but resigned before being sworn in as an MP. He explained that he felt he was "able to serve the people better in other posts".

Rafsanjani is currently the Chairman of the Expediency Discernment Council, that resolves legislative issues between the Majlis and the Council of Guardians.

In December 2006, Rafsanjani was elected to the Assembly of Experts representing Tehran with more than 1.5 million votes, which was more than any other candidate. Ahmadinejad opponents won majority of local election seats.

On September 4, 2007 he was elected chairman of the Assembly of Experts, the body that selects Iran's supreme leader, in what was considered a blow to the supporters of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He was running against Ahmad Jannati. He was re-elected to the position on March 10, 2009, running against Mohammad Yazdi. He received 51 votes compared to Yazdi's 26.

Although he has been a member of the pragmatic-conservative Combatant Clergy Association, he has a close bond to the reformist Kargozaran party. He has been seen as flip-flopping between conservative and reformist camps since the election of Mohammad Khatami, supporting reformers in that election, but going back to the conservative camp in the 2000 parliamentary elections as a result of the reformist party severely criticizing and refusing to accept him as their candidate. Reformists including Akbar Ganji accused him of involvement in murdering dissidents and writers during his presidency. In the end the major differences between the Kargozaran and the reformists party weakened both and eventually resulted in their loss at the presidential elections in 2005. However Rafsanjani has regained close ties with the reformers since he lost the 2005 presidential elections to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

After his loss at the presidential elections in 2005, a growing tension between him and President Ahmadinejad arose. Rafsanjani has criticized President Ahmadinejad's administration several times for conducting a purge of government officials , slow move towards privatization and recently hostile foreign policy in particular the atomic energy policy . In return Ahmadinejad has fought back that Rafsanjani failed to differentiate privatization with the corrupt takeover of government-owned companies and of foreign policies which led to sanctions against Iran in 1995 and 1996.. He also implicitly denounced Rafsanjani and his followers by calling those who criticize his nuclear program as "traitors" .

In 1997, a German court convicted two men of murder in the 1992 Mykonos restaurant assassinations of Sadiq Sharafkindi, an Iranian-Kurdish leader, as well as three of his associates, and convicted two others of being accessories to the crimes. Presiding Judge Frithjof Kubsch said the men had no personal motive but were following orders. Without naming names, Kubsch said the gangland-style murders had been ordered by Iran's Committee for Special Operations, to which Iran's President and spiritual leader belonged. Prosecutors had contended that Iran's powerful spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjani had personally ordered the killings.

On 25 October 2006, a team of Argentine prosecutors formally charged Iran and Shi'a militia Hezbollah with the 1994 AMIA Bombing in Buenos Aires, accusing the Iranian authorities of directing Hezbollah to carry out that attack and calling for the arrest of Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and seven others. This incident has put Ahmadinejad's government in the awkward position of defending Rafsanjani, whom they oppose for corruption and being pro-Western. Therefore, this event was seen as a positive development for Rafsanjani during his successful campaign for election as a member of the Assembly of Experts in December 2006.

He was born in the village of Bahraman near the city of Rafsanjan in Kerman Province to a poor family of pistachio farmers. He has eight other siblings..

From a marriage to Effat Mar'ashi in 1958, Rafsanjani has three sons: Mohsen, Mehdi, and Yasser, as well as two daughters, Fatemeh and Faezeh. Only Faezeh Hashemi chose a political life, which led to her becoming a Majlis representative and then the publisher of the newspaper Zan.

Many believe the Rafsanjani family to be the richest man in Iran due to his deep involvement in various Iranian industries, including the oil industry, as well as his ownership of many properties throughout the country. There have also been allegations that some of his wealth has also come from arms deals made after the Revolution.

Rafsanjani has authored a few books, one of the most important being a book on Amir Kabir titled Amir Kabir; the Hero of Fighting against Imperialism. He is also gradually publishing his multi-volume memoir titled Towards Destiny. The seventh volume of his memoirs, in which he writes that Ayatollah Khomeini had approved the proposal to omit the rallying cry "Death to America," was banned and collected from bookstores a few days after its publication.

In 1997, his son Mehdi Hashemi Rafsanjani, the head of state-owned Gaz Iran Company, has reportedly received a €60,000,000 ($80,000,000) bribe from Total oil company, in order for Total to get a favorable contract in PSEEZ gas fields.

The bribery which has recently come to public attention, has been denied by Mehdi Hashemi Rafsanjani , and he has threatened the newspapers that he will legally prosecute those which publish this incident. The CEO of Total, Christophe de Margerie, is currently under investigation in France with regards to this incident but Mehdi Hashemi Rafsanjani is living in Iran due his father's power in this country.

