Glossary of Iranian Political Terms
The information on the current page was initially collected from the footnotes provided in the Tehran Daily Newspaper Review, and its main purpose is to provide background knowledge for the foreign readership who may be less informed of key facts, events, and personalities in Iran’s contemporary history. As time goes on, we here at Iranian Diplomacy will add more terms and information to help you with a better understanding of the news headlines, and the general atmosphere of Iranian politics—context is guaranteed. (Come back and visit this page regularly for updates.)
9th of Dey: The day when massive state-backed demonstrations put an end to 8 months of protests in Iran by the Green Movement. The demonstrations were primarily a response to the movement’s gathering in Tehran on the sacred day of Ashoura, whose sanctity was tarnished by the protestors –who had cheered on a day when the Shi’as are supposed to mourn over the woes of their third Imam- according to the Islamic Republic and its supporters.
15th of Sha’ban: Anniversary of birth of the Shia 12th Imam, Mahdi (AJ), who will one day emerge from occultation and fill the world with justice, according to Shia belief.
598, Resolution: Resolution issued by the United Nations in July 1987 to end the eight-year war between Iraq (under Saddam Hussein’s leadership) and Iran. During recent years, voices inside Iranian politics have criticized the then decision-makers of the Islamic Republic (mainly Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani as head of the Supreme Council of Defense, and Mohsen Rezaee as commander of the Revolutionary Guards) for Iran’s acceptance of the resolution.
Ab-ol-Fadhl al-Abbas: The brother of Imam Hussein (AS), the third Shi’a Imam, and the epitome of loyalty and bravery for Shi’as. He was martyred in the battle of Karbala on Ashoura.
Agha: Literally meaning ‘master’ or ‘sir’, agha is an epithet used to call the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Khamenei, by his faithful supporters, whether ordinary citizens or politicians. The word has a strong emotional connotation.
Agha-Tehrani, Mojtaba: Tehran MP and former instructor of ‘ethics’ lessons for Ahmadinejad’s cabinet. He once compared Reformists to dirty diapers thrown away by people.
Aghazadeh: Disapproving and disparaging term widely used in Iranian political literature to describe the sons of famed political or religious figures, who supposedly enjoy privilege over ordinary citizens due to their father’s stature.
Allameh: Honorary title applied to a knowledgeable person, typically a cleric (or a man of letters).
Article 44: An article of the Islamic Republic Constitution that reads: “The economic system of the Islamic Republic of Iran shall be based on public, cooperative and private sectors, with proper and sound planning…The private sector includes such activities related to agriculture, cattle-raising, industry, trade and services that supplement the economic activities of public and cooperative sectors.” In post-Revolution Iran, the private sector has nonetheless been quite frail. In the spring of 2005 Ayatollah Khamenei issued a statement calling for inclusion of the private sector in strategic industries. His directive, generally known as the Article 44 Directive, has remained to a large extent unrealized.
Article 90 of the Constitution, Committee of: A Majles Committee in charge of investigating complaints about the executive or the judicial branches of the government. Article 90 of the Iranian Constitution reads: “Whoever has a complaint concerning the work of the Assembly or the executive power, or the judicial power, can forward his complaint in writing to the Assembly. The Assembly must investigate his complaint and give a satisfactory reply. In cases where the complaint relates to the executive or the judiciary, the Assembly must demand proper investigation in the matter and an adequate explanation from them, and announce the results within a reasonable time. In cases where the subject of the complaint is of public interest, the reply must be made public.” (from iranchamber.com)
Asalouyeh: Site of Iran’s main gas field, South Pars, shared with Qatar (which calls it North Dome) located in south, on the coast of the Persian Gulf.
Ashoura: The most sacred day for Shi’as when they commemorate martyrdom of Prophet Mohammad’s grandson and the third Shi’a Imam, Hussein (AS), and his companions by Yazid, the then caliph of the Muslim World. On December 27th 2009, on the day of Ashoura, the Green Movement launched its last major demonstration. It turned out to be the most violent up until then; the rally led to several casualties (including Mir Hossein Mousavi’s nephew). It turned out to become a strong rebound for the Green Movement which was accused of violating the sanctity of Ashoura. A massive state-led demonstration held three days letter effectively ended the chain of post-election protests.
Assembly of Experts: The (elected) legal body in charge of electing and monitoring the Supreme Leader. It is currently chaired by Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, though there are strong voices (subsequent to the 2009 presidential election) calling for his removal.
Azadegan: (Literally meaning ‘the liberated (from worldly belongings)’) The term used for ex-POWs of the eight-year Iran-Iraq war, who were gradually released after the end of the war.
Baharestan: Site of Iran’s Majles (Parliament).
