Go to contents

[Opinion] Iran’s New Street-Sweeper President

Posted June. 28, 2005 06:03,   


“I am proud to be Iran’s servant and street sweeper.” The words of Iran’s newly elected president, Mahmood Ahmadinejad, are humble and moving. He had been often seen with cleaners on the street during his campaign and this has become his trademark. His campaign video was made to contrast the rural house he lived in as a mayor and the ex-mayor of Teheran’s affluent mansion. Some criticized that this was a “populist show” to appeal to the emotions of classes but in the end, the Iranians elected the hero of the lower class.

In 1979, during the Iranian Revolution, Ahmadinejad was an official of an Islamic radical student group. His experiences in the past have stayed with him like a tattoo. “The Iranian people are special. We make history.” He was the only person out of the eight candidates that reminded people of the revolution 26 years ago. This revolution meant more to the second generation of the revolution than the Russian or the French Revolution. This revolution was the one that reinterpreted Islam with ideologies that surpassed religion and created a “nation of the oppressed.”

With the election of the new president, there are predictions that Iran will revert to the 1979 system. Shiite fundamentalism, which can be called Iran’s revolutionary spirit, repels tyranny and outside influence, and promotes justice and equality. The Arab world believes that they should acknowledge Iran for their political and spiritual superiority in building the first and only theocratic nation. Although the Shiites account for merely 11 percent of the Islamic population, the reason that Iran’s new president is creating tension in the international community is this “strong conviction.”

During the second election his opponent, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, talked of the future though he is 71 years old. The new president, aged 49, emphasizes the past. “Religious democracy is the only way to prosperity,” he said. One wonders whether his number one agenda, eradication of poverty and social justice, can be realized through government-led economic systems. He also announced, “Iran has the right to own nuclear weapons.” Will Iran walk the path of isolation like North Korea’s Kim Jong Il regime?

Kim Sun-duk, Editorial Writer, yuri@donga.com