Claims and allegations published by Forbes magazine at one time listing Rafsanjani in their list of richest people in the world and has written that as the real power behind the Iranian government, he "has more or less run the Islamic Republic for the past 24 years." His wealth has earned him the infamous nickname of Akbar Shah in Iran.

Although Ayatollahs are not permitted to shave their beards, Rafsanjani's condition of Androgenic alopecia has not permitted Rafsanjani to grow much facial hair. This has become the butt of many jokes, satire and comedy around Iran along with his background of pistachio farming. Although Khamenei issued a decree banning jokes around this and his background, he still continues to be joked about throughout Iran.

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Mohammad Khatami

Khatami with then President Vladimir Putin in Putrajaya in October 2003.

Seyed Mohammad Khātamī (Persian: سید محمد خاتمی, pronounced ) (born September 29, 1943, in Ardakan, Yazd Province) is an Iranian scholar and politician. He served as the fifth President of Iran from August 2, 1997 to August 3, 2005. He also served as Iran's Minister of Culture in both the 1980s and 1990s.

Khatami attracted global attention during his first election to the presidency when, as "a little known cleric, he captured almost 70% of the vote." Khatami had run on a platform of liberalization and reform. During his two terms as president, Khatami advocated freedom of expression, tolerance and civil society, constructive diplomatic relations with other states including those in the European Union and Asia, and an economic policy that supported a free market and foreign investment.

Khatami has been criticized for being unsuccessful in achieving his goal of making Iran freer and more democratic. In a 47-page "letter for the future", Khatami said his government had stood for noble principles, but had made mistakes and faced obstruction by hardline elements in the clerical establishment.

On February 8, 2009, Khatami announced that he will run in 2009 presidential election. On March 16th, he announced he was withdrawing from the race in favor of his long-time friend and adviser, former Prime Minister of Iran, Mir-Hossein Mousavi.

Khatami received a B.A. in Western philosophy from Isfahan University, but left academia while studying for a Master's degree in Educational Sciences at Tehran University and went to Qom to complete his previous studies in Islamic sciences. He studied there 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, where he stayed until the Iranian revolution.

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.

Khatami was among the group of Iranian parliamentarians who did not allow Mehdi Bazargan to finish his famous speech in Iranian parliament on October 18, 1981. He reportedly chanted "death to Bazargan". Mehdi Bazargan, a well known Iranian intellectual, academic and former prime minister of Iran, was a member of Iranian parliament. As the editor chief of Kayhan daily, Khatami wrote an editorial and criticized Bazargan, calling him "American". Bazargan is known as an advocate of free speech, rule of law and a pioneer of religious intellectualism, a circle to which Khatami has been associated in his later life.

He is also a member and chairman of the Central Council of the Association of Combatant Clerics.

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.

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, and had no legal authority over many key state institutions such as the armed forces (the police, the army, the revolutionary guards, etc.), the state radio and television, the prisons, etc. (See Politics of Iran).

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.

Khatami's economic policies followed the previous government's commitment to industrialization. At a macro-economic level, Khatami continued the liberal policies that Rafsanjani had embarked on in the state's first five year economic development plan (1990-1995). On April 10, 2005 Khatami cited economic development, large-scale operations of the private sector in the country's economic arena and the 6-percent economic growth as among the achievements of his government. $5 billion had been allocated to the private sector for promoting the economy, adding that the value of contracts signed in this regard has reached $10 billion.

Conservative critics accused President Khatami of neglecting the economy in favour of politics.. A year into his first term as president of Iran, Khatami acknowledged Iran's economic challenges, stating that the economy was, "chronically ill ... and it will continue to be so unless there is fundamental restructuring".

At the macroeconomic level, real GDP rose from 2.4 percent in 1997 to 5.9 percent in 2000. Unemployment was reduced from 16.2 percent of the labor force to less than 14 percent. The consumer price index fell to less than 13 percent from more than 17 percent. Both public and private investments increased in the energy sector, the building industry, and other sectors of the country's industrial base. The country's external debt was cut from $12.1 billion to $7.9 billion, its lowest level since the Iran-Iraq cease-fire. The World Bank granted $232 million for health and sewage projects after a hiatus of about seven years. The government, for the first time since the 1979 wholesale financial nationalization, authorized the establishment of two private banks and one private insurance company. The OECD lowered the risk factor for doing business in Iran to 4 from 6 (on a scale of 7).

