Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, new president elect?


Qalibaf has set a record for the number of times he has run as a candidate in Iran’s presidential elections. With four nominations now, he has surpassed even Mohsen Rezaei, known for his consistent presence in all election cycles in Iran, and has broken his record. Since he was forty-four years old, the idea of the presidency has never left his mind. Twenty years have passed from the days when he wore stylish and ironed clothes, printing election posters in a pilot’s uniform, to today, where he wears simple khaki clothes and presents himself as a humble and managerial figure. His supporters once claimed he could govern with authority, but now even his former supporters have turned away from him.

Scandals and weak political identity

Consecutive scandals, from the revelation of extensive properties and financial corruption of his deputy in the Tehran municipality, to his daughter’s purchase of sesame seeds from Turkey and his son’s costly attempt to immigrate to Canada, have weakened his standing among his fundamentalist supporters, yet none have caused him to lose his position. He remains influential at high power levels. Many in the government believe that although Qalibaf lacks a clear political identity, he has changed his attire numerous times over the past two decades.

Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf was born in 1960 in the city of Targaba near Mashhad. His father was born there and was a shopkeeper. Baqer attended school in Mashhad and earned his diploma. Concurrent with the revolution’s victory, Qalibaf began his involvement in the Basij, and during the unrest in Kurdistan, he traveled to that city.

As the Iran-Iraq war commenced, he headed to the southern fronts and joined the Revolutionary Guards at the war’s onset. Qalibaf became commander of the Imam Reza Brigade in 1982 and a year later, at age 22, assumed command of the Lashkar. He became the youngest commander of one of the army divisions. That same year, he married the girl next door. Following the war’s conclusion and the Corps‘ elevation of ranks equivalent to the army, division commanders received the rank of brigadier general, with Baqer Qalibaf, still under 40, becoming one of the Corps‘ youngest brigadier generals.

He also served as deputy of the Basij resistance force post-war. Brigadier Qalibaf was appointed commander of this camp in 1981 when the Khatam al-Anbia reconstruction camp was established as one of the IRGC’s economic arms. During this period, the initial contracts involving the Revolutionary Guards in economic activities were signed with the government. Three years later, he became commander of the IRGC Air Force. During this time, he also acquired passenger plane piloting skills, completed an Airbus pilot course in France, and became a pilot at Iran Air.

It was during his tenure as IRGC Air Force commander that protests erupted at Tehran University. Shortly after the university unrest, Keyhan newspaper published a confidential letter from a group of IRGC commanders to President Mohammad Khatami. The IRGC commanders, including Qalibaf, warned President Khatami in their letter that their patience was wearing thin and that they would act if the government failed to quell the unrest. The letter sparked widespread reaction and was viewed by many as a threat against the president. Qalibaf later acknowledged being the primary author of the letter’s content.

Commander of the police force

In 2005, Qalibaf was appointed by Khamenei as the commander of the police force, which led to his rapid promotion within the government. In his position as police commander, he formulated various plans to pressure the society’s elites. During his tenure, a group of artists, writers, and intellectuals were summoned to the police security offices and arrested, earning him the reputation of a security manager.

He resigned from his police command for the first time in March 2006 to participate in the ninth presidential election. During that period, the reformists, who controlled the government, did not reach a consensus on a single candidate and entered the competition with four reformist candidates and one moderate candidate. This situation presented the fundamentalists with a prime opportunity to win the elections, but they also entered the race with several candidates.

Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, initially considered the leading candidate of the fundamentalists, suddenly switched positions in the final days with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the then mayor of Tehran. In the end, Qalibaf was the fourth runner-up in the first round with about four million votes and fourteen percent of the votes, thus unable to continue in the competition. The fundamentalists then had to find a new position for him since he had resigned as police commander to run in the elections.

