Childhood & Early Life
He was born on November 12, 1948 as Hassan Fereydoun in Sorkheh in the Semnan Province, Iran, to Haj Asadollah Feridon and Sakineh Peivandi. He later altered his last name as Rouhani meaning community of clerics.
His father ran a business of spices in Sorkheh and politically opposed the Shah of Iran and faced several arrests ahead of the 1979 Iranian Revolution.
His religious studies began in 1960 when he joined the ‘Semnan Seminary’.
In 1961 he joined the ‘Qom Seminary’. He was under the guidance of many noted Shia scholars including Mohammad Fazel Lankarani, Mohammad Mohaghegh Damad and Mohammad-Reza Golpaygani.
He travelled around the nation after 1965 and was outspoken in his views against the Shah and advocated for cleric Ruhollah Khomeini who was in exile. He faced several arrests and was debarred from giving public speeches.
In 1969 he enrolled at the ‘University of Tehran’ and in 1972 he earned a bachelor’s degree in Judicial Law.
In 1973 he joined military service in Nishapur.
In 1977 he had to flee from Iran. He went to Paris and after joining Ruhollah Khomeini he interacted with Iranian students groups around Europe.
He returned to Iran along with Ruhollah Khomeini post the Iranian Revolution of 1979 and joined hands in rebuilding the government and organizing the army and military bases.
In 1980 he became an elected member of the ‘Majlis’ (Parliament) of Iran. For the next two decades he held different positions in the ‘Majlis’. For the first two terms he remained the chief of the committee of Defense. In the fourth and fifth terms he served as the Deputy Speaker as well as the chief of the foreign policy committee.
From 1980-83 he headed the supervisory council of ‘Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting’.
He held various positions at the time of the Iran-Iraq war. He was a ‘Supreme Defense Council’ member from 1982 to 1988. In 1983-85 he served as deputy commander of the war, from 1985 to 1988 he was the commander of the Khatam-ol-Anbiya Operation Center and during 1986-91 he was the commander of the Iran Air Defense Force. In1988-89, he remained Deputy to Second-in-Command of Joint Chiefs of Staff of Iran.
From 1986 to 1988 he remained a member of the ‘High Council for Supporting War’ and led the ‘Executive Committee’ of the Council.
The ‘Iran-Contra affair’ that involved selling arms to Iran, saw Robert C. McFarlane, ‘National Security Advisor’ of the then American President Ronald Reagan visiting Tehran in May 1986. Rouhani was among the three Iranians to participate in discussions with McFarlane.
His contributions during the Iran-Iraq war were well recognised and he was awarded with the second grade ‘Fath Medal’ and the first grade ‘Nasr Medal’.
In 1989 he became the first secretary of the ‘Supreme National Security Council’ and held the position till 2005. As a Secretary of the ‘Supreme National Security Council’ he played an instrumental role from October 6, 2003 till August 15, 2005 as one of the prominent negotiators of Iran, on issues of nuclear technology, with Germany, France and the UK. The negotiations were held in Tehran, Paris, Geneva and Brussels.
From 1989 until 1997 he served as the ‘National Security Advisor’ to President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.
Since 1991 he runs the ‘Center for Strategic Research’ and serves as its research professor. He has written several books and articles in Arabic, Persian and English language.
He has remained a member of the ‘Expediency Council’ since 1991 and serves as the chief of the Political, Defense, and Security Committee of the Council.
After about two decades he returned to his academic studies and earned an M.Phil. in Law in 1995 from the ‘Glasgow Caledonian University’ in Scotland submitting his thesis ‘‘The Islamic legislative power with reference to the Iranian experience’’.
He remained a member of the board of trustees of the Tehran Universities and North Region from 1995 to 1999.
In 1999 he earned a Ph.D. in ‘Constitutional Law’ from the ‘Glasgow Caledonian University’ in Scotland submitting his thesis "The Flexibility of Shariah (Islamic Law) with reference to the Iranian experience".
He became an elected member of the ‘Assembly of Experts’ representing Semnan Province during its midterm elections held on February 18, 2000. Again in 2006 he was elected member of the ‘Assembly of Experts’ this time representing Tehran Province, a position he still holds.
From 2000 to 2005 he served as the ‘National Security Advisor’ to President Khatami.
Hassan Rouhani contested and won the presidential election held in June 2013. On August 4, 2013 he was sworn in at the ‘House of Parliament’ as the seventh president of the country. He inducted Eshaq Jahangiri as the vice president.
He is a proponent of rights of women and his regime has witnessed induction of three women vice presidents namely Shahindokht Molaverdi, Masoumeh Ebtekar and Elham Aminzadeh. Marzieh Afkham remains the first foreign ministry spokesperson of Iran under his government. He is also committed to establish a ministry for women.
On the economic front he focuses on controlling inflation, curbing high unemployment and enhancing purchasing power.
He has made effort to revive diplomatic association of Iran with other nations and in this endeavour sent conciliatory letters to heads of six countries including the US President.
Following his meeting with the British Prime Minister David Cameron, the two nations accorded to resume diplomatic ties. While the ‘Iranian Embassy’ in London’ was restored in February 20, 2014, it was officially reopened on August 23, 2015.
He visited New York, US in September 2013 and had a one on one telephonic conversation with the US President Barack Obama on September 27, 2013. It was the first conversation of politicians of the highest-level between the two nations since 1979.
His government signed many agreements with Iraq and was the first to extend support after the ‘Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’ (ISIL) and associated forces initiated the ‘Northern Iraq offensive’ against Iraq government. Iran played a prominent role during the military intrusion to combat the ISIL.
He serves as managing editor of ‘Foreign Relations’, ‘Iranian Review of Foreign Affairs’ and ‘Rahbord’, the three quarterlies that are published in both English and Persian language.