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Rutgers Professor Reflects on His Campaign For President of Iran

Dr. Hooshang Amirahmadi, a Professor at the Bloustein School, has now ran twice to be President of Iran.
Hooshang Amirahadi
Dr. Hooshang Amirahadi brings a new meaning to the Rutgers slogan, "Jersey Roots, Global Reach." Rutgers University

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—Much has been written about Iran's recent presidential election, won by Hassan Rowhani on Friday.

But those in the Hub City know there's a local angle to this story: Dr, Hooshang Amirahmadi, a Rutgers professor of planning and international development has twice waged campaigns to become the political leader of Iran.

Dr. Amirahmadi was the former Director for the Center of Middle Eastern Studies. He teaches at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy.

His candidacy ended abruptly when, on May 14, he was rejected by the Guardian Council of the Constitution, which decides which names appear on the national ballot.

According to a report on Middle-East-Online.com, US Secretary of State John Kerry announced at a news conference in Tel Aviv, Israel that he is less than pleased with the Iranian Guardian Council’s decision on 2013 presidential candidates.

“An unelected Guardian Council, which is unaccountable to the Iranian people, has disqualified… hundreds of potential candidates according to vague criteria,” Kerry was quoted as saying.

Kerry also stated that the Council chose officials “based solely on who represents the regime’s interests, rather than who might represent some different point of view among the Iranian people.”

This year's election was Amirahmadi's second attempt at running for president of Iran. He first ran in 2005, when he was also unable to secure a ballot position.

The Guardian Council, who manages the electoral process in Iran, approved eight candidates for this year's presidential race, according to a report in the Tehran Times.

But Dr. Amirahmadi believes his campaign was anything but a failure. He told NewBrunswickToday.com his story about how his Rutgers experience and his campaigning experience fueled one another.

“When we began, we knew there would be serious challenges ahead of us...  We have been quite successful in overcoming some of the challenges and learning the art for a possible future run.”

Amirahmadi explains that his campaign was "challenging and educational."

He is “grateful to the University student community for its support... I received tremendous support from various Rutgers communities.”

“Many colleagues supported [me] financially, and with words of encouragement,” Amirahmadi added.

"Local media, including the Targum and many statewide newspapers and websites, including the Star Ledger, covered my campaign enthusiastically and supportively.”

Dr. Amirahmadi went on sabbatical leave for the 2012-2013 academic year, as he wanted to make sure “that [his] campaign stays fully clear of any connection to Rutgers University."

“My campaign did not negatively affect my teaching job.”

Yet Amirahmadi was still able to draw inspiration from his campaign for his career as a planning and international development professor at Rutgers.

“I used the campaign to undertake extensive research and write extensively on how a planner can actually put a plan for a nation. I published those writings in my Campaign Platform.“

Dr. Amirahmadi was also invited to be a keynote speaker at the GlobeMed Gala “ActiveU Gala: Inspiring a Global Health Movement.”

On May 4, at the Douglass Campus Center, he shared his insight on public health and social justice as a Rutgers professor of Planning and Public Policy and president of the American-Iranian Council.

Dr. Amirahmadi said he was “pleased to announce the formation of a new organization, tentatively called the Campaign for a Better Iran.”

“We will work with the next administration and civil society organizations to… adopt our plan for national reconciliation, resolution of conflict with the US, and economic growth.”

Amirahmadi believes, “Rutgers is a great university, among the most diverse and resourceful academic institutions globally. If I ever become Iran's president, I will be lucky to have such an institution behind me.”

“New Jersey is a great State and can offer enormous opportunities for academic, business and cultural exchanges with Iran.”

Amirahmadi said that, despite being booted from the ballot, he campaigned with “dignity” and with “utmost professionalism.”

“We are particularly proud of the tremendous support we have received from young Iranians and university communities throughout the world.”

Amirahmadi continues to say that “rationalism, realism and pragmatism are growing within the political culture of younger Iranians... they are in search of an honorable global place for their nation.”

Amirahmadi currently resides in America, but visits Iran frequently.  His campaign team made use of social media networks, like Facebook and Reddit.

"We have worked to make this a global, grassroots campaign that gets individuals around the world involved in the process," says Kavyon Afshari, Director of Communications for Amirahmadi's campaign.

"Through the three Reddit [Ask Me Anything]s that we did, I got in contact with over 100 people who offered professional skills... It's inspiring when you empower talented people to feel that they can make a difference in something as important as Iran's political system and US-Iran relations."

Amirahmadi belives his campaign was “groundbreaking and historic,” as he felt “a national obligation to enter the race at a time when the Iranian nation needed urgent help.”

“I have become well known to millions in the international community… I believe because of this popularity, our University is even more known globally.”

“I am honored that I have been able to help promote Rutgers' name in great ways."