Timeline of Iran's Political Events

Semira N. Nikou
Jan. 16 – The shah and his family went into exile.
Feb. 1 – Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini returned to Iran after 14 years in exile in France and Iraq.
Feb. 11 – Mehdi Bazargan appointed interim prime minister.
March 30-31 – In a referendum, voters overwhelmingly approved the creation of an Islamic Republic. Khomeini declared April 1 the first day of “the government of God.”
May-June – Five prominent clerics close to Ayatollah Khomeini established the Islamic Republican Party.
June 14 – First official draft of the constitution was published. It did not include the position of velayat-e faqih (guardianship of the jurist).
Oct. 24 - New constitution, with velayat-e faqih, is approved by referendum after months of debate over the role of Islam in the state. The new constitution went into effect in early December, and Khomeini became supreme leader.
Nov. 4 – Students seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. The hostage crisis dragged on for 444 days.
Nov. 5 – Interim Prime Minister Bazargan resigned along with his cabinet to protest the hostage seizure.
Jan. 25 – Abolhassan Bani-Sadr was elected Iran’s first president.
March-May – The first parliament was elected. The Islamic Republican Party had the most members, but other parties such as the Freedom Movement also had significant representation. Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani was elected speaker.
March 21 – The Cultural Revolution began. In June, Khomeini ordered formation of the university jihad and began the “Islamization” of universities. Around 20,000 teachers were fired.
Aug. 28 – Amnesty International appealed to Iran to end executions and imprisonments, after citing at least 1000 post-revolution executions.
Sept. 22 – Iraq invaded Iran. The war lasted until August 1988.
Feb. 4 – Khomeini told squabbling politicians to stop “biting one another like scorpions,” followed by a warning to clergy in government one week later that they “should by no means interfere in areas outside their competence.”
June 21 – President Bani-Sadr was impeached; he fled the country in late July. Iran banned all political parties except the Islamic Republic Party.
June 28 – A bomb at the Islamic Republic Party headquarters killed 73 officials, including Chief Justice Ayatollah Mohammad Beheshti, four cabinet ministers and 27 members of parliament. The Mujahedin el-Khalq organization was believed responsible.
Aug. 15 – Mohammad Ali Raja’i became president, but was assassinated on Aug. 30 in a bombing that also killed Prime Minister Mohammad Javad Bahonar.
Oct. 2 - The third presidential election in 21 months – and the second in 10 weeks – was held. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was elected president for the first of two four-year terms.
Oct. 31 - Mir Hossein Mousavi was appointed prime minister.
April 10 – Former Foreign Minister Sadegh Ghotbzadeh and more than 1,000 others were arrested for plotting to assassinate Ayatollah Khomeini. He confessed on television. Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Shariatmadari, who advocated separating mosque and state, was implicated by Ghotbzadeh under torture and stripped of his religious rank. Ghotbzadeh was executed in September.
Dec. 15 – Ayatollah Khomeini outlined an eight-point human rights platform and warned the judiciary and Revolutionary Guards against abusing individual rights in arrests, searches and seizures. On Dec. 22, he said, “We should not engage in oppression. We should not investigate what is going on in people’s homes.” On Dec. 28, the Tehran and Qom prosecutors were dismissed. On Jan. 1, 1983, further purges of revolutionary tribunals were undertaken.
May 11 – Ayatollah Khomeini appealed for an end to disagreements among government officials. On Aug. 23, Khomeini pledged that that the clergy would retreat from political life when the public “gets on the right track.” In an Oct. 5 speech to clerics, he warned against “satans” fomenting discord.
Dec. 8 – Ayatollah Ali Montazeri, later to become Ayatollah Khomeini’s heir apparent, urged government reforms, criticizing the revolution for lacking “a certain moral courage.”
April – In the second parliamentary elections, the Islamic Republican Party dominated, but divisions remained between the conservatives associated with President Ali Khamenei and leftists associated with Prime Minister Mousavi.
Sept. 5 – In a clandestine broadcast, Reza II, son of the late shah, declared himself ruler of Iran and called for overthrow of Ayatollah Khomeini’s regime.
May – Ayatollah Khomeini disbanded the Islamic Republic Party because of internal conflicts.
Feb. 6 – Khomeini established the Expediency Discernment Council to mediate conflicts between the Guardian Council and the parliament, and to advise the supreme leader.
