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Posts Tagged ‘mistranslation’

Let the man speak: Iran’s president vs. media distortion

In foreign policy, media, war and peace on March 9, 2010 at 2:40 am

“Is it not possible to put wealth and power in the service of peace, stability, prosperity and the happiness of all peoples through a commitment to justice and respect for the rights of all nations, instead of aggression and war?” — Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Why does the American government so fear speech in opposition to its own?

Point in case: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Now I’ll be the first to admit Ahmadinejad is no benevolent leader whose heart’s desire is world peace. But let’s be honest — the guy has not been given a fair shake.

First there was the media-misconstrued “wipe Israel off the map” rumor. If you were listening to the mainstream machine, you probably believed Ahmadinejad unveiled his evil desire to annihilate Israel while giving a speech at a conference in Iran. In actuality, the president of Iran was quoting leader of the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini, and said:

“The Iman said this regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time. This statement is very wise.”

Hmmm. Doesn’t exactly sound like a declaration of war.

And then there was the designed to be ill-fated visit to Columbia University where the president famously denied the existence of homosexuals in Iran. But more offensive than Ahmadinejad’s ridiculous claim was the introduction given to him by University President Lee Bollinger.

“Mr. President you exhibit all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator,” were the words Bollinger chose to open with. He continued insulting Iran’s president for more than six minutes; even having the audacity to ask President Ahmadinejad if he plans “on wiping us off the map too?”

He concluded with this disrespectful gem:

“Frankly, and in all candor Mr. President, I doubt that you will have the intellectual courage to answer theses questions. But your avoiding them will, in itself, be meaningful to us. I do expect you to exhibit the fanatical mindset that characterizes so much of what you say and do.”

Talk about an introduction. If only U.S. politicians were so lucky to be prefaced in such a way.

Not only did Ahmadinejad try to reach out to the American people during his visit to the U.S., he also challenged President George W. Bush to a live TV debate that “should be uncensored, above all for the American public.”

Of course, the administration declined; dismissing Ahmadinejad’s invite as a “diversion.”

But Ahmadinejad did not only attempt to communicate with President Bush on live TV. He also addressed to him a lengthy letter in which he challenged Bush’s claim of Christianity.

“Can one be a follower of Jesus Christ (PBUH), the great Messenger of God, feel obliged to respect human rights, present liberalism as a civilization model, announce one’s opposition to the proliferation of nuclear weapons and WMDs, make “War and Terror” his slogan?” he asked in the letter.

Perhaps realizing his efforts to communicate with the president would be ignored, Ahmadinejad attempted to communicate directly with the American people. In his open letter, Ahmadinejad expressed sadness over the Iraq war and sympathy toward both the Iraqis and American soldiers.

“American soldiers often wonder why they have been sent to Iraq,” he said.

Ahmadinejad went on to condemned all terrorism because “its victims are innocent” and posed this question to the American people:

“Is there not a better approach to governance? Is it not possible to put wealth and power in the service of peace, stability, prosperity and the happiness of all peoples through a commitment to justice and respect for the rights of all nations, instead of aggression and war?”

Surely such humanitarian ramblings can not be that of the “insane dictator” otherwise known as Mamoud Ahmadinejad? Doesn’t he want to build a nuclear arsenal with the intention of launching World War III? On the contrary, Iran’s president has vehemently denied such accusations.

In an interview with Charlie Rose, Ahmadinejad reiterated that Iran has no nuclear weapon ambitions. He called such weapons “outdated” and said Iran is ideologically opposed to them.

“We’ve said many times before, we don’t need the weapon,” he said. “It’s not enshrined in our defense doctrine, nuclear defense, and ideologically we don’t believe in it either. We have actually rejected it on an ideological basis. And politically we know that it’s useless. It’s useless.”

However, the president did defend Iran’s right to develop it’s own nuclear energy without dependence on foreign powers.

“You should not have the ability to developed the nuclear fuel cycle yourself,” he said.

Ahmadinejad also pointed out the often-ignored fact of Iranian non-aggression. The president is correct in claiming that Iran historically has not invaded other nations. However, as he points out, his county has been the target of foreign attacks — including those financed by the United States. And let’s not forget the CIA’s overthrow of the democratically-elected Iranian government in 1953.

To be sure, Ahmadinejad is not to be trusted. But then again what politician is? What is clear is that the United States’ government, using media as a weapon of distortion, has twisted and largely silenced the message of Iran’s president. Ahmadinejad deserves a fair shake. More importantly, the American people deserve to hear what he has to say, uncensored, no matter how unpleasant it may be.