The mayor of Tehran

As a result, he replaced Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and, with the support of the fundamentalist-controlled Tehran City Council, became the mayor of Tehran for twelve years, from 2005 to 2017. Qalibaf did not participate in the 10th presidential election, likely due to the candidacy of former Prime Minister Mir Hossein Mousavi, who was more popular, especially among the younger generation, leaving Qalibaf with little chance.

Four years later, he decided to run for president again. Qalibaf believed that his extensive construction projects in Tehran and the 2009 elections‘ aftermath would position him favorably as a managerial candidate in a suit against Hassan Rouhani and Saeed Jalili, potentially attracting votes from the undecided segment. Therefore, he attempted to adopt a dual policy that was neither fully embraced by the undecided voters nor the revolutionary movement.

However, his rivals within the faction exposed a controversial file about him in the final days of the election, highlighting the inconsistencies in his political record and election claims. The file contained a speech Qalibaf made to Basiji students about the 2017 university incidents. In it, he stated that he told the National Security Council that any demonstrator coming to the students‘ residence would be suppressed by him as police commander, but other council members insisted that police entry into a student residence required the council’s permission.

„Pincer Sardar“

Additionally, during the election debates, Hassan Rouhani, who later became president, accused Qalibaf of planning to issue a permit for the demonstration and then attack the demonstrators with pincer movement. From that day, Qalibaf became known as „Pincer Sardar .“

In the end, Hassan Rouhani won the election, and the defeated Qalibaf was elected as the mayor of Tehran by the fundamentalist-controlled Tehran City Council.
Four years later, while still serving as the mayor of Tehran, Qalibaf ran for the presidential election again, entering the race with an anti-corruption plan and considerable popularity. However, during a televised debate, Hassan Rouhani addressed a case that Qalibaf had tried to keep hidden: the incident involving the deaths of seven people following a football match.

Tragedy at the Azadai Sports Stadium

In April 2003, after the match between Iran and Japan at the Azadi Sports Stadium, an incident resulted in the death of seven people and injuries to more than 50 others. Over 100,000 people had attended this crucial World Cup qualifying match, but the stadium lacked minimal facilities, and entry and exit routes, particularly from the second floor, were poorly managed. Following Iran’s victory, the joyous crowd faced closed doors upon trying to leave.

The then-manager of Azadi Stadium had informed news agencies that on game days, the control of all entrances and exits was the responsibility of the police. Two weeks after the disaster, the government spokesman stated that the doors were closed because a police helicopter had landed in front of the main entrance to shorten the journey of its passengers. This helicopter, carrying Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, the then-police commander, had caused the main gate to be closed, leading to the fatal crush.

In the election, Qalibaf countered Rouhani with the „Where is your child?“ campaign, accusing officials, including Rouhani, of having children abroad. He also published a list of his and his only dependent child Ishaq Qalibaf’s assets, which claimed to include a minimal amount of cash. However, six years later, Ishaq Qalibaf’s real bank account was revealed, showing that Ghalibaf had lied about their wealth.

Qalibaf’s withdrawal, Raisi’s success

Amid this scandal, four days before the election, he withdrew under pressure from the fundamentalists in favor of the main fundamentalist candidate, Ebrahim Raisi. Qalibaf did also not succeed in the council elections and lost the mayoral post after twelve years. Undeterred, Qalibaf ran in the 2019 parliamentary elections during a period of public frustration, which saw a turnout of less than twenty percent. He won the most votes in Tehran and became the chairman of the parliament.

Two years later, he became a candidate for the 2021 presidential election. However, considering that the result was predetermined and that Ebrahim Raisi, believed by some to be the leadership’s successor, was to become president, the fundamentalists asked Qalibaf to withdraw. He complied and once again withdrew shortly before the voting day in favor of Raisi.
Now, he was trying to maintain the presidency of his parliament, a position that was unstable and under threat. The threats came not from the opposition and reformists, but from the fundamentalists and revolutionary forces. Fundamentalist critics argued that Qalibaf’s Hezbollah and revolutionary appearance did not match his behind-the-scenes actions. Qalibaf attempted to be recognized as a revolutionary manager, but these efforts failed when his and his children’s different lifestyles were revealed.

