05 October 2009

Iran: The truth revealed

No sooner does Tracing the Tribe publish a post on the silly Telegraph UK article about Ahmadeinejad's possible Jewish roots, when a Google alert tells us about a just-published Guardian UK article.

The new story refutes the claims in the first article, and is written by Meir Javedanfar, Iranian-born Israeli Middle East/Iran expert.

Writing today in the Guardian, he spoke to real experts, like my friend Professor David Yerushalmi of Tel Aviv University.
Professor David Yeroshalmi [sic], 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. In fact, Iranian Jews use the Hebrew word "tzitzit" to describe the Jewish prayer shawl.

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.
Javedanfar also quotes Robert Tait, a Guardian correspondent who went to Aradan in 2005. Tait says

...the name "derives from thread painter – sabor in Farsi – a once common and humble occupation in the carpet industry in Semnan province, where Aradan is situated".

This is confirmed by Kasra Naji, who also wrote a biography of Ahmadinejad and met his family in his native village. Carpet weaving or colouring carpet threads are not professions associated with Jews in Iran.
This last bit I do not agree with. Numerous Jewish families were involved in carpet weaving in many cities. Carpet weaving was a cottage industry and many people were involved. There are Judaic carpets woven by Iranian Jews.

Additional evidence, according to Naji and Tait, is that his father Ahmad was "in fact a religious Shia, who taught the Quran before and after Ahmadinejad's birth and their move to Tehran." He was so religious that he bought a house near a religious club so that he could mourn the martyrdom of Imam Hossein.

His mother's name is listed as a Seyyede, a female title given to those believed to be direct bloodline descendants of the Prophet Mohammad; males are called Seyyed. These titles are never given to converts to Islam; it is an inherited title, and can be compared to Judaism's Kohanim lines.

Writes Javedanfar:

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.

The Sabourjians were one of many such families. Their surname was related to carpet-making, an industry that conjures up images of sweatshops. They changed it to Ahmadinejad in order to help them fit in. The new name was also chosen because it means from the race of Ahmad, one of the names given to Muhammad.
Read the complete Guardian article at the link above.

1 comment:

  1. When I read the Telegraph article it sounded too much like a hoax and I've learned that unsourced information is tantamount to pure fiction.

    Thanks for following up on the story.