News Other Iran elections candidates: Mohammad-Baqer Qalibaf

Iran elections candidates: Mohammad-Baqer Qalibaf

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Iran Focus: Mohammad-Baqer Qalibaf is one of the eight hopefuls competing to become president following the June 17 elections. He is also one of five candidates who previously held top Revolutionary Guards posts. Qalibaf, a former commander of the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ Air Force, stepped down as the chief of the paramilitary police force, the State Security Forces, to run in the upcoming elections. He headed the IRGC Air Force until June 2000, when he was selected as police chief. Iran Focus

Age: 43

Position: Former police chief and top Revolutionary Guards commander

Career Highlights:

Mohammad-Baqer Qalibaf is one of the eight hopefuls competing to become president following the June 17 elections. He is also one of five candidates who previously held top Revolutionary Guards posts.

Qalibaf, a former commander of the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ Air Force, stepped down as the chief of the paramilitary police force, the State Security Forces, to run in the upcoming elections.

He headed the IRGC Air Force until June 2000, when he was selected as police chief.

The Revolutionary Guards brigadier general was initially seen by some senior hard-line politicians as a more hopeful candidate than the other three Revolutionary Guards figures in the race. But his efforts to appeal to young voters by showing off his flying skills, shaving off his beard and donning trendy suits foundered when rivals publicised a letter he and 23 other Revolutionary Guards commanders wrote to incumbent President Mohammad Khatami in July 1999, urging him to “use every available means” to put down a nationwide protest movement led by pro-democracy students or “they would take matters into their own hands”.

In another open letter in 1997, Qalibaf and 32 other top Revolutionary Guards commanders praised Mohsen Rezai for his “services to Islam and Imam Khomeini” after he quit the ayatollahs’ ideological army to take up a top executive post under Rafsanjani.

Critics question his seemingly-overnight “dramatic transformation” pointing to his dark history and his frequent use of violence to deal with protests, even to his last days as police chief.

A number of his most recent speeches in universities across Iran have been met with stark opposition from the audience, with many students booing and jeering at his performances. He was repeatedly interrupted during a recent speech in the University of Ilam (western Iran) by chants of “Killer of the university dorms, where is your conscience, where is your conscience?”

The student protestors were referring to Qalibaf’s public support of the 1999 SSF attack on a university dorm in Tehran, where a student was thrown out of the window to his death.

The repercussions consequences of that attack were widespread, sparking riots which rocked cities across the country for a week.

Similar violent attacks on other universities, social gatherings, and after-hours raids on people’s homes are making it an especially hard task for Qalibaf to appeal to Iran’s youths, which represent more than two thirds of the total population.

On his orders the paramilitary police force routinely conducted raids on homes for the purposes of confiscating satellite dishes, a rather common-yet-prohibited household item. Many in the population reported that, under Qalibaf, SSF units beat up and arrested anyone thought to be actively campaigning for lasting change in society. A number of student activists have also “disappeared” during this time, though there have been reports and it is widely believed that they were arrested and locked away or worse.

Critics also point the finger at Qalibaf for a recent crackdown on those who “violate” Iran’s Islamic law on the World Wide Web. Arrests of web-loggers soared during his time as security chief with a number of youths still imprisoned on charges of writing material online criticising Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

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