War Propaganda; Iranian president calls for regime change not destruction of Israel PART I

In foreign policy, media, war and peace on November 15, 2009 at 2:02 am


If America goes to war with Iran, undoubtedly the phrase “wipe Israel off the map” will be used as a motivator. But did President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad actually utter these words?

In Oct 2006, the newly elected Ahmadinejad gave a speech at the conference “The World Without Zionism.” The topic of interest, as evident by the conference’s title, was Zionism, not the nation of Israel.

Before making the now infamous statement, Ahmadinejad prefaced it by speaking about the Zionist regime and compared it to the regimes of Saddaim Hussein, the Shah of Iran and the Soviet Union — all which have ceased to exist. He then proceeded to say:

“The Iman said this regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time. This statement is very wise.”

The “Iman” that Ahmadinejad spoke of was the father of the 1979 Iranian Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini. It’s important to note that the words are actually Khomeini’s, not Ahmadinejad’s.

Here is the quote in Farsi, courtesy of Arash Norouzi, co-founder of Mossadegh Project:

“Imam ghoft een rezhim-e ishghalgar-e qods bayad az safheh-ye ruzgar mahv shavad.”

And here is the word-for-word English translation:

Imam (Khomeini) ghoft (said) een (this) rezhim-e (regime) ishghalgar-e (occupying) qods (Jerusalem) bayad (must) az safheh-ye ruzgar (from page of time) mahv shavad (vanish from).

The one word that is recognizable to westerners is the word “rezhim-e,” or regime. It is clear that Ahmadinejad was speaking of a regime, not of a nation. This distinction is a vital one.

However, where some translators differ is over the phrase “safheh-ye ruzgar.” As Jonathan Steele with The Guardian points out, this phrase has been translated by experts to mean both “the pages of history” and “the pages of time.”

Professor Juan Cole, a Middle East specialist at the University of Michigan, says Ahmadinejad was not making a threat but encouraging pro-Palestinian activists in Iran and suggesting that, just like former regimes, the Zionist one will come to an end.

“Whatever this quotation from a decades-old speech of Khomeini may have meant, Ahmadinejad did not say that ‘Israel must be wiped off the map’ with the implication that phrase has of Nazi-style extermination of a people,” Cole said. “He said that the occupation regime over Jerusalem must be erased from the page of time.”


War Propaganda; Iranian president calls for regime change not destruction of Israel PART II

In foreign policy, media, war and peace on November 15, 2009 at 1:54 am

So where did the phrase “wiped of the map” originate? According to Norouzi and others, the phrase actually originated from Iran’s own Islamic Republic News Agency. The agency sent out a press release and the story was picked up by international media such as The New York Times, Al-Jazeera and the BBC. In its article, IRNA used the word “map” as the English interpretation for “safheh-ye ruzgar.” Not only was the translation inaccurate, Norouzi says the IRNA was inconstant. It also translated the phrase as “earth” in other articles.

To make things even more complicated, Ahmadinejad actually misquoted Khomeini, according to a New York Times article. Khomeini’s original words were actually “sahneh roozgar” meaning “stage of time” not Ahmadinejad’s “safheh-ye ruzgar” meaning “page of time.” 

According to The Times:

“The phrase was widely interpreted as ‘map,’ and for years, no one objected. In October, when Mr. Ahmadinejad quoted Khomeini, he actually misquoted him, saying not ‘sahneh roozgar’ but ‘safheh roozgar,’ meaning pages of time or history. No one noticed the change, and news agencies used the word ‘map’ again.”

While there is debate on the most accurate English interpretation of Ahmadinejad’s phrase, “safheh roozgar,” it is clear Iran’s president was speaking of regime change, not annihilating a nation. Despite this fact, 411 members of the U.S. House of Representatives voted in favor of H. Con. Res. 21, a bill “Calling on the United Nations Security Council to charge Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with violating the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide and United Nations Charter because of his calls for the destruction of the State of Israel.”

Only two House member, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) and Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), voted against the legislation. Kucinich wanted alternative translations of Ahmadinejad’s  words included in the bill — translations describing a regime change, not “wiping Israel off the map.”

Paul believed the legislation to be a precursor to yet another war. In his speech before the U.S. House of Representatives, May 22, 2007, he said:

“Having already initiated a disastrous war against Iraq citing UN resolutions as justification, this resolution is like déjà vu. Have we forgotten 2003 already? Do we really want to go to war again for UN resolutions? That is where this resolution, and the many others we have passed over the last several years on Iran, is leading us. I hope my colleagues understand that a vote for this bill is a vote to move us closer to war with Iran.”

President Ahmadinejad has spoken much about the “regime” of Zionism. He has never spoken of “wiping Israel of the map,” “driving it into the sea,” “killing every Jewish person” or “destroying a nