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  • 5 October 2009
  • Posted By Darioush Azizi
  • Culture, Israel

Javedanfar: Ahmadinejad does not have Jewish roots

The debate continues as Iranian-Israeli Meir Javedanfar, a Middle East analyst, presents evidence in an article published in today’s Guardian newspaper (UK) that clearly refute those presented by the Daily Telegraph last week. Below are a few excerpts, but the full article can be read here.

Professor David Yeroshalmi, author of The Jews of Iran in the 19th century and an expert on Iranian Jewish communities, disputes the validity of this argument. “There is no such meaning for the word ‘sabour’ in any of the Persian Jewish dialects, nor does it mean Jewish prayer shawl in Persian. Also, the name Sabourjian is not a well-known Jewish name,” he stated in a recent interview.

Yeroshalmi, a scholar at Tel Aviv University’s Center for Iranian Studies, also went on to dispute the article’s findings that the “-jian” ending to the name specifically showed the family had been practising Jews. “This ending is in no way sufficient to judge whether someone has a Jewish background. Many Muslim surnames have the same ending,” he stated.

Regarding the evidence in the Daily Telegraph that stated Jews in Iran are weavers, Javedanfar states:

Carpet weaving or colouring carpet threads are not professions associated with Jews in Iran.

And he continues…

Ahmadinejad’s father Ahmad was in fact a religious Shia, who taught the Quran before and after Ahmadinejad’s birth and their move to Tehran.

Moreover, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s mother is a Seyyede. This is a title given to women whose family are believed to be direct bloodline descendants of Prophet Muhammad.

The reason that Ahmadinejad’s father changed his surname has more to do with the class struggle in Iran. When it became mandatory to adopt surnames, many people from rural areas chose names that represented their professions or that of their ancestors. This made them easily identifiable as townfolk. In many cases they changed their surnames upon moving to Tehran, in order to avoid snobbery and discrimination from residents of the capital.

  • 4 October 2009
  • Posted By Darioush Azizi
  • Culture, Diplomacy, Human Rights in Iran, Israel

Daily Telegraph: Ahmadinejad has Jewish roots

Evidence uncovered by the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph shows Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has Jewish roots. A picture of the Iranian leader  flashing his shenasnameh, identity card, reveals his former last name to be “Sabourjian.” More from The Daily Telegraph:

The short note scrawled on the card suggests his family changed its name to Ahmadinejad when they converted to embrace Islam after his birth.

The Sabourjians traditionally hail from Aradan, Mr Ahmadinejad’s birthplace, and the name derives from “weaver of the Sabour”, the name for the Jewish Tallit shawl in Persia. The name is even on the list of reserved names for Iranian Jews compiled by Iran’s Ministry of the Interior.

Experts last night suggested Mr Ahmadinejad’s track record for hate-filled attacks on Jews could be an overcompensation to hide his past.

A London-based expert on Iranian Jewry said that “jian” ending to the name specifically showed the family had been practising Jews.

“He has changed his name for religious reasons, or at least his parents had,” said the Iranian-born Jew living in London. “Sabourjian is well known Jewish name in Iran.”

The Iranian leader has not denied his name was changed when his family moved to Tehran in the 1950s. But he has never revealed what it was change from or directly addressed the reason for the switch.

And what happens to those who innocently question his background?

Mehdi Khazali, an internet blogger, who called for an investigation of Mr Ahmadinejad’s roots was arrested this summer.

And what do the Israelis have to say about this?

A spokesman for the Israeli embassy in London said it would not be drawn on Mr Ahmadinejad’s background. “It’s not something we’d talk about,” said Ron Gidor, a spokesman.

  • 18 September 2009
  • Posted By Darioush Azizi
  • Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, Iran Election 2009

Meetings between non-hardliner politicians, ayatollahs increase in frequency

Mir Hossein Mousavi met last night with Grand Ayatollah Mousavi-Ardebili, Ayatollah Yousef Sa’anei, and Seyyed Hossein & Seyyed Mohsen Mousavi-Tabrizi  (brothers) in Qom, according to Tabnak. Ayatollah Shahrestani, Grand Ayatollah Sistani’s right-hand man in Iran, and Ahmad Montazeri (Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri’s son whose three sons were arrested earlier this week) were also present.

Tabnak is also reporting that Ayatollah Saafi-Golpayegani and Ayatollah Noori-Hamedani met in private last night and discussed current events in Iran.

Furthermore, Tehran Bureau wrote today that Speaker of Majles Ali Larijani met with Ayatollah Makarem last night at his residence in Qom. Speaker Larijani represents Qom in Majles and has close ties to the senior clerics there; it was they who convinced him to run for office from Qom rather than a district in Tehran.

