|Mohammad Khatami became known as a reformist during his presidency [AFP]|
A mid-ranking cleric, Mohammad Khatami showed a moderate tone within Iran and with regards to the West, when president of Iran from 1997 to 2005.
Khatami became known as a reformist, allowing an increased female and youth voice in politics during his term – policies which remain in place during under Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, his successor.
He appointed the first women to a cabinet position and was also the first Iranian head of state to visit western Europe since the Iranian revolution of 1979, which saw Iran’s imperial regime ousted.
Khatami visited Italy, Germany and France during the trip, and also mended relations with Iran’s Gulf neighbours during his tenure.
Such liberalism has generated many hardline opponents to Khatami in the socially and politically constricted Iran, although the charismatic leader maintains popularity among young people.
Born in October 1943, in the Yazd province in central Iran, Khatami had a religious upbringing, being the son of a revered ayatollah.
He has studied Islam and philosophy, but unlike some of his contemporaries, has branched out to appreciate western philosophy. One of the several books the former president has written studies Western philosophical and political thought.
Khatami has achieved the third-highest level of Islam’s clerical rank – hojatoleslam.
Following two years of mandatory military service under the Shah’s regime, post-revolution he became a newspaper editor and later an MP.
The cleric then became head of the ministry of culture and Islamic guidance for nearly four years until 1992, when conservative influences forced his resignation.
Under Khatami’s presidency the media was allowed to work freely.
However, despite a seemingly liberal outlook, Khatami came under criticism as president for not being strong enough against the country’s hardliners.
In February 2009, he announced he was running for the June 12 presidential election. But a month later, Khatami withdrew, saying he wanted to avoid a split in the reformist vote.