March – A political split in the country’s main clerical organization – the conservative Society of Combatant Clergy – led to the creation of a competing radical and populist clerical organization called the Association of Combatant Clerics.
April – In the third parliamentary elections, candidates identified with the leftist Society of Combatant Clerics and non-clerical Islamic Revolution Mujahedin won the majority of seats.
March 28 – Khomeini fired heir apparent Ayatollah Montazeri, who later became the leading dissident cleric and was put under house arrest.
June 3 – Ayatollah Khomeini died.
June 4 - Ayatollah Ali Khamenei became the new supreme leader.
July 28 – A revised constitution eliminated the office of prime minister and made permanent the Expediency Discernment Council. The supreme leader’s power was expanded.
Aug. 3 – Rafsanjani was elected president for the first of two four-year terms and launched the era of reconstruction.
April-May – In the fourth parliamentary elections, the Guardian Council for the first time extensively vetted candidates and disqualified 30 incumbents. The conservative Society of Combatant Clergy won two-thirds of the seats. Ali Akbar Nateq Nouri was elected speaker.
March-April – In the fifth parliamentary elections, the conservative Society of Combatant Clergy received the most seats. But candidates of the newly created Servants of Construction, which consisted of technocrats allied with President Rafsanjani, also did well. Nateq Nouri was reelected as speaker.
May 23 – Mohammad Khatami won the presidency in an upset landslide with 70 percent of the vote. The reformist era began. A coalition of 18 organizations and parties identified as reformist formed a front called the Second Khordad Front, named for the Persian calendar date of Khatami’s election.
July 8 – Students demonstrated at Tehran University after reformist Salaam newspaper was closed by the judiciary. Protests continued for six days. More than 1,000 students were arrested.
February-May – In the sixth parliamentary elections, the reformist Second Khordad Front won 65 percent of the 290 seats. Mehdi Karroubi was chosen as speaker.
April – Widening a crackdown on the burgeoning independent press, the judiciary banned 16 reformist newspapers.
June 8 – Khatami was re-elected president by a landslide.
June 10 – Students led protests against raising university fees and privatization of universities that grew into wider pro-democracy demands. They also condemned President Khatami for failing to support them.
Oct. 10 – Human rights activist and lawyer Shirin Ebadi won the Nobel Peace Prize.
February – In the seventh parliamentary elections, the Guardian Council disqualified thousands of reformist candidates, including many incumbents. Conservatives took control of parliament. Gholamali Haddad Adel was elected speaker.
June 24 – In presidential elections, conservative Mahmoud Ahmadinejad defeated Rafsanjani.
June 27 – Protests erupted after the government imposed fuel rationing.
March – In the eighth parliamentary elections, the Guardian Council’s extensive disqualification of reformist candidates assured a conservative victory. But political rivalry among conservatives intensified. Ali Larijani replaced Haddad Adel as speaker.
June 12 – Ahmadinejad won re-election, defeating former Prime Minister Mousavi, former parliamentary Karroubi and former Revolutionary Guard commander Mohsen Rezaei. The election featured the first televised debates. The defeated candidates and many others claimed massive voting fraud.
June 13 – The opposition Green Movement launched the most serious challenge to the theocracy since the revolution. Millions turned out on the streets of several Iranian cities for the next two weeks with banners declaring “Where is my vote?”
June 21 – The cell phone video capturing the shooting of Neda Agha Soltan, a 26-year-old student, was broadcast around the world. She became an international symbol of the Green Movement.
July 29 – Karroubi revealed incidents of death, torture and sexual abuse of protesters at Kahrizak Prison, which was followed by other first-hand accounts. Among the dead was the son of a senior Revolutionary Guards commander. The government closed the facility.
Aug. 1 – The judiciary launched televised trials of well-known reformers and former government officials such as former Vice-President Mohammad Ali Abtahi and Mohsen Mirdamadi, leader of the Islamic Iran Participation Front, the most popular reform party. They were accused of fomenting unrest and other anti-government activities. Five trials lasted into the fall.