We can assume the increased pressure on the various ayatollah and grand ayatollahs (not to mention their families) were discussed, as part of the greater conversation regarding the direction the hard-liners are attempting to move the country in.

  • 14 September 2009
  • Posted By Darioush Azizi
  • Diplomacy

Solana and Jalili agree to meet on Oct. 1

Iran’s nuclear negotiating chief negotiator Saeed Jalili and the European Union’s foreign policy chief Javier Solana have agreed to meet for the first round of discussions on Oct. 1. Representatives from the permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany will begin negotiations with the Iranians on the proposal submitted by the latter last week. A venue has yet to be set, but Turkey’s foreign minister stated from Tehran yesterday his country would be willing to host the talks. Here’s more from the NY Times (via Reuters & PressTV):

Iran last week handed over a package of proposals to the world powers, including the United States, in which Tehran said it was willing to discuss global nuclear disarmament as well as other international issues in wide-ranging talks.

The United States has said it will accept Iran’s offer of talks despite Tehran’s stated refusal to discuss its nuclear work, making clear it intended to raise the issue anyway.

Any talks between the P5+1 and Iran that include global nuclear disarmament will inevitably touch on Iran’s nuclear program – it’s just a matter of when the discussions get around to that subject.

The six powers — the permanent U.N. Security Council members Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States, as well as Germany — offered Iran trade and diplomatic incentives in 2006 in exchange for a halt to uranium enrichment.

They improved the offer last year but retained the suspension demand, something Tehran has repeatedly ruled out as a precondition. Refined uranium can be used as fuel for nuclear power plants but also provide material for bombs.

  • 11 September 2009
  • Posted By Darioush Azizi
  • Culture, Diplomacy, Iran Election 2009, Iranian American activism

White House: Ahmadinejad should not expect invite to reception of leaders

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad should not expect an invitation to a reception of world leaders hosted by President Barack Obama on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly at the end of the month, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said yesterday. More from Yahoo! News:

“I doubt it,” said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs, when asked whether Ahmadinejad would be invited, at a time of extreme tension between Iran and the west over its nuclear program.


Gibbs answered: “Because Iran is failing to live up to its international obligations.”

Gibbs also hinted there may be some other world leaders who “might miss out on the hors d’oeuvers.” He did not reveal the guest list.

The UN meeting and the subsequent G20 summit in Pittsburgh are being seen as a chance for world powers to discuss whether to move ahead with a tough new regime of sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program.

As is tradition, Ahmadinejad will be hosting his own reception in New York, which is usually attended by an array of Iranian Americans. It remains to be seen, however, whether members of the community will be as willing to attend given recent events.

  • 7 September 2009
  • Posted By Darioush Azizi
  • Diplomacy, Nuclear file

Ahmadinejad invites six powers to Tehran, says nuclear discussions “finished”

Speaking at a press conference today President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad invited representatives of the P5+1 to travel to Tehran and “pick up” the Iranian government’s latest proposal. But, he cautioned, discussions over the nuclear program are “finished.” More from Thomas Erdbrink of the Washington Post Foreign Service:

The statement came as the head of the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog announced that his agency was locked in a “stalemate” with Iran. The Obama administration has offered to open talks with Iran on nuclear and other issues, and Mohamed ElBaradei of the International Atomic Energy Agency said he has urged Iran “to respond positively to the recent U.S. initiative.”

“We made the proposal ready this week. I think we sent out the invitations to the representatives of the countries to come and receive it,” Ahmadinejad said. The semiofficial Iranian Students News Agency said Iran was likely to unveil the package by the end of this week.

Although Ahmadinejad said Iran was not willing to discuss limits on its nuclear program, he said it was prepared for talks on the peaceful use of nuclear energy worldwide and “an effective management to prevent proliferation of nuclear weapons and promote global disarmament.”

Iranian authorities to replace humanities curricula in universities with “Islamic materials”

The office of the Supreme Leader seems ready to make good on comments made by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in a speech last week. A hard-line deputy from his office announced today that “Western influences” would be purged from universities nation-wide. Here’s more from the LA Times:

Hamid Reza Ayatollahi, head of a government body that oversees universities, announced a plan to revise humanities curricula to bring them more in line with Islamic principles.

“Many of the syllabuses taught to students majoring in humanities are not in line with Iranian and Islamic culture and therefore their revision is a must,” Ayatollahi said in a statement published by Iranian news agencies.

According to Ayatollahi, a committee has been established to facilitate these revisions.

The effort stemmed from a speech last week by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who said that humanities courses result in “disbelief in Islamic and divine teachings” and are mostly based on “materialist philosophical concepts causing misgivings about religious principles.”

However, critics have lashed out at the move, with former President Mohammad Khatami leading the charge.

