Iran's new president responds to "Are you Turkish?" question

Following the death of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi in a helicopter crash, the reformist Tabriz MP and former Health Minister, Massoud Pezeshkian, won the subsequent elections and became the country's 9th president. But how did Iran's new president respond to the question "Are you Turkish?" when it was posed to him in the past?

Publication: 06.07.2024 - 12:24
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Massoud Pezeshkian, who served as Iran's Health Minister, won the second round of the 14th presidential elections with 53.7% of the votes.

Speculations about Pezeshkian's Turkish origins were widely covered in the media before the elections.

In a past interview, Pezeshkian responded to the question, "Are you Turkish?" with the following words:


Reporter: In a video, you speak Kurdish very fluently. Where are you from?

Pezeshkian: I was born in the city of Mahabad in Azerbaijan (a city in West Azerbaijan).

Reporter: So, are you Kurdish or Turkish?

Pezeshkian: Didn't you understand from my words whether I'm Kurdish or Turkish? From the beginning, I didn't even allow my children to speak Persian at home; we spoke Azerbaijani. I explicitly stated that I am Turkish and that I was born in Azerbaijan. My father was Turkish, my mother was Turkish, and I am proud to be Turkish.


Massoud Pezeshkian, who won Iran's 14th presidential election against his conservative rival Saeed Jalili to become the country's 9th president, is known not only for his political background but also for his unique stance.

Reformist politician Pezeshkian was born on September 29, 1954, in the city of Mahabad, to an Iranian-Turkish family, and he has always proudly acknowledged his Turkish identity.

His surname, "Pezeshkian," means "Doctors" in Persian. He graduated from Tabriz University Medical School and served as both a combatant and a doctor during the Iran-Iraq War from 1980 to 1988.

Pezeshkian completed his general surgery training at Tabriz Health Sciences University after the war and specialized in cardiac surgery there in 1993. He served as the rector of the university from 1994 to 1999.


In 1994, Pezeshkian lost his wife, Fatma Mecidi, and one of his sons in a traffic accident. He raised his remaining two sons and a daughter alone and never remarried. His loss and dedication earned him sympathy and respect from many in Iranian society.

Pezeshkian's political career began when he was appointed Deputy Health Minister in 1997 during the reformist presidency of Mohammad Khatami. He later became the Health Minister in 2001, serving until 2005.

In the 2008 general elections, Pezeshkian was elected as a Member of Parliament for Tabriz, a position he has held for five terms.


Pezeshkian has not shied away from criticizing the government's treatment of dissenters. After the 2009 presidential election protests, he gave a speech in parliament criticizing security forces' interventions, which led to tensions with conservative lawmakers.

In 2013, Pezeshkian applied for the presidential elections but later withdrew his candidacy. He served as the Vice Speaker of the Iranian Parliament from 2016 to 2020, advocating for the nuclear deal and better relations with the West.

His 2021 presidential candidacy was rejected by the Guardian Council, but he was re-elected as a Tabriz MP in the March parliamentary elections.


Following the death of Mahsa Amini in police custody in September 2022, Pezeshkian spoke on state television, arguing that interventions stemming from mandatory hijab laws worsened the situation and should end.

"We want our children to be virtuous, but if these actions are driving them away from religion, we should not continue this method," he said.


Pezeshkian, who received open support from former Presidents Mohammad Khatami and Hassan Rouhani, as well as former Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, emphasized "ethnic and sectarian discrimination" and the mandatory hijab issue during his campaign. He pledged to solve economic and justice-related problems.

He also promised to lift most internet bans and called for significant reforms in domestic and foreign policies, including better relations with the West.

Pezeshkian became the first reformist elected president of Iran since 2005.