The legacy of Iran’s presidents since 1979, when the Islamic Republic of Iran came to power, shows almost 40 years of bloodshed, suppression and corruption, which has left 80% of the population under the line of poverty.
Each president came to power with a diverse slogan they believed appealed to the public, yet they all shared one goal; to keep the regime in power no matter what. After all, they had all sworn to and answered only to the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei.
Seyed Ali Khamenei – 1981 – 1989
The current Supreme Leader of Iran was the president of Iran during the height of the Iran-Iraq war. The war lead to the death and injury of around 2 million Iranians including tens of thousands of child soldiers used to clear minefields.
The 8 year war devastated 50 cities, demolished 3,000 villages with 40,000 prisoners of war, 4 million displaced people, 7,000 missing persons and more than 400 billion dollars in material damage.
Khamenei played an important role in Iran’s refusal to sign a ceasefire agreement with Iraq.
During his presidency, 30,000 political prisoners were extrajudicially executed in the infamous 1988 massacre.
With the death of Khomeini, the Founder of the Islamic Republic, Khamenei was appointed as the all-powerful Supreme Leader.
Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani – 1989 – 1997
During his presidency, a large number of Iranian dissidents were killed inside and outside Iran with his approval and sometimes direct intervention.
The 1990 assassination of human rights activist and representative of the NCRI, Kazem Rajavi in Switzerland. A former Iranian intelligence minister, Ali Fallahian and 13 Iranian diplomats are wanted on charges of murdering Kazem Rajavi.
The 1991 murder of Shapour Bakhtiar, the Shah’s last Prime Minister, in his home near Paris.
The 1992 assassination of Iranian-Kurdish opposition leaders in the Mykonos Restaurant in Berlin. In 1997 during the Mykonos trial in Germany, it was declared that Rafsanjani, alongside Khamenei had a role in the assassination of Iran’s opposition activists in Europe.
Rafsanjani also orchestrated a number of terrorist attacks against Jewish targets and was sought by the Argentinian government for ordering the 1994 AMIA bombing in Buenos Aires.
Political dissidents, drug offenders, Communists, Kurds, Bahais, and even Islamic clerics were also executed during his presidency.
Seyed Mohammad Khatami – 1997- 2005
During his presidency more than 80 dissident writers, translators, poets, political activists, and ordinary citizens were killed in various ways. The chain murders of Iran as it was called were carried out by Iranian government internal operatives.
Khatami was also responsible for the violent crackdown against a student protest in July 1999. More than four students were killed while hundreds were injured.
In the aftermath of these incidents, more than seventy students disappeared. In addition to an estimated 1,200–1,400 detainees, the “whereabouts and condition” of five students named by Human Rights Watch who are believed to be detained by Iranian authorities remain unknown.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – 2005 – 2013
During his presidency, Iran announced the re-launch of its uranium enrichment activities.
Ahmadinejad famously called for the destruction of Israel and denied the holocaust ever happened. He was known for his disregard for human rights.
His election to a second term in 2009 was widely disputed and led to widespread protests domestically and drew significant international criticism.
Millions of Iranians came to the streets in Tehran and other Iranian cities. The protests were the largest after the 1979 revolution. Ahmadinejad called the protesters, “dust”, and ordered the direct shooting of demonstrators. The protests were quelled with dozens of protesters killed on the street or under torture in prison. Many prisoners, both male and female were raped in prison.
Hassan Rouhani – 2013 – currently
Despite his “moderate” appearance, Rouhani has set a record in the number of executions carried out in Iran with 3,662 executions until December 2018.
On 24 November 2013, the Joint Plan of Action, an agreement for a short-term freeze of portions of Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for decreased economic sanctions on Iran, was signed between Iran and the P5+1 countries. Rouhani called the agreement his government’s greatest achievement. The US later left the agreement in May 2018 with the coming of Trump and relaunched heavy sanctions against Iran.
Rouhani’s government was responsible for the violent suppression of the nationwide protests which started on December 28, 2017 and continued until January of the next year. The result was the killing of more than 50 demonstrators while many jailed protesters were suspiciously killed in prison.
His presidency is marred by a crumbling economy, a 166% inflation rate, unemployment, and the closure of factories. The high rates of government corruption and embezzlement have left 80% of Iran’s population under the line of poverty.
Many believe that Rouhani will be the last president of the Islamic Republic with numerous regime officials and elites warning about the imminent collapse of the state.