Baqa’I, Hamid: Head of Iran’s Cultural Heritage Organization and a member of the inner circle of the cabinet’s most influential figure, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei. He was selected as Ahmadinejad’s special representative in Asian affairs, a position dissolved after Ayatollah Khamenei’s criticism.
Bonyad-e Shahid: (Literally ‘The Institution of Martyr’) State-run organization in charge of affairs related to the martyrs (of the Iran-Iraq war) and their families.
Drinking the ‘poison hemlock’: The metaphor used by the late Ayatollah Khomeini when he accepted UN Resolution 598 to put an end to the eight-year war with Iraq.
Eid-e Fetr: (Original pronunciation in Arabic Id-ul-Fitr) The Muslim holiday that marks the end of the month of Ramadan.
Eshtehardi, Kaveh: Editor-in-Chief of Iran daily, the government’s official mouthpiece.
Estefta’: Derived from the same root as fatwa, estefta’ is an Arabic term to refer to a question asked of a prime religious leader [Marja’] to resolve a religious problem. Ayatollah Khamenei’s latest response to an estefta’ on the level of compliance to Velayat-e-Faqih(Guardianship of the Islamic Jurisprudent), which implies a lax attitude toward the issue, has sparked debates among the loyal forces of the Islamic Republic.
Expediency Discernment, Council of: Supervisory body in charge of resolving differences between the Guardian Council and Majles or the government. Its current head is Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and its members, among who automatically included are the heads of the three branches of government, are selected by the Supreme Leader.
Fetneh: (In Arabic Fitnah) Qur’anic term meaning ‘trial’. In Iran’s political context, it was first used by the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei to describe the post-election developments as a situation in which the distinction between wrong and right was extremely difficult. The word has been widely used since then by loyal forces to the Islamic Republic, while Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi (and at times Khatami) have been named as Saran-e Fetneh (Heads –Leaders- of the Fetneh).
Ganji, Akbar: Radical pro-reform journalist now residing in the United States, known for his point-blank criticism of the right wing’s (and later in exile, the Islamic Republic’s) policies.
Guardian Council: (Original title: Council for Guardianship of the Constitution) Legal body in charge of calibrating bills passed by Majles or the government according to the Constitution and the laws of religion (shari’ah). It consists of 12 members: six clerics (of a certain clerical knowledge – ej’tehad), and six law experts. The clerics are introduced by the Supreme Leader, while the legal experts are introduced by head of the judiciary and require Majles’ approval before joining the council.
Hejab: (In Arabic Hijab) female dress code suggested in Islam, according to which women should fully cover their head and body. Covering the hands and feet is optional.
Hezb-e Mo’talefe-ye Eslami: (Islamic Coalition Party) Powerful conservative party with strong links to Tehran’s Bazaar.
Hezbollah: A Qur’anic term translated conventionally as “the party of God”. In Iran, its usage predated the formation of the pro-Iran Lebanese Shi’a group of Hezbollah and was used in the early years after the 1979 Islamic Revolution to describe pro-Islamic Republic forces versus the Marxist, Nationalist and pro-Bani Sadr (Iran’s first president) groups.
Insider: (Khodi in Persian) epithet applied to forces faithful to the Islamic Republic and acknowledging its tenets.
Jame’atain: Arabic word meaning “two Jame’ah [societies]”, referring to Society of Seminary Teachers of Qom and Association of Combatant Clerics of Tehran.
Jundullah: Literally meaning ‘The Army of God’, it is a terrorist organization involved in several cases of kidnapping and suicide bombing. The group claims to be fighting for the rights of Iran’s Baluch minority. Some Iranian media call it Jundushaitan, or The Army of Satan.
Jundushaitan: See Jundullah.
Kahrizak: Notorious detention center located in south-east Tehran, site of the murder of 4 post-election protestors after their detention. The center was shut down by order from Supreme Leader, and officers and accomplices were tried and sentenced.
Konkour: Extremely competitive national examination held for Iranian students who intend to enter undergraduate or graduate studies.
Kuy: (Contraction for Kuy-e Daneshgah-e Tehran) Tehran University’s main dormitory. The facility was raided by as yet ‘unidentified’ plainclothes agents two days after the June 12, 2009 presidential election. It underwent a similar experience in 1999, when pro-Khatami students gathered in the campus to protest against the closure of the Salam reformist newspaper.
London Circle: a number of self-exiled Iranian officials and journalists, including former Minister of Culture Ata-o-llah Mohajerani and famed journalist Mas’oud Behnoud, who have functioned as a powerful think-tank for the Green Movement since the 2009 presidential elections.