Sept. 18 – On Qods Day (or Jerusalem Day), thousands demonstrated across Iran in support of opposition candidate Mousavi. A dominant slogan became, "No to Gaza and Lebanon. I will give my life for Iran,” rejecting the government’s support of Palestinian and Lebanese militancy. Qods Day marks the last Friday of the month of Ramadan, which Ayatollah Khamenei had dedicated as a day of solidarity with the Palestinian people
Nov. 4 – On the anniversary of the U.S. Embassy takeover, tens of thousands of protesters gathered across major cities. Instead of chanting “Death to America,” protestors chanted, “Death to the dictator,” a reference to Iran’s supreme leader.
Dec. 19 – Leading dissident cleric Ayatollah Montazeri died, sparking widespread protests across Iran, including in the holy city of Qom.
Dec. 27 – Commemorations on Ashoura, the holiest day for Shiites, turned into violent anti-government protests.
Dec. 30 – Thousands of pro-government forces rallied in response to opposition protests on Ashoura.
January – The parliament and the Guardian Council approved a plan for subsidy reform.
Feb. 11 – Both pro-government forces and members of the opposition movement turned out onto the streets on the anniversary of the revolution. But security forces prevented the opposition from mass protests, marking the success of a crackdown against the Green Movement.
July 21 – Ayatollah Khamenei issued a fatwa declaring that the supreme leader’s rule is a direct succession to the Prophet Mohammed and the Shiite imams.
Dec. 13 - President Ahmadinejad sacked Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki without the Supreme Leader Khamenei’s approval. Mottaki was considered one of Ahmadinejad’s main opponents within the Iranian leadership. Ahmadinejad appointed top nuclear official Ali Akbar Salehi to replace Mottaki.
Feb. 14 – The first mass anti-government demonstrations in a year took place following uprisings throughout the Arab world. Violent clashes with security forces reportedly left two dead. Opposition groups reported that 1,500 people were detained, but authorities said only 150 were detained.
Feb. 28 – The government placed reformist leaders Mir-Hossein Moussavi and Mehdi Karroubi under house arrest for supporting the widespread demonstrations.
Apr. 17 – President Ahmadinejad pressured Intelligence Minister Heydar Moslehi to step down. But he was reinstated by Khamenei. Lawmakers called for the Ahmadinejad’s impeachment.
Oct. 10 – Reformist leader Mehdi Karroubi was briefly released from house arrest to celebrate his 74th birthday.
Oct. 11 - The United States accused Iran of involvement in an alleged plot to kill the Saudi Arabian ambassador to Washington. Tehran denied the claims.
Nov. 29-30 – Iranian protesters stormed the British embassy in Tehran during a demonstration against U.K.-imposed sanctions. Britain evacuated its diplomatic staff and expelled Iranian diplomats from London. But ties were not severed.France, Germany, and the Netherlands also recalled their ambassadors for consultations.
Oct. 3-5 – Iranian riot police broke up demonstrations at a major bazaar in Tehran. Protestors blamed President Ahmadinejad for the plummeting value of the rial. The bazaar closed for three days, due to the demonstrations.
Nov. 9 – Iran announced a ban on over 70 types of foreign luxury goods.
January – Iran arrested 11 journalists accused of working with foreign Persian-language media organizations such as the BBC.
Jan. 28 – The Guardian Council approved amendments to Iran’s Election Law that significantly limited the government’s role in running elections.
May – More than 500 candidates registered to run for the presidency but only eight men were approved by the Guardian Council, including Mohammad Reza Aref, Saeed Jalili, Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, Mohammd Gharazi, Mohsen Rezaei, Hassan Rouhani and Ali Akbar Velayati.
May 31-June 7 – State television aired a series of three debates on the economy, social issues and foreign policy. All eight candidates were allotted the same amount of time to respond to questions and each other’s responses.
June 15 – Hassan Rouhani won the presidential election with 18.6 million votes, just over half of the votes.
Aug. 3-4– Hassan Rouhani took office at a ceremony in Tehran on August 4 in which Supreme Leader Khamenei endorsed his victory. Rouhani took the oath of office before parliament and foreign dignitaries the following day.
Aug. 15 – Parliament approved 15 of Hassan Rouhani’s 18 picks for cabinet ministers. Most of them were ministers or senior bureaucrats with pragmatic outlooks who served during Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani’s presidency between 1989 and 1997.
September-November – After Rouhani’s inauguration, the government announced the release of some 80 political prisoners including noted human rights activist Nasrin Sotoudeh. But only about half had been released by early November.