Sesame gate scandal

In 2022, pictures of several members of the Qalibaf family were published showing them arriving at Tehran airport on a flight from Istanbul with a large amount of luggage. Fundamentalists revealed that Qalibaf’s wife, daughter, and son-in-law arrived in Tehran with numerous items, including baby supplies and a stroller for Qalibaf’s grandson, bought from Istanbul. The disclosure of these purchases, which became known as the „Sesame Gate“ scandal, faced severe criticism from political activists and even fundamentalists. Critics accused Qalibaf of hypocrisy and false teaching.

A short video of Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf’s words from the previous year’s presidential debates resurfaced, where he criticized the daughter of Hassan Rouhani’s Minister of Education for bringing baby clothes from Italy. The revelations about Qalibaf and his children continued into the following year. Two weeks before the election, documents were published showing that his son Ishaq Qalibaf had a case in the Federal Court of Canada and had spent the last five years trying to obtain a Canadian immigration visa.

Ishaq Qalibaf is the same son whom Qalibaf had claimed, during the election campaign six years ago, had limited assets. It was now revealed that Ishaq had submitted documents to the Canadian government showing he had $295,000 in Pasargad Bank and over $15,000 in national banks of Australia and New Zealand during those years, which he could access anytime. The release of these documents was a fatal blow to Qalibaf’s position, not at the power levels but among the fundamentalist base.

Speaker of the parliament

In the previous term, Qalibaf had won the most votes in Tehran, but this time he was placed fourth with only 100,000 votes. Despite this, he still managed to become the Speaker of the Parliament. Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf has been trying to become the president of Iran since 2005 and holds the record for candidacies in the presidential elections of Iran. His candidacy in the early presidential elections of 2024 marks his fourth attempt to attain a position that no head of state in Iran has left it safely secured.

Qalibaf is one of the famous personalities in the field of corruption in Iran, and his name is more than anything tied to the big cases of economic corruption. His corruptions are so wide and varied that some domestic media refer to him as „encyclopedia of corruption“. In 2017, he was accused of corruption in the media following the disclosure of the official report of the General Inspection Organization regarding the transfer of a huge amount of municipal properties with a large discount to various individuals and cooperatives. After this incident, the people who published this government report were arrested and their sites were closed. Also, Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf has been accused of numerous financial corruptions; among them, paying large bribes to prevent investigation and investigation regarding the illegal transfer of municipal properties to different people at the time of appointment as the mayor of Tehran, withdrawing tens of thousands of dollars from the municipal budget.


As explained earlier, Qalibaf did not succeed in the presidential elections during that period, and instead of Ahmadinejad, the former mayor, who had then become the president, became the mayor of Tehran. According to government reports that were revealed by a journalist, Qalibaf, in the Tehran Municipality, bribed more than 180 senior and middle managers of the municipality, a number of council members, an executive officer, a member of parliament and a senior administrative director of the parliament and a number of municipal employees. Houses, apartments and land had been handed over mainly in the elite areas of Tehran, with many and surprising facilities and discounts.

As the mayor of Tehran, Qalibaf not only gave municipal properties to managers and political officials, but also made news by handing over valuable land to a charity belonging to his wife. In one of the most expensive areas of Tehran, he handed over a plot of land with an area of ​​49,608 meters to a charity belonging to his wife. According to the official reports, corruption in Tehran Municipality during Qalibaf’s time was so widespread that even the judicial expert was not available to the inspection organizations to investigate the dimensions of this corruption. Finally, to solve this problem, the government sentenced Qalibaf’s deputy, Issa Sharifi, to 20 years in prison due to extensive violations, but he never caused trouble for Qalibaf.

