28 January 2009

Iran: Jewish genealogists at work?

Ahmadinejad is Jewish? This possibility must be the talk of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Teheran - if there were one!

According to an Iranian blog post, the family's original name was SABORCHIAN and the hometown was Aradan in Semnan province - a carpet weaving center.

The name means a thread painter in the handwoven carpet industry. SABOR is the occupation. CHI is the "occupational" ending as in "one who does something" and IAN means "son of." So for the sake of genealogy and names, the name means more correctly, "the son of one who paints threads." His town of origin is Aradan, in the Semnan region of Iran.

Anyone up for the challenge of gathering Y-DNA and mtDNA samples from Ahmadinejad?

Here are links for more information.

In July 2008, the satire/parody site The Naked Loon carried a piece that began:

In a press conference from Jerusalem on Monday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced the stunning findings of a team of Iran’s best genealogists: Ahmadinejad is a sixteenth Jewish.
A few years prior, in July 2005, a Guardian article revealed a name change for the Iranian president's family "for a mixture of religious and economic reasons" according to the president's relatives, but there was no claim of specific background.

This week, the story on Radio Free Europe centered on a blog post written by Mehdi Khazali, son of a conservative ayatollah, with a similar claim. He wrote that Ahmadinejad had changed his name, that the family was Jewish and that the president's ID card reflects the change. Read Khazali's post here if Farsi is one of your languages; see the fourth paragraph.

IsraelNN.com reported:
Several Iranian media sources are quoting Mahdi Khazali – the son of a leading supporter of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – as having written in a blog that the president has Jewish roots. So reports the Hebrew-language Omedia website and Radio Free Europe.

Khazali, son of Ayatollah Abu Al-Kassam Khazali, says that Ahmadinejad changed his Jewish name on his ID card in order to hide his roots. Khazali the son says that the president hides his Jewish roots by attacking Israel and the Jews, and by expressing strong Muslim religious beliefs. A record of the name change still appears on the president’s ID card, however, says Khazali. His old name was Saburjian, and he hails from the Aradan region of Iran. The accusations appear in an article Khazali wrote entitled, “The Jews in Iran.” He says the time has come to “reveal the truth” about the Jews’ role in Iran.

The alleged ID card (shenasnameh, in Farsi) change image is not (yet) online.

The ID card in Iran contains many personal details such as births, marriages, divorces, father's and mother's names, etc. The ID card, in the bad old days, would often have the word kalimi - indicating Jewish - next to the individual's name, although many people managed to have the word removed.

Readers should also know that name changes were very common in Iran, for Persians of all religions and backgrounds. A family with a name indicating a humble or lower-class profession would change their name as they became more affluent. Surnames were not officially required until Reza Shah came to power in 1925 and declared that his people must have surnames.

When they were instructed to select names, the most commonly chosen were an occupational name, a geographical location (such as town of origin), a father's or grandfather's first name (with an ending of -IAN or -I or -ZADEH, all indicating "of" or "son of") or a physical characteristic, trait or virtue. In other words, name choice was much the same as worldwide.

One rule - to prevent confusion - was that only one family from each town could choose the same surname. Thus, in the Jewish community, there are several BERUKHIM famiiles - the difference is that they are originally from different towns, such as Kashan, Isfahan and elsewhere and later moved to Teheran. In another example, a family that had originally selected a humble occupational name such as ROGHANI (oilpresser or seller) later changed it to SHADGU (speaks well) reflecting the family's upwardly mobile status.

Our family began using DARDASHTI (from Dardasht in Isfahan) as soon as they arrived in Teheran circa1850. This was documented as the family name in Elkanan Adler's 1898 book - Jews of Many Lands - in a list of Jewish community leaders. A closely related branch that moved to Teheran from Isfahan much later, registered as DARDASHTIAN (a variant) even though they were entitled to use the original name as close relatives of the earlier arrivals.


  1. Anonymous8:49 AM

    Ahmadinejad is not jewish. Sounds like mehdi khazali is quite jealous of Ahmadinejad and is trying to undermine upcoming elections.

  2. It is not a secret that some Moslem families in Iran do have Jewish roots - they know who they are. There is no proof that I have seen concerning Ahmadinejad's ancestral roots, but throughout Persian history, Jews there have at times been forcibly or willingly converted to Islam, Bahaism or Christianity. A DNA study of Iran a few years ago showed large percentages of J2 haplogroup, shared by many Jewish individuals. How do we get a DNA sample from Ahmadinejad? :-)

    There are entire Moslem villages - some outside of Isfahan - come to mind that follow Jewish customs, such as Friday night candle-lighting, among others, but do not know why. Stranger things have happened.

  3. This story becomes amusing in that
    Ahmadinejad's mother is a Syeda or direct descendant of Mohammad.

  4. Hi Madam, i read the post, it is really interesting. My family name is Roghani, but I from Pakistan, recently i found many people (with Roghani surname) from Iran. I am trying to trace back my family tree from very long but have no idea, could you please guide me or give me some help. thanks

  5. Anonymous8:32 AM

    well syed waqar ali i m also Roghani from mardan but our ancstors migrated from Dir.

  6. Anonymous11:55 AM

    i am also intersted in tracing the roots of roghani tribe. please i require some more knowledge about it