Nov. 24 – Iran and the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, United Kingdom, United States, and European Union) announced the Joint Plan of Action (JPOA), an interim deal that sanctions relief for Iran in exchange for nuclear concessions while a final deal was negotiated over the next six months.

Aug. 20 – Parliament dismissed Science Minister Reza Faraji-Dana for his support of students involved in the 2009 demonstrations. The science minister’s responsibilities include overseeing universities and Faraji-Dana’s decision to allow students previously expelled for their involvement in the protests to return to classes angered many conservatives.

Oct. 21 – Chairman of the Assembly of Experts, Ayatollah Mohammad Reza Mahdavi Kani, died after being in a coma following a stroke on June 4. Mahdavi Kani became Chairman of the Assembly of Experts in 2011 following the resignation of Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. A member of the Combatant Clergy Association, Mahdavi Kani also served as Acting Prime Minister, Minister of Interior, and Minister of Justice. Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi became the acting Assembly of Experts chairman after Mahdavi Kani fell into the coma.

Nov. 24 – Officials from Iran and P5+1 missed the deadline for a deal and announced that talks would be extended by seven months, with a political agreement to be in place by March 2015.

Jan. 21 – Mohammad-Reza Rahimi, former first vice president under Ahmadinejad, was sentenced to five years in prison and fined approximately $1 million. Rahimi was convicted of corruption charges related to insurance embezzlement as part of the so-called Fatemi Circle.

March 10 – Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi was elected Chairman of the Assembly of Experts following the death of the previous chairman, Ayatollah Mohammad Reza Mahdavi Kani, the previous October. Yazdi defeated previous chairman Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani after two rounds of votes.

April 2 – Zarif and E.U. foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini issued a joint statement announcing that Iran and the P5+1 had reached an understanding on key parameters for a comprehensive nuclear deal, with the final agreement to be drafted by June 30.

June 8 – Former Ahmadinejad vice president, Hamid Baghaei, was arrested on unspecified charges.

July 14-20 – Iran and the P5+1 announced that they reached a final deal on Iran’s nuclear program, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and the U.N. Security Council subsequently adopted Resolution 2231 to endorse the deal.

Jan. 20 – The Guardian Council vetted prospective candidates for the parliamentary and Assembly of Experts elections. Although a full list of disqualified candidates was not publicized, many of them were reportedly reformists. In response to criticism of Guardian Council, Ayatollah Khamenei publicly announced his support for their judgement.

Jan. 26 – In an Instagram post, the son of Hassan Khomeini, a grandson of the late Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, announced that his father was one of the more than 600 candidates barred from running for a seat in the Assembly of Experts. A week later Khomeini received the public support of former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani to be allowed to run.

Feb. 6 – The Guardian Council reversed the disqualification of more than 1,500 previously barred candidates.

Feb. 10 – Hassan Khomeini’s appeal to the Guardian Council for permission to run in the Assembly of Experts election was rejected.

Feb. 18-24 – Candidates campaigned for the parliamentary and Assembly of Experts elections.

Feb. 26 – A loose group of reformists, centrists and moderate conservatives, known as the List of Hope, scored a decisive victory by securing a majority of the seats decided in the first round of voting. The results were similar in the Assembly of Experts. In the Tehran election, reformists took all but one seat with reformist former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani receiving the most votes while the previous assembly president and hardliner Mohammad Yazdi missed the cut off.

April 15 – After winning a seat in Parliament, female reformist candidate Minoo Khaleghi was retroactively disqualified in a controversial move by the Guardian Council. The Council did not give an official reason for her disqualification, although some speculated that a photo of her shaking hands with a man and not wearing a hijab might have triggered the decision.

April 30 – The List of Hope failed to win the seats needed in the runoff elections to take a majority the parliament. But they won enough to form the largest bloc.


Jan. 8 – Former president and moderate leader Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani died of a heart attack at age 82.

Jan. 10 – More than 2 million people reportedly participated in former President Rafsanjani’s funeral procession, including top political figures. Some mourners took the opportunity to protest by chanting pro-opposition slogans so loudly that state television played music during the broadcast to drown the sound out.

April 20 - The Guardian Council announced the approved candidates for the 2017 presidential election. They included incumbent President Rouhani, hardliner and Khamenei-ally Ebrahim Raisi, and Mayor of Tehran Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf. Most prominent among the rejected candidates was former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who registered against the will of Khamenei.

May 20 – President Rouhani won reelection over hardliner Ebrahim Raisi, securing 57 percent of the vote in a strong endorsement of his agenda. Rouhani’s campaign emphasized loosening social and political controls and attracting foreign investment.

