Mohammad-Ali Abtahi

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Mohammad-Ali Abtahi
Photo taken during Iranian oral history (abtahi) project by Hossein Dehbashi uploaded by Mardetanha (51) (cropped).jpg
Vice President of Iran
for Legal and Parliamentary Affairs
In office
PresidentMohammad Khatami
Preceded byAbdolvahed Mousavi Lari
Succeeded byMajid Ansari
Chief of Staff of the President of Iran
In office
PresidentMohammad Khatami
Succeeded byAli Khatami
Personal details
Born (1958-09-29) September 29, 1958 (age 61)
Mashhad, Iran
Political partyAssociation of Combatant Clerics
Alma materIsfahan University (B.A. in Western Philosophy)
University of Tehran (M.A. in education)

Mohammad-Ali Abtahi (Persian: محمدعلی ابطحی‎; born January 27, 1958) is an Iranian theologian, scholar, pro-democracy activist and chairman of the Institute for Interreligious Dialogue. He is a former Vice President of Iran and a close associate of former President Mohammad Khatami. Abtahi is a member of the central council of Association of Combatant Clerics (Majma'e Rowhaniyoon-e Mobarez), the political grouping to which both Khatami and the 2009 presidential candidate Mehdi Karroubi (the previous Speaker of Majlis of Iran) belong.

Political career[edit]

Early careers[edit]

Abtahi served in various governmental posts, including the President of Iranian Radio, Vice Minister of International Affairs in the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, and IRIB's representative in Lebanon.

Khatami's Government[edit]

In 1997, President of Iran Mohammad Khatami chose Abtahi as his first chief of staff. Abtahi held the position from July 10, 1997 to September 1, 2001.[citation needed]

On September 2, 2001,[citation needed] Abtahi was elevated to the post of the Iranian Vice President for Legal and Parliamentary Affairs. He was the first cabinet member in Iran to write a weblog or have an Orkut account during his membership in the cabinet. He resigned from his post three times after the Iranian Majlis election of 2004, because of "differences in political viewpoints with the parliament's majority", and finally, on October 12, 2004,[citation needed] his resignation was accepted by President Khatami. He was followed by Majid Ansari, a previous representative of Tehran to the Parliament and a fellow member of the Combatant Clerics Society party.

The Daily Show appearance[edit]

Seyyed Abtahi appeared on The Daily Show with John Stewart in 2009, interviewed by Jason Jones.[1] Abtahi is often called the "blogging mullah" along with Mehdi Karroubi who is referred to as the iron "shaykh of reforms" Seyyed Abtahi is active in the blogosphere and is the first member of an Iranian cabinet to keep a personal blog.

Arrests and confession[edit]

Abtahi's father, Ayatollah Hassan Abtahi is the author of several controversial books about Imam Mahdi.[2] Seyyed Hassan's ultra-conservative religious and political views are very different from Mohammad Ali's, who is a liberal cleric. Seyyed Hassan was arrested recently for "suspicious organised activities". Mohammad Ali discussed this in a post to his blog titled Why don't I write about my father and brother's arrest?.

Mohammad Ali Abtahi was arrested on June 16, 2009 during the aftermath of the 2009 presidential elections and subsequent protests.[3] He reportedly made a videotaped confession following his arrest,[4] in which he stated that the opposition's claims of a stolen election were false, and that opposition leaders had conspired in advance to misrepresent the vote.[5] According to the statement, former presidents, Mohammad Khatami and Rafsanjani had taken an oath not to abandon each other in their support for former prime minister Mir-Hossein Mousavi as they prepared to stage a Velvet Revolution in order to avenge their defeat in 2005 Iranian presidential election.[6] According to human rights groups, similar confessions by Iranian political prisoners are almost always obtained under duress.[5]

In response members of his and other arrested reformists gathered at his home issued a statement denouncing his confession, saying “not only do we not accept the confession, we also know that Abtahi said these things due to a long period of imprisonment for the purpose of obtaining a confession.” In a court hearing, his wife Fahimeh Mousavinejad, dismissed her husband’s confession as false and "not at all in Mr. Abtahi’s style. ... As his family, we know the way he expresses himself. Many people have read his blog. The sentences he was using were not his own”.[5]

Abtahi's photos from the trial show signs of probable use of torture during his imprisonment.[7] Following Abtahi's record as the first Iranian cabinet member to blog while in office, on August 26, 2009, he also became the first known Iranian prisoner to blog while still at prison.[8] A few days after that prison blog entry, however, his website was suddenly taken offline.

In November 2009, he was sentenced to six years in jail for the alleged intention to topple the government.[9] He has since been freed.[10]

Personal life[edit]

Mohammad Ali Abtahi was born in Mashhad. He is married to Fahimeh Mousavinezhad (daughter of one of his professors) and has three daughters, named Faezeh, Fatemeh, and Farideh. He is also the nephew of Abdolkarim Hasheminezhad.

Health issues[edit]

On 14 October 2013, Abtahi was hospitalized in Milad Hospital after he suffered a brain attack. Hours later, Abtahi's personal doctor confirmed that Abtahi's health was good.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ "Leading Iranian reformist arrested, his office says". Reuters. June 16, 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-16.
  4. ^ August 2, 2009, Mass Trial for Protesters Begins in Iran By ROBERT F. WORTH and NAZILA FATHI
  5. ^ a b c Iran Broadcasts Confessions by 2 Opposition Figures on Trial
  6. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-08-03. Retrieved 2009-08-03.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  7. ^ "Iran Trials Denounced – Confessions under Torture". Uskowi on Iran. 2 August 2009.
  8. ^
  9. ^ Reuters: Top Iranian reformer jailed for six years - reports
  10. ^ "Prospect of Iran's Election Stirs Little Hope This Time Around". The New York Times. Retrieved May 11, 2013.
  11. ^ Abtahi suffered brain attack

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Chief of Staff of the President of Iran
Succeeded by
Ali Khatami
Preceded by
Abdolvahed Mousavi Lari
Vice President for Legal and Parliamentary Affairs
Succeeded by
Majid Ansari