Critics derided the purge as another in a 30-year series of ill-fated attempts to impose on Iranian society the puritanical values of hard-liners who dominate political life.

“Certain individuals reject liberalism, but their opposition is based on fascism and totalitarianism,” former President Mohammad Khatami, a prominent reformist, said in comments published on his website Sunday. “Assailing an aspect of the Western experience by insisting on a more dangerous and worse view is doomed.”

Purges of “liberal” and “secular” university professors and curricula have become more and more common since Mahmoud Ahmadinejad became president in 2005.

“It is not first time that human sciences are under attack in Iran,” said Yousef Moalli, an Iranian analyst and lawyer. “In the past years, dozens of professors in political science and law were forced to take early retirement, immigrate abroad or take no-return sabbatical leaves.”


The purge could backfire. In addition to lowering Iran’s educational standards, purging curricula of Western literature and social theory could further alienate the mostly middle-class youth inclined to study humanities and further radicalize a previously apolitical segment of the population dragged into political life by this year’s presidential election.

It has been widely reported that the authorities fear universities becoming points of unity for the impassioned youth, still reeling from the 12 June presidential election.

  • 3 September 2009
  • Posted By Darioush Azizi
  • Iran Election 2009

Head of Reformist front released from Evin, judiciary head opposed to mass trials

PressTV is reporting that the head of the Reformist front in Tehran has been released from Evin prison after nearly two months. Abbas Mirza Aboutalebi was arrested on 10 July in connection with the unrest following the June 12 elections.

Aboutalebi is the deputy secretary general of Hambastegi (Solidarity), an Iranian Reformist party, and was a former deputy at the Iranian Parliament (Majlis).

He was also one of the top campaigners of defeated presidential candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi.

This could be another sign that the conservatives, under the direction of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, are moving towards some form of reconciliation.

Alternatively, it is an example of head of the judiciary Ayatollah Sadegh Larijani’s stance against the mass trials of reformists. Indeed, rumor has it the brother of Majles Speaker Ali Larijani is working to release three key reformists (including Saeed Hajjarian) before the end of Ramazan. From a New York Times article this morning:

Jahan news, a pro-government Web site, reported Thursday that Sadeq Larijani, head of the judiciary, is opposed to the mass trials of political prisoners that the president and his allies have organized.

The report said that he is looking to bring an end to the trials and has ordered the release of three high profile prisoners by the end of the of the holy month of Ramadan, including Saeed Hajjarian, a former deputy minister and reform movement strategist; Mohammad-Ali Abtahi, a former vice president; and Abdollah Ramezanzadeh, a former government spokesman.

  • 2 September 2009
  • Posted By Darioush Azizi
  • Diplomacy, Iran Election 2009, Uncategorized

TB: Ahmadinejad looking for 80 new ambassdors, FM in “chaos”

Tehran Bureau is reporting that President Ahmadinejad is not just looking to replace the 40 ambassadors previously reported, but 40 more as well. This apparently stems from the Foreign Ministry’s state of disarray:

Two reliable sources in Iran’s foreign ministry have told the author [Muhammad Sahimi] that the ministry is in chaos, with at least two factions vying for influence. One group consists of the traditional conservatives that have been at the Ministry since Ali Akbar Velayati was the Foreign Minister from 1981-1997. The second group consists of those who have been brought by Ahmadinejad into the Ministry, with very little, if any, experience in foreign affairs.

Although Manouchehr Mottaki is officially Iran’s Foreign Minister, he is often overruled by the hardliners. The men who have more power than Mottaki are Saeed Jalili, secretary of the Supreme National Security Council and the chief nuclear negotiator, and Velayati who is the Supreme Leader’s advisor on foreign affairs. Ahmadinejad tried to appoint Jalili as the new Foreign Minister, but the appointment was blocked by higher authorities (i.e., the Supreme Leader and his inner circle). It was decided that Mottaki will stay on as the Foreign Minister, apparently signaling that hard-line Saeedi will not lead Iran’s negotiations with the West.

Iran’s most seasoned diplomats have either been forced into retirement, or have left the foreign ministry. In their place there are and will more people whose only “qualification” is close ties to Ahmadinejad and the hardliners. Fars News Agency, which is controlled by the IRGC, has reported that the new ambassadors will be selected from amongst those “experts who believe in the principles of the Revolution,” hard-liners’ new code word for those who support their election coup. Sadegh Mahsouli, the former Interior Minister, is rumored to become Iran’s representative to the United Nations.

In an apparent gaffe, Fars reported that one reason the ambassadors were being replaced en masse, was that many of them supported the demonstrations against the rigged election. Rooz, the online daily, reported that some of the ambassadors to be axed had refused to video tape the demonstrations that took place by Iranians in the Diaspora in front of their embassies in foreign capitals, in order to identify the leaders of the demonstrations.