May 29 – Iran held elections for city and town councils nationwide. Reformist candidates won a decisive victory nationally, outperforming conservative candidates.

June 7 – ISIS terrorists conducted a dual attack in the heart of Tehran, targeting the mausoleum of Ayatollah Khomeini and Parliament. The attacks killed 18 civilians and left 50 wounded. Iran responded with surface-to-surface missiles targeting ISIS facilities in Syria.

Aug. 10 – Tehran City Council elected Mohammad Ali Najafi, a reformist who held various ministerial positions under multiple administrations, to be mayor. Najafi took office August 29, after the Interior Minister approved his credentials. Najafi took over from Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf, who served as Tehran’s mayor for twelve years.

Oct. 9 – The Administrative Court of Justice suspended Sepanta Niknam, a Zoroastrian member of Yazd city council. A Guardian Council decision, that the election of non-Muslims in Muslim-majority districts was a violation of Sharia, guided the court. The court’s suspension triggered a jurisdictional battle between Parliament and Guardian Council.

Dec. 27 – The Girls of Revolution Street protest movement against the mandatory hijab began. Female protesters recorded videos of themselves without a hijab, or waving their hijabs on street corners and other public places.

Dec. 28 – On December 28, 2017, protests broke out in Mashhad, Iran’s second largest city, over economic hardships, corruption, and rising food and fuel prices. The initial protests were reportedly sparked by increases of up to 40 percent in staples, including eggs and poultry. Out of a population of 80 million people, about 3.2 million Iranians were jobless, with youth unemployment around 29 percent. The protests quickly morphed into anti-government demonstrations that spread to more than 80 cities. At least 20 people were killed and more than 3,000 arrested. The demonstrations were the largest challenge to the government since the 2009 Green Movement. The initial demonstrations lasted for about two weeks.


Feb. 11 – President Rouhani called for referendums to resolve Iran’s political divisions. The call came during a commemoration of the Revolution, one month after intense protests nationwide.

March 14 – Mayor of Tehran, Mohammad Ali Najafi, resigned following conservative backlash after he attended an Islamic version of Mother’s Day celebration that featured a female dance performance. Although the girls were under the age of nine, political opponents seized the opportunity to attack him.

April 7-9 – In a major setback with potential political fallout, the rial lost 18 percent of its value on the free market between April 7 and April 9. It hit an all-time low against the dollar, which was reportedly being traded for 62,000 rials on the free market. The official rate – set by the Central Bank of Iran – was 37,830 rials. In response, the government decided to finally unify the free market exchange rate and the official exchange rate – at 42,000 rials to the dollar.

April 18 – Kaveh Madani, deputy head of Iran’s Organization of Environmental Protection, resigned and left Iran for the United Kingdom following a crackdown on environmental activists. Madani was an award-winning scientist and water conservation expert who returned to Iran one year earlier at the Rouhani administration’s request. Madani was arrested in February in a regime sweep of environmentalists, one of whom died while in custody.

May 8 – President Trump announced the U.S. withdrawal from the JCPOA and the reimposition of nuclear-related sanctions on Iran. The remaining world powers party to the deal reiterated their support for it. Early signals from Tehran demonstrated a strong willingness to save the agreement.

May 13 – Tehran City Council elected Mohammed Ali Afshani as mayor of Tehran following the resignation of Mayor Najafi. Afshani, a reformist, was previously the governor of Fars Province. Tehran City Council refused to accept Najafi’s first resignation on grounds of ill health, believing it to be under duress. City Council accepted his second resignation one month later.

May 13 – Tehran City Council elected Mohammed Ali Afshani as mayor of Tehran following the resignation of Mayor Najafi. Afshani, a reformist, was previously the governor of Fars Province. Tehran City Council refused to accept Najafi’s first resignation on grounds of ill health, believing it to be under duress. City Council accepted his second resignation one month later.

June 25 – Protests shut down Tehran’s Grand Bazaar. Thousands of people marched to voice economic grievances in the capital’s largest demonstration since 2012. Riot police used tear gas to disperse the crowd. The next day, President Rouhani blamed “foreign media propaganda” for the devaluation of Iran’s currency, the rial.

July 29 - Iran’s currency hit another record low, dipping below 100,000 rials to one U.S. dollar. The economy continued a downward spiral in anticipation of the re-imposition of U.S. sanctions in August.