The fraudulent transfer of 300 SUVs to the representatives and employees of the 11th parliament headed by Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf shows that wherever he went, he took corruption with him. In the summer of last year, one of the MPs revealed that 300 SUVs were given to MPs, employees, and managers in a fraudulent process. He said: „The issue is that he was exposed to a conspiracy and the deputy of the parliament called him and said that we have considered these cars for you and their condition is that they should be in the name of your son-in-law, bride, chauffeur and head of office.“

After the disclosure of this widespread corruption, instead of Qalibaf being questioned and held accountable as Speaker of the Parliament, the representative who disclosed the corruption lost his eligibility to be a candidate for the 12th Parliament elections.

Another case of corruption of Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf and his family is related to the complaint of „Ishaq Qalibaf“ against the Canadian government due to the delay in issuing his permanent residence.

The media revealed that the Federal Court of Canada ruled in favor of Ishaq Qalibaf in the complaint case due to the prolonged processing of his residence case and obliged the government to clarify his residence status as soon as possible. It is said that Ishaq Qalibaf applied for permanent residence in Canada about five years ago, and a few months ago, he filed a complaint with the Federal Court due to the prolonged process of his case.

This is while about five years ago, during the 2017 presidential election, Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf published the list of his and his family’s assets and claimed that his son Ishaq had some cash in his bank accounts, while according to the releaved documents from his son’s immigration file, Ishaq Qalibaf had tens of thousands of dollars in cash in foreign banks at the same time.

Of course, this lying and corruption of Qalibaf was never pursued by any judicial institution in the Islamic Republic. In addition to these widespread corruptions, there are other cases, including:
The disappearance of 20 thousand billion Tomans, equivalent to about ten billion dollars, during the tenure of Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf.

Elias Qalibaf, another son of Bagher Qalibaf, went to 14 European countries and cities during the years 2005 to 2021, whose expenses are said to have been paid from the government treasury account. Elias Qalibaf’s request for residence was rejected by the Canadian government for unknown reasons.

Mohsen Saravani, Mossad and the death sentence

According to a report of the Iranian Human Rights Organization, in March 2022, Mohsen Saravani was accused of cooperating with the Mossad and „collecting classified information, including confidential, very confidential and secret, through government agents and providing classified information to a hostile service officer.“ He was arrested and sentenced to death.

After that, pictures of Saravani were published next to Sardar Vahid Haqqanian, the executive deputy of Ali Khamenei’s office, and it was said that Saravani had entered the leadership house through Vahid Haqqanian, and it was even revealed that he was a „young advisor in the House of Khamenei“.

„Iran International“ TV channel reported based on its sources that the Ministry of Intelligence had accused Saravani of cooperating with the Mossad since 2019, although Saravani said in court that he confessed to espionage under torture.

Perhaps this disclosure caused Qalibaf to take the place of Vahid Haqqanian and get close to the leadership with all the scandals and widespread corruption and open cases in the judiciary and regulatory bodies.

Qalibaf and the helicopter crash

Especially recently, there have been rumors about the possible involvement of Bagher Qalibaf in the crash of the helicopter carrying Raisi.

Ali-Akbar Raefipour, leader of a newly established ultra-hardliner political “front” called Jebhe-ye Sobh-e Iran (Iran Morning Front)

Qalibaf was a commander of the IRGC Air Force for years and knew all the secrets behind the scenes there. Recently, Ali-Akbar Raefipour, one of the figures very close to the fundamentalists, has revealed that the helicopter with which Raisi fell, as well as the pilot of that helicopter, was the same helicopter that had already moved Khamenei.

He revealed that the helicopter was completely free of technical defects because Khamenei had already flown more than fifty times with the same helicopter and the same pilot. He implied that Qalibaf was responsible for this accident. Raefipour was summoned to the Revolutionary Prosecutor’s Office after this revelation.

@Afshin Sajedi for


mehriran per E-Mail

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