Ahmadinejad, Mahmoud

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Ahmadinejad, Mahmoud

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (mämōōd´ ämädēnĕzhäd´), 1956–, Iranian politician. From a humble background, he supported the Islamic revolution (1979) while working toward his civil engineering doctorate and was a founder of the student union that occupied the U.S. embassy. He joined (1980) the Revolutionary Guards and served against Iraq, becoming a senior officer. He was governor of Arbadil prov. from 1993 to 1997, and then taught at Univ. of Science and Industry, Tehran.

An ultraconservative shaped by his experience in the Iran-Iraq War, he was appointed mayor of Tehran in 2003, and reversed or restricted many moderate reforms in the city. Running as an anticorruption populist and regarded as a dark horse, he was elected president in 2005, becoming the first non-cleric to hold the office since 1981. As president he gained notoriety internationally for provocative comments calling for an end to Israel and denying the Holocaust happened, but he also unexpectedly took somewhat liberal positions on some domestic social issues. His failure to address Iran's economic problems, however, was widely regarded as the cause of the losses suffered by his supporters and allies in the Dec., 2006, elections for local councils and the Assembly of Experts.

His reelection by a wide margin in June, 2009, was seen by many as fraudulent, and led to demonstrations that were suppressed by the government. His government subsequently secured legislation that led to reductions in many government subsidies. Ahmadinejad, who had long been supported by Ayatollah Khamenei, suffered a split with the religious leader in 2011 as hardline clerics apparently attempted to limit the president's powers. The president's opponents dominated parliament after the 2012 elections, and his favored successor was barred from running in the 2013 presidential election.

See biography by K. Naji (2008).

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