Aug. 8 and 26 – Parliament impeached Labor Minister Ali Rabiei and Economy Minister Masoud Karbasian. Conservative lawmakers blamed President Rouhani’s government for Iran’s economic deterioration.

Sep. 3 – Iran’s rial hit another record low, trading at 128,500 rials to the dollar on the open market. The currency had lost some 70 percent of its value over the year.

Sep. 22 – Gunmen attacked a military parade in the southwestern Iranian city of Ahvaz. The attackers killed at least 29 people and wounded 70, including IRGC soldiers and civilians. Arab separatists claimed responsibility. Iranian leaders blamed the United States’ regional allies for plotting the attack.

Sep. 25 – President Rouhani gave a speech at the United Nations in which he criticized the Trump administration. “The Iranian people have demonstrated their unwavering resilience during the past 40 years despite the difficulties and constraints caused by sanctions, and have shown that they can overcome this difficult phase as well,” he said. Rouhani’s address followed Trump’s. The U.S. president had said, “Iran’s leaders plunder the nation’s resources to enrich themselves and to spread mayhem across the Middle East and far beyond.”

Oct. 21 – President Rouhani reshuffled his cabinet’s economic team after his industry and roads ministers resigned in response to parliamentary pressure. He appointed Farhad Dejpasand, an academic, as the new economy and finance minister. Rouhani also replaced the urban development and roads minister, the industry, mines, and trade minister, and the labor minister. His choices were lesser-known figures meant to appease Parliament, which had confronted Rouhani’s government over the deteriorating economy.

Jan. 5 – The Expediency Council approved an anti-money laundering bill that was one of four reforms required to keep Iran off the blacklist of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an international watchdog. The bill had been passed by Parliament in 2018 with the support of the Rouhani government but was blocked by the Guardian Council. Supreme Leader Khamenei changed his stance on the bill from opposition to guarded support between mid-2018 and early 2019. On February 22, FATF gave Iran until June to pass the remaining two reforms.

Feb. 11 – Iran celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Republic’s establishment with mass rallies around the country. President Rouhani addressed the nation. “Today, we have a true democracy in Iran,” he claimed. “Parties, newspapers and the media are free in this country and all authorities must approach elections with an open mind.” He also emphasized Iran’s resistance to U.S. pressure.

Feb. 14 – A suicide bombing in Sistan and Baluchestan province killed 27 IRGC soldiers. President Rouhani blamed the United States and Israel for the attack.

Feb. 25 – Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif announced his resignation on Instagram. “I sincerely apologize for my inability to continue my service and for all of the shortcomings during the period of my service,” he wrote. The resignation, which exposed rifts among Iran’s political elite, appeared to be triggered by Zarif’s exclusion from Syrian President Bashar al Assad’s visit to Tehran earlier that day. Since 2015, Zarif had been the target of hardliners who thought he made too many concessions during the negotiations that led to the JCPOA. Zarif told colleagues that his departure would aid in “restoring the ministry to its legal position in foreign relations.”

Feb. 27 – President Rouhani rejected Zarif’s resignation. He quoted Supreme Leader Khamenei describing Zarif as ‘honest, brave, courageous and pious,’ and said that accepting Zarif’s resignation was “against our country’s interests.” IRGC Qods Force Commander Qassem Soleimani, who exerts broad influence over Iran’s foreign policy in the Middle East, also expressed support for Zarif. “Definitely, Zarif is in charge of foreign policy of the Islamic Republic of Iran and he has been always supported by top officials including the supreme leader,” he said. Zarif returned to work later that day.

March 7 – Supreme Leader Khamenei appointed Ebrahim Raisi as judiciary chief, replacing Ayatollah Sadeq Amoli Larijani. Raisi, a hardline cleric who lost to Hassan Rouhani by 19 percentage points in the 2017 presidential election, was close to Khamenei and perceived as a potential successor to him as Supreme Leader. Khamenei said he appointed Raisi to bring about a “transformation” in the judiciary and to be “with the people, the revolution and against corruption.” Raisi is a hojatoleslam, a mid-ranking cleric, but some Iranian news agencies began referring him to as an ayatollah on the day of his appointment. He reportedly participated in a “death commission” that ordered the extrajudicial executions of thousands of political prisoners in 1988.

