Leaders of Iran Throughout History

The current President of Iran is Hassan Rouhani, who gained power in 2013.

An Islamic Theocracy is the form of government currently in place in Iran. This kind of government is one in which religious figures retain the rights of leadership, even superseding the power of elected Presidents. This form of government came into effect shortly after the 1979 Islamic Revolution of Iran and was lead by Ayatollah Khomeini until his death in 1989. The Supreme Leader of Iran is now Ayatollah Khamenei, who was a former friend and confidant of Khomeini. The seat of the government in Iran is in Tehran

Abolhassan Banisadr

Banisadr was active in his opposition of the Shah government in the early 1960s, and was arrested in demonstrations and later wounded in the anti-government unrest of 1963. The injured Banisadr fled to France, where he met Ayatollah Khomeini and would later become one of his hard-nosed advisers. Returning to Iran in 1979 to take part in the Islamic Revolution, Banisadr was seemingly hand-picked as the first President of Iran due to his close ties with Khomeini. Although Banisadr was elected with 78.9% of the votes in the January 1980 election, Khomeini was still considered the Supreme Leader of Iran and had the power to dismiss the President if he saw fit. Banisadr was in office from the 5th of February 1980 until the 20th of June 1981, until being impeached on the 21st of June 1981 by his parliament. The impeachment of the first President was due to his alleged undermining of Islamic Clerical power in the country. Banisadr went into hiding after being impeached before quickly realizing that it was no longer safe in Iran and he now lives in France, guarded by police. Before his short lived Presidency, Banisadr previously held the country's Ministerial positions of Finance and Foreign Affairs, respectively.

Mohammad-Ali Rajai

Rajai was well known to have lived without luxury, practicing a simple way of life in which he was a faithful Muslim as well as a school teacher before his involvement with the Iranian Islamic Revolution. During the Shah government`s rule of Iran, he was heavily involved in anti-Shah activity and was subsequently arrested three times during this period of his life. After the Islamic Revolution, Rajai held various high ranking government positions including the Minister of Education, a member of the Islamic Consultative Assembly as well as Prime Minister. After Banisad's impeachment, Rajai nominated himself for the 1981 Presidential elections (with Ayatollah Khomeini`s endorsement) and won 13 million out of 14.3 million votes (91%). Officially sworn in as President of Iran on the 2nd of August 1981, Rajai was assassinated on 30 August the same year. He was killed by a suitcase bomb placed in his meeting room, also killing Prime Minister Bahonar and three other people. Rajai was a strong believer of following Iranian constitutional law as well as incorporating aspects of revolutionary Islam within his policies, this remains his legacy.

Ali Khamenei

Khamenei was a key figure in the 1979 Islamic Revolution of Iran, and therefore a trusted confidant of Ayatollah Khomeini. Khamenei's election marked the first time an Islamic Cleric had been elected to the office of the President in Iran. His first Presidential speech was a sign of things to come, with Khamenei claiming he would eliminate deviation (from Islam), liberalism, and American-influenced culture as well as political ideals. Over his time in office, he developed close ties with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and any sign of anti-government activity was dealt with swiftly and harshly. After Ayatollah Khomeini's health had declined significantly over the late 1980's and he consequently died, Khamenei was elected as the Supreme Leader of Iran. Before his death, Ayatollah Khomeini had thought of Ali Khamenei as a great successor due to his vast Islamic knowledge and his effort of absorbing many Islamic teachings. Elected as the new Supreme Leader of Iran by the Iranian Assembly of Experts, Khamenei initially opposed and argued against himself taking the position. After numerous meetings with senior Islamic experts in Iran, Khamenei accepted the position of Supreme Leader of Iran and continues to hold the position to this day. His leadership legacy is one of human rights abuses, anti-women, and an isolationist policy that focuses on Iran becoming self-reliant with regards to technology, science, and to some degree, the economy.

Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani

During the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988), Rafsanjani was the Commander-in-Chief of the Iranian military. He was also known as an influential politician as well as an important writer within the country before becoming President in 1989. After Ayatollah Khomeini's death and Khamenei's rise to the position of Supreme Leader of Iran( in which Rafsanjani played a crucial role), Rafsanjani opted to compete in the 1989 Presidential elections. Rafsanjani supports a free market position domestically as well as privatization of state owned assets such as oil companies. He was also known for a moderate political position internationally (he wishes for Iran to avoid conflict with the United States of America) compared to other Iranian Presidents before him. Rafsanjani was popular among middle and upper class Iranians, his economic policies and liberalization with regards to human rights as well as the rebuilding of Iran after the war became his legacy within his support base. These reforms however, failed to reach all of Iran, which left the rural, working class people unhappy with Rafsanjani and he was unpopular with this type of voter. After Presidency, Rafsanjani was a member of the Iranian Assembly of Experts as well as a prominent public speaker.

Mohammad Khatami

Khatami was a well known Shia theologian within Iran before his election. He had also served as Iran's Minister of Culture from 1982 until 1992. Khatami is also a Political Philosopher and has lectured many times regarding the decline in Muslim Political Philosophy, often drawing from Aristotle . Khatami ran for President on a reformist agenda which meant he would uphold the rule of law and democracy as well as promising to give every Iranian the power to have influence in the political decisions of Iran. Once elected, Khatami continued the economic policies implemented by Rafsanjani which had a positive effect on the economy and unemployment figures. As President, Khatami also continued the dialogue between Iran and foreign countries, meeting with many key figures such as Pope John Paul II, Jacques Chirac, Hugo Chavez, and Vladimir Putin to name a few.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was an engineer and a teacher who hailed from from a poor background. His modest life while growing up certainly had an effect on him, as Ahmadinejad wanted to continue living in his basic Tehran family house once elected President. Security reasons did not allow this to happen. While running for President, Ahmadinejad was not well known throughout the country even though he had been mayor of the capital Tehran for two years. Many Iranians see Ahmadinejad as some sort of protege of Ayatollah Khamenei, whose hand Ahmadinejad kissed upon inauguration to show his loyalty. Ahmadinejad is viewed as a controversial figure internationally as well as locally. This is due his to controversial policies concerning the Iranian economy, nuclear power, and human rights. Ahmadinejad has also been criticized for his hostility towards other nations such as the United States of America, Saudi Arabia, Israel, as well as other Arab nations within the region.

Hassan Rouhani

Rouhani is the current President of Iran, and also has had experience as an anti-Shah activist, a lawyer, an academic, and a member of the Assembly of Experts, as well as being a former Iranian diplomat. Former Presidents Rafsanjani and Khatami fully supported Rouhani, as his policies reflected the liberalization programs they had both tried to achieve. In 2013, once elected as President, Rouhani was featured in TIME magazine's 100 most influential people in the world. His time in office so far has been interesting, he has tried to reach out to many countries that Iran does not have relations with, this is an effort to restore some aspects of cooperation and transparency. Rouhani also encourages personal freedoms and free access to information domestically, striving to open up the Iranian internet to all citizens. He has somewhat improved women's rights in Iran, as well as diplomatic relations with other countries. 

Who Was the First President of Iran?

Abolhassan Banisadr was the first president of Iran from 1980 to 1981.

Presidents Of The Islamic Republic Of Iran

Presidents of IranTime in Office
Abolhassan Banisadr
Mohammad-Ali Rajai
Ali Khamenei
Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani
Mohammad Khatami
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
Hassan Rouhani (Incumbent)

About the Author

Justin has a Bachelor's degree (Honors) in Political Science and Media and Communications, specializing in modern Middle Eastern politics. He has been writing for World Atlas since September 2016.


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