The government's own figures put the number of people under the absolute poverty line in 2001 at 15.5 percent of the total population--down from 18 percent in 1997, and those under relative poverty at 25 percent, thus classifying some 40 percent of the people as poor. Private estimates indicate higher figures.

During Khatami's presidency, Iran's foreign policy began a process of moving from confrontation to conciliation. In Khatami's notion of foreign policy, there was no "clash of civilizations", he favoured instead a "dialogue among civilizations". Relations with the US remained marred by mutual suspicion and distrust, but during Khatami's two terms, Tehran increasingly made efforts to play a greater role in the Persian Gulf region and beyond.

As President, Khatami met with many influential figures including Pope John Paul II, Koichiro Matsuura, Jacques Chirac, Johannes Rau, Vladimir Putin, Abdulaziz Bouteflika and Hugo Chávez. In 2003 Khatami refused to meet militant Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

In 2003, Iran approached the United States with proposals to negotiate all outstanding issues including the nuclear issue and a two-state settlement for Israel-Palestine.

During 1995-2005, Khatami's administration successfully reduced the rate of fall in the value of the Iranian Rial bettering even the record of Mousavi. Nevertheless, the currency continued to fall from 2,046 to 9005 to the US Dollar during his term as president.

In February 2004 Parliament elections, the Council of Guardians banned thousands of candidates, including most of the reformist members of the parliament and all the candidates of the Islamic Iran Participation Front party from running. This led to a win by the conservatives of at least 70% of the seats. Approximately 60% of the eligible voting population participated in the elections.

Khatami recalled his strong opposition against holding an election his government saw as unfair and not free. He also narrated the story of his visit to the Supreme Leader, Khamenei, together with the Parliament's spokesman (considered the head of the legislature) and a list of conditions they had handed him before they could hold the elections. The list, he said, was then passed on to the Guardian Council, the legal supervisor and major obstacle to holding free and competitive elections in recent years. The members of the Guardian Council are appointed directly by the Supreme Leader and were considered to be applying his will. "But," Khatami said, "the Guardian Council kept neither the Supreme Leader's nor its own word and we were faced with a situation in which we had to choose between holding the election or risking huge unrest and so damaging the regime." At this point a slogan was repeatedly chanted by the student protesters: "Jannati* is the nation's enemy." Khatami strangely replied, "If you are the representative of the nation, then we are the nation's enemy." However, after a clarification by students stating that "Jannati, not Khatami," he took advantage of the opportunity to claim a high degree of freedom in Iran.

When the Guardian Council announced the final list of candidates on January 30, 125 Reformist members of parliament declared that they would boycott the election and resign their seats, and the Reformist interior minister declared that the election would not be held on the scheduled date, February 20. However, President Khatami then announced that the election would be held on time, and he rejected the resignations of his cabinet ministers and provincial governors. These actions paved the way for the election to be held and signaled a split between the radical and moderate wings of the Reformist movement.

Following earlier works by renowned philosopher Dariush Shayegan, President Khatami introduced the theory of Dialogue Among Civilizations as a response to Huntington's theory of Clash of Civilizations. After introducing the concept of his theory in several international societies (most importantly the U.N.) the theory gained a lot of international support. Consequently the United Nations proclaimed the year 2001 as the United Nations' Year of Dialogue Among Civilizations, as per Khatami's suggestion . Pleading for the moralization of politics, Khatami argued that “The political translation of dialogue among civilizations would consist in arguing that culture, morality and art must prevail on politics.” Khatami has become an international personality, and he has gained much fame among intellectuals all over the world.

Khatami’s dialogue of civilisations, challenging Samuel Huntington’s The Clash of Civilisations and the Remaking of World Order (Huntington, 1998), is not just a domestic plea but a worldwide invitation. In 1998, Khatami addressed an international audience at the United Nations General Assembly in New York to delineate his main arguments (Khatami, 2001c, pp. 11–22) and the UN declared the year 2001 as the Year of Dialogue Among Civilisations. His proposal for such a dialogue is an inclusive concept that reaches beyond Iranian/non-Iranian, Muslim/non-Muslim dichotomies. It is an appeal to all humanity in the midst of growing violence and conflict worldwide, ultimately aiming at the betterment of human life. The dialogue of civilisations has several goals: laying the ground for peaceful, constructive debate among nations; providing a context in which civilisations can learn from each other’s strengths and weaknesses; replacing fear, blame, and prejudice with reason, fairness, and tolerance; and facilitating a dynamic exchange of experiences among culture, religions, and civilisations aimed at reform and amelioration. Khatami believes that such dialogue would strike a balance between the two extremes of self-denial, unquestioning imitation, and surrender and hatred, irrational rejection, and execration.