March 11 – Nasrin Sotoudeh, Iran’s most prominent human rights lawyer, was sentenced to 38 years in prison and 148 lashes for nine charges. She received 12 years for allegedly encouraging “corruption and prostitution,” according to her husband, Reza Khandan. The charge was likely connected to Sotoudeh’s representing a woman who was arrested for peacefully protesting the compulsory hijab (head covering) imposed after the 1979 revolution.

Late March-Early April – Flash floods killed dozens of people across Iran. The worst rains in at least a decade ravaged 20 of Iran's 31 provinces. At least 25,000 homes were destroyed, and another 60,000 were damaged. President Rouhani’s hardline rivals used the occasion to criticize the government’s handling of the disaster. “Any shortcomings regarding the handling of the floods, failure to provide relief and aid to the survivors will be investigated,” said Judiciary Head Ebrahim Raisi. Both Rouhani and IRGC Qods Force Commander Soleimani toured the affected areas, sometimes contradicting each other’s instructions to residents.

April 9 – Iranian leaders united in condemnation of the United States’ designation of the IRGC as a foreign terrorist organization. President Rouhani and Foreign Minister Zarif both made statements supporting the IRGC. Members of Parliament, including Speaker Ali Larijani, dressed in IRGC uniforms and chanted “Death to America” and “Death to Israel” during their session.

April 21 – Supreme Leader Khamenei appointed Major General Hossein Salami as the new IRGC commander. Salami, a veteran of the 1980-1988 war with Iraq, had been the deputy IRGC commander and had previously served as head of the IRGC Air Force, which is responsible for Iran’s missile program. He replaced Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari, who was appointed to head the Hazrat-e Baqiatollah Social and Cultural Base, an ideological organization associated with the IRGC. Salami had a record of making inflammatory comments about the United States, Israel, and the Arab countries of the Persian Gulf. “The whole world should know that when we talk about martyrdom it does not mean that we stand still so that the enemy attacks us and kills us. If the enemy opts for a war, we will become fully offensive,” he said in February 2019.

May 23 – Supreme Leader Khamenei publicly criticized President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif for their handling of the negotiations that produced the JCPOA. “I did not really believe in it [the negotiations], and I mentioned this to the president and the foreign minister, and I had warned them several times,” he said. Khamenei had given his approval to the negotiations and the final deal.

Oct. 1 – President Rouhani’s brother, Hosseni Fereydoun, was sentenced to five years in prison for corruption, according to state media. The sentence was reduced from seven years. A judiciary spokesperson said he also had to pay a fine and pay back the bribes he allegedly received. He had been arrested in 2017 after being the subject of multiple investigations, according to the judiciary. Fereydoun had long been accused of corruption by hardliners. Rouhani’s supporters claimed the charges were politically motivated.


Feb. 20  U.S. Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook announced sanctions on five key members of Iran’s Guardian Council, an unelected panel of twelve Islamic jurists and scholars. The council disqualified more than 9,000 out of the some 14,000 candidates who registered to run in the February parliamentary elections. Hook dismissed the poll as “political theater” because “the real election took place in secret long before any ballots were cast.” 

Feb. 21 – Conservative and hardline factions, including candidates closely aligned with the Revolutionary Guards, won a sweeping victory in parliamentary elections. They won 221 of the 290 seats, more than doubling their presence in parliament; 83 were elected in the 2016 poll, according to Icana, the parliament’s news outlet. In a major setback for allies of President Hassan Rouhani, only 19 reformists or centrists won seats. In the 2016 election, reformists and centrists won 121 seats, six times larger than in 2020. The turnout in the 2020 elections was only 42.6 percent, the lowest since the 1979 revolution. 

March 3  Parliament sessions were suspended indefinitely after 23 lawmakers—nearly 10 percent of the Majles—were infected. “These people have a close relationship with the people and they carry different viruses from different parts of the country, which may create a new virus, so we recommend the lawmakers to cut off their relationship with the public for now,” said Parliament’s Deputy Speaker Abdolreza Mesri. 

April 7  The Majles reconvened for the first time since February 25. More than two-thirds of lawmakers gathered for the session. In a vote, parliament rejected an emergency bill for a one-month nationwide lockdown to stem the virus. 