  • 2 September 2009
  • Posted By Darioush Azizi
  • Diplomacy, Events in Iran, Iran Election 2009, Uncategorized

Forty Iranian Ambassadors are to be replaced for backing “rioters”

Reuters is quoting a Fars News Agency report that says the Iranian Foreign Ministry is recalling forty ambassadors, many who are known to have supported the “rioters” in the post-election crisis.

Citing informed sources, Fars said late on Tuesday that the envoys were given notification that their diplomatic postings had been terminated. It did not give details on which ambassadors were affected.

“Some of these people officially took positions during the recent riots in Iran in support of rioters,” Fars said. “It is supposed that the new ambassadors will be selected from committed experts loyal to the basis of the (1979 Islamic) revolution,” it said.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hassan Qashqavi noted the periodic change in forty or so ambassadors is normal. A similar purge of envoys occurred just after Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took office in August of 2005; then, reformist allies of Mohammad Khatami were targeted.

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Tell Google: Stop playing Persian Gulf name games!

May 14, 2012
Larry Page
Chief Executive Officer
Google Inc.
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View, California 94043

Dear Mr. Page:

It has come to our attention that Google has begun omitting the title of the Persian Gulf from its Google Maps application. This is a disconcerting development given the undisputed historic and geographic precedent of the name Persian Gulf, and the more recent history of opening up the name to political, ethnic, and territorial disputes. However unintentionally, in adopting this practice, Google is participating in a dangerous effort to foment tensions and ethnic divisions in the Middle East by politicizing the region’s geographic nomenclature. Members of the Iranian-American community are overwhelmingly opposed to such efforts, particularly at a time when regional tensions already have been pushed to the brink and threaten to spill over into conflict. As the largest grassroots organization in the Iranian-American community, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) calls on Google to not allow its products to become propaganda tools and to immediately reinstate the historically accurate, apolitical title of “Persian Gulf” in all of its informational products, including Google Maps.

Historically, the name “Persian Gulf” is undisputed. The Greek geographer and astronomer Ptolemy referencing in his writings the “Aquarius Persico.” The Romans referred to the "Mare Persicum." The Arabs historically call the body of water, "Bahr al-Farsia." The legal precedent of this nomenclature is also indisputable, with both the United Nations and the United States Board of Geographic Names confirming the sole legitimacy of the term “Persian Gulf.” Agreement on this matter has also been codified by the signatures of all six bordering Arab countries on United Nations directives declaring this body of water to be the Persian Gulf.

But in the past century, and particularly at times of escalating tensions, there have been efforts to exploit the name of the Persian Gulf as a political tool to foment ethnic division. From colonial interests to Arab interests to Iranian interests, the opening of debate regarding the name of the Persian Gulf has been a recent phenomenon that has been exploited for political gain by all sides. Google should not enable these politicized efforts.

In the 1930s, British adviser to Bahrain Sir Charles Belgrave proposed to rename the Persian Gulf, “Arabian Gulf,” a proposal that was rejected by the British Colonial and Foreign offices. Two decades later, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company resurrected the term during its dispute with Mohammad Mossadegh, the Iranian Prime Minister whose battle with British oil interests would end in a U.S.-sponsored coup d'état that continues to haunt U.S.-Iran relations. In the 1960s, the title “Arabian Gulf” became central to propaganda efforts during the Pan-Arabism era aimed at exploiting ethnic divisions in the region to unite Arabs against non-Arabs, namely Iranians and Israelis. The term was later employed by Saddam Hussein to justify his aims at territorial expansion. Osama Bin Laden even adopted the phrase in an attempt to rally Arab populations by emphasizing ethnic rivalries in the Middle East.

We have serious concerns that Google is now playing into these efforts of geographic politicization. Unfortunately, this is not the first time Google has stirred controversy on this topic. In 2008, Google Earth began including the term “Arabian Gulf” in addition to Persian Gulf as the name for the body of water. NIAC and others called on you then to stop using this ethnically divisive propaganda term, but to no avail. Instead of following the example of organizations like the National Geographic Society, which in 2004 used term “Arabian Gulf” in its maps but recognized the error and corrected it, Google has apparently decided to allow its informational products to become politicized.

Google should rectify this situation and immediately include the proper name for the Persian Gulf in Google Maps and all of its informational products. The exclusion of the title of the Persian Gulf diminishes your applications as informational tools, and raises questions about the integrity and accuracy of information provided by Google.

We strongly urge you to stay true to Google’s mission – “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” – without distorting or politicizing that information. We look forward to an explanation from you regarding the recent removal of the Persian Gulf name from Google Maps and call on you to immediately correct this mistake.



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