Khatami's main research field is Political philosophy. One of Khatami's academic mentors was Javad Tabatabaei, a very influential Iranian political philosopher. Later on Khatami became a University lecturer at Tarbiat Modarres University where he taught Political philosophy. Khatami also published a book on political philosophy in 1999. The ground he covers is the same as that covered by Javad Tabatabaei: the Platonizing adaptation of Greek political philosophy by Farabi (d. 950), its synthesis of the "eternal wisdom" of Persian statecraft by Abu'l-Hasan Amiri (d. 991) and Mushkuya (miskawayh) Razi (d. 1030), the juristic theories of al-Mawardi and Ghazali, and Nizam al-Mulk's treatise on statecraft. He ends with a discussion of the revival of political philosophy in Safavid Isfahan in the second half of the 17th century.

Further, Khatami shares with Tabatabaei the idea of the "decline" of Muslim political thought beginning at the very outset, after Farabi.

Aristotle's Politics became available in Persian to Khatami's generation only in a translation by the late Hamid Enayat (d. 1982). Like Tabatabaei, Khatami brings in the sharply contrasting Aristotelian view of politics to highlight the shortcomings of Muslim political thought. Khatami's explanations of the decline in Muslim political thought in terms of the transition from political philosophy to royal policy (siyasat-i shahi) and its imputation to the prevalence of "forceful domination" (taghallub) in Islamic history carries little conviction.

Khatami highlights the contradiction between the Western notion of "liberty" and the Islamic concept of "salvation". The Western concept of liberty refers to emancipation from outside bonds and aims at social, political, and civil freedom. Its positive achievements are having humans determine their own fate while governments serve the people and are accountable to them. A negative consequence of this school of thought, according to Khatami, is unbridled individualism and the belief that humans and their needs and desires are of central importance at all times. The Islamic notion of salvation, on the other hand, refers to emancipation from internal bonds, such as carnal desires, lust, and worldliness. Khatami believes that both viewpoints are incomplete. Salvation neglects humans’ social and political freedom.

On December 22, 2005, a few months after the end of Khatami's presidency, the monthly magazine Chelcheragh with a group of young Iranian artists and activists organized a ceremony in honor of Mr. Khatami. The ceremony was held on Yalda night at Tehran's Bahman Farhangsara Hall. The ceremony, titled A Night with: The Man with the Chocolate Robe by the organizers, was widely attended by teenagers and younger adults. One of the presenters and organizers of the ceremony was Pegah Ahangarani, a popular young Iranian actress. The event did not get a lot of advance publicity, but it drew a huge amount of attention afterwards. In addition to formal reports on the event by the BBC, IRNA, and other major news agencies, googling the term "مردی با عبای شکلاتی" ("The Man with the Chocolate Robe" in Persian) shows thousands of results of mainly young Iranians' weblogs mentioning the event. The significance of this event was that it was arguably the first time in the history of Iran that an event in such fashion was held in honor of a head of government. Some weblog reports of the evening described the general atmosphere of the event as "similar to a concert!", and some reported that "Khatami was treated like a pop star" among the youth and teenagers in attendance during the ceremony. Many bloggers also pointed out the disappoinment of many of his supporters because of his failure to carry out his plans for a more democratic, tolerant, and open society after his 8 years of presidency. The event itself, and the enormous amount of weblog and internet discussions that were sparked by it, are considered by many to be indicative of the strong feelings still evoked in Iran's youth by Mr. Khatami and the reform program he was associated with.

In October 2008, President Khatami organized an international conference on the position of religion in the modern world. Former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan, former Norwegian prime minister Kjell Magne Bondevik, former Italian prime minister Romano Prodi, former French prime minister Lionel Jospin, former Swiss president Joseph Deiss, former Portuguese president Jorge Sampaio, former Irish president Mary Robinson, former Sri Lankan president Chandrika Kumaratunga and former UNESCO director general Federico Mayor as well as several other scholars were among the invited speakers of the conference.

The event was followed by a celebration of the historical city of Yazd, one of the most famous cities in Persian history and the birthplace of President Khatami. Khatami also announced that he is about to launch a television program to promote dialog among cultures.

Khatami's two terms as president were regarded, by some people, as unsuccessful in achieving their goals of making Iran more free and democratic, and he has been criticized by conservatives, reformers, and opposition groups for various policies and viewpoints.