May 27-28  Iran’s new parliament held its opening session on May 27 despite the COVID-19 pandemic. On the following day, the Majles elected Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, a political hardliner and a former Revolutionary Guard, as its new speaker. The former mayor of Tehran, who also ran for the presidency three times, received 230 votes from the 264 lawmakers who attended the session. Qalibafvowed to improve the livelihood of the poor, create jobs, raise the value of the national currency and decrease Iran's dependence on oil.  

Dec. 1 – Iran’s parliament, which was dominated by conservatives and hardliners, passed a bill requiring the government to immediately resume enriching uranium to 20 percent and to stockpile 120 kilograms (265 pounds) of it annually. Uranium must be enriched to 90 percent or above to fuel a weapon. Parliament also called on President Rouhani, who opposed the bill, to restrict International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors if U.S. sanctions—on Iran's banking and oil sectors—were not lifted within a month. The Guardian Council later extended the deadline to two months.


April 25 – Iran International TV, a Persian-language station based in London, aired three hours of a leaked interview with Foreign Minister Zarif that triggered a political firestorm. Zarif candidly said that the IRGC dominated foreign policy, had withheld information about military operations, and had sidelined the foreign ministry in major decisions. The three-hour audio was an excerpt from a seven-hour interview conducted as part of an oral history project on the Rouhani administration. The interviews with Zarif and other officials were not intended for publication before Rouhani’s second and last term ended in August 2021.

On May 2, Supreme Leader Khamenei appeared to criticize Zarif for his remarks but did not name him during a televised address. “Some statements have been heard from certain officials of the country these days that are a source of surprise and regret,” he said. Zarif apologized on Instagram.

May 25 – The Guardian Council approved seven candidates to run for president. A total of 592 candidates, 552 men and 40 women, had registered to run. The Guardian Council barred some 98 percent of hopefuls, including former President Ahmadinejad, former Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani and First Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri. The seven approved candidates included five conservatives, one centrist and one reformist. The head of the national judiciary, Ebrahim Raisi, was the most prominent conservative candidate.

June 18-19 – Iran held its presidential election on June 18. Three candidates had dropped out on June 16, which left four in the race. On June 19, the Interior Ministry announced that hardliner Ebrahim Raisi won the election with 62 percent of the votes. But the turnout, just 48.8 percent, was the lowest for a presidential election in the history of the Islamic Republic. Only 28.9 million Iranians — out of the more than 59 million eligible voters — participated. Activists had called for a boycott. Compared to previous elections, the low turnout reflected widespread apathy about both the candidates and the future of the revolution.

July 15 – Starting on May 23, several major cities, including Tehran, were hit by rolling power blackouts caused by soaring temperatures and rising demand on crumbling infrastructure. Meanwhile, over 300 cities—nearly a fourth of all municipalities— faced water shortages caused by a drought that produced one of the driest years since 1971.  The twin crises triggered protests in major cities and the provinces across several days. President Rouhani blamed the power outages on the drought and high temperatures and said that the crisis was “temporary.” But he was also forced to publicly acknowledge government shortfalls. Amnesty International reported that security forces had killed at least eight protesters and bystanders, between July 15 and 23, across seven different cities in Khuzestan province. On July 28, the United States condemned Iran’s crackdown on peaceful protests.

Aug. 1 – Outgoing President Rouhani apologized to Iranians for their suffering during his eight years in office. “If we had any shortcoming and flaws, we ask people’s forgiveness and mercy,” he said during his last cabinet meeting. Rouhani said that his administration would have been more successful if President Donald Trump had not withdrawn from the 2015 nuclear deal and reimposed economic sanctions on Iran in 2018. Rouhani also cited the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and a prolonged drought as key obstacles. Rouhani admitted that he “did not tell part of the truth” to the public for the sake of preserving national unity. But he did not elaborate.

Aug. 5 – Former judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi took the oath of office as Iran’s eighth president in a ceremony before parliament, senior officials and foreign dignitaries. On foreign policy, the new president pledged to support “any diplomatic plan” to lift U.S. sanctions which have battered Iran’s economy since 2018. He vowed that Iran’s controversial nuclear program was “peaceful.” At the same time, Raisi said, “All the parameters of national power will be strengthened, adding that “the Islamic Republic of Iran’s power in the region creates security.” On domestic policy, he pledged to stabilize the economy, address people’s basic needs, fight corruption and to better manage water and gas resources.


Garrett Nada, Eli Pollock, Daniel Schnur, and John Prentice Caves III also contributed to this timeline.