Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran's diminutive president since 2005, is no stranger to controversy. He famously called for the State of Israel to be "wiped off the map" and has shown remarkable truculence in the face of international condemnation of the country's nuclear ambitions, forging ahead with an ambitious uranium enrichment programme.
But Iran's economy, largely dependent on oil exports, has been flagging of late, and a growing anti-government movement, violently suppressed after disputed elections in 2009, has shown up deep social fissures in the Islamic Republic. Yet despite these blips in Ahmadinejad's recent political career, his poor background and modest lifestyle combined with his unwavering criticism of American foreign policy has made him a formidable powerbroker in the region and Iran a fulcrum of regional geopolitics. Trained as an engineer, Ahmadinejad rose from relative obscurity to become Mayor of Tehran in 2003 after having been dismissed from his post as governor of Ardabil province by the reformist president Mohammad Khatami in 1997. His hardline credentials, however, finally payed off when he won the run-off presidential vote with a convincing 62% of the vote in 2005.
Iranian photographer Hossein Fatemi spent 4 years following Ahmadinejad around Iran and on a number of visits abroad, gathering a unique archive of the Iranian leader and his recent political career. In 2009, after concerted intimidation by the authorities following the disputed presidential poll, Fatemi decided to leave the country and base himself in Afghanistan, becoming the first Iranian photographer to be embedded with the US military.
Hossein Fatemi has been working with Panos Pictures since 2010.