Khatami was criticised by the conservative press for committing an "unforgivable offense against sacred Islamic rules" in May 2007, after a video was released showing Mohammad Khatami publicly shaking hand with two female participants of a conference in Italy where he was a guest speaker. After initially denying the handshake had occurred, Khatami admitted he "might have shaken some hands, but I don't remember exactly".

Websites close to the conservative government of president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claimed that an increasing number of clerics and extremists in the holy Shiite city of Qom believed that Khatami should be convicted for his behaviour.

Some people have criticized Khatami for being unsuccessful in achieving his goal of making Iran more free and democratic. In a 47-page "letter for the future", Khatami said his government had stood for noble principles, but had made mistakes and faced obstruction by hardline elements in the clerical establishment.

Khatami was criticized for describing a former chief guardian of the infamous Evin Prison, Asadollah Lajevardi, as a "valiant son of Islam and revolution, a servant of the regime and the people". Mr Lajevardi is known for his role in suppression of political prisoners. Khatami also expressed his sadness upon the death of Sadeq Khalkhali, known as the hanging judge. He also praised Mohammad Fazel Lankarani, calling him "an open-minded Muslim", "prominent follower of Khomeini's path" and "valubale figures in seminaries". Lankarani is well-known for his death fatwas for Rafiq Tağı and Salman Rushdi as well as his fatwa against the attendance of women in sport stadiums.

In 2001, some 78 Iranian lawmakers have called on President Mohammad Khatami to allocate an appropriate share to the Sunni minority of the country. However Khatami did not appoint any one from the Sunni minority to cabinet posts in his 8 years of presidency. He did however appoint Shia Kurds to his cabinet, a first in post-Revolutionary Iran.

The Islamic Republic did not allow a single Sunni mosque to be built in Tehran. Although President Mohammad Khatami promised during election times to build a Sunni mosque in Tehran, he later refused after taking office. After he won the elections, he was reminded of his promise but he claimed that the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had not agreed to the proposal.

In July 2007, Khatami said that Ruhollah Khomeini was the leading "reformist" of our time. Ruhollah Khomeini is considered a populist and fundamentalist by some experts . Khomeini was also a leader of a movement that led to a revolution and radical change in Iranian political structure.

Khatami in many occasions praised Basij. President Mohammad Khatami told the cabinet on 22 November 2000 that "the Basij is a progressive force which seeks to play a better role in maintaining religious faith among its allies, and acquiring greater knowledge and skills." Khatami also praised Basij activities during the July 1999 unrest in Iran.

Khatami contemplated running in the 2009 Iranian presidential election. In December 2008, 194 alumni of Sharif University of Tech wrote a letter to him and asked him to run against Ahmadinejad to save the nation. On February 8, 2009 he announced his candidacy at a meeting of pro-reform politicians. On March 16th, 2009, Khatami officially announced he will drop out of the Presidential race in order to endorse another Reformist candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi who Khatami claims will stand a better chance against Iran's conservative establishment to offer true change and reform.

Khatami married Zohreh Sadeghi, daughter of a famous professor of religious law, and niece of Imam Musa al-Sadr, in 1974 (at the age of 31). They have two daughters and one son: Leila (born 1975) who is now a mathematics professor, Narges (born 1982), and Emad (born 1988).

Khatami's father, the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khatami, was a high ranking cleric and the Khateeb (the one who delivers the sermon for Friday prayers) in the city of Yazd in the early years of the Iranian Revolution.

Khatami's brother, Dr. Mohammad Reza Khatami was elected as Tehran's first member of parliament in the 6th term of Majlis, during which he served as deputy speaker of the parliament. He also served as the secretary-general of Islamic Iran Participation Front (Iran's largest reformist party) for several years. Mohammad Reza is married to Zahra Eshraghi, granddaughter of Ayatollah Khomeini (founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran) who is a feminist human rights activist.

Khatami's other brother, Ali Khatami, a businessman with a master's degree in Industrial Engineering from Brooklyn, served as the President's Chief of Staff during President Khatami's second term in office, where he kept an unusually low profile.

Khatami's eldest sister, Fatemeh Khatami was elected as the first representative of the people of Ardakan (Khatami's hometown) in 1999 city council elections.

Mohammad Khatami is not related to Ahmad Khatami, a hardliner cleric and Provisional Friday Prayer Leader of Tehran.

Mohammad Khatami speaks several languages including Persian, Arabic, and some English and German.

A full list of his publications is available at his official personal web site (see below).

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Source : Wikipedia