Mahdi Hashemi: Son of Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, accused by Ahmadinejad supporters of being the mastermind behind the post-election unrest. He was allegedly a major financial supporter of Mir Hosein Musavi’s presidential campaign, utilizing the financial resources of the Islamic Azad University powerhouse. A few weeks after the June 12th presidential election, he left the country for Britain and has not yet returned.
Maskan-e Mehr: A grand governmental plan for construction of cheap housing.
Maximal Attraction and Minimal Repulsion: The strategy introduced by the Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei in treating post-2009 election protestors.
Motahhari, Ali: Son of the late Ayatollah Motahhari –revolutionary ideologue who was assassinated in the early months after the Islamic Revolution. He is an orthodox Principlist MP who is an ardent critic of both Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and reformists, basically regarding their cultural policies.
Naderan, Elias: Leading Principlist MP who has spearheaded accusations of financial corruption against Ahmadinejad’s Vice-President, Mohammad Reza Rahim. The two sides to the argument have filed lawsuits against each other in Iran’s judiciary.
Neither Gaza, Nor Lebanon/My Life Devoted to Iran: The most popular slogan chanted by the Green Movement supporters during 2009 Quds Day Rally, the annual march held on the last Friday of Ramadan in Iran (and other Muslim countries) in support of the Palestinians. The slogan infuriated many revolutionary politicians as it was in direct opposition to the Islamic Republic’s 30-year agenda of defending the Palestinian cause.
Nezam: (literally meaning ‘system’) is synonymous to ‘the Islamic Republic’ in Iranian political discourse. It is mostly used by insider politicians, or those who were once known as insiders (such as the self-exiled Reformists). The opposition to the Islamic Republic prefers to userezheem (regime) which assigns it a negative connotation.
Palizdar, Abbas: Former member of Seventh Majles investigation committee for the Judiciary. He made a series of controversial speeches at Iranian universities in early 2008, accusing many high-ranking officials of economic corruption and even murder plots. Palizdar was tried and sentenced to ten years of imprisonment. He is currently out on bail.
Rahimi, Mohammad Reza: Ahmadinejad’s Vice President. The governor of Kurdistan Province during Hashemi Rafsanjani’s presidency, he has been frequently accused of financial corruption by senior principlist MPs such as Elias Naderan.
Reconstruction Era: A term used to describe the presidential tenure of Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. Begun in the wake of peace between Iran and Iraq after a bloody 8-year war, Hashemi’s liberal economic –and to some extent cultural- policies which diverted largely from the revolutionary first decade of the Islamic Republic were slammed by the left and Hezbollahi groups.
Rigi, Abdolmalek: Former leader of the terrorist group Jundullah who was arrested by Iranian intelligence forces in February 2010 and hanged in June of the same year.
Roazeh: A mournful religious hymn sung by trained individuals –dubbed roazeh-khan or roazeh-reciter- in Shi’a ceremonies, usually narrating the sufferings and martyrdom of Shi’a imams and other sacred figures. It may be compared to The Passions in Christianity.
Ruh-ol-Amini, Mohsen: Son of Abd-ol-Hossein Ruh-ol-Amini (former Revolutionary Guard member and head of Mohsen Rezaee’s electoral campaign in the June 2010 presidential contest) who died in the Kahrizak Detention Center, south of Tehran, during the post-election protests.
Salahshour, Faraj-o-llah: Member of the small group of revolutionary directors in Iran’s cinema and director of the popular TV series Yousof-e Payamber (Yousef –Joseph- the Messenger). He was later accused and sentenced on charges of script plagiarism.
Shari’ati, Dr. Ali: Revolutionary Islamist intellectual (1933-1977), influenced by the French intellectual movements and Marxist ideas. His radical doctrines heavily influenced the Islamic Revolution and post-Revolution political developments. His “Islam Minus Clerics” theory has received strident criticism by the Iranian clergy, both before and after the Islamic Revolution.
Taghout: Qur’anic term, translated as devil, evil, idol, false deities/gods etc. At the height of the Islamic Revolution, it was a term applied to the last Shah of Iran, Mohammad-Reza Pahlavi, his family, and associates.
Vali-yye Amr-e Moslemin (e- Jahan): Literally meaning The Guardian of Muslims’ Affairs (across the World), it is one of the titles of the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic.
Vali-e Faqih: See Velayat-e Faqih.
Velayat-e Faqih: (Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist) A theory first introduced by Ayatollah Khomeini in the early 1960s. Based on his theory, in the era of Imam Mahdi’s absence, ruling Muslim society is assigned to the faqihs (Islamic Jurists). Based on the Iranian Constitution, the most qualified faqih should be elected as the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic. The person in this position is known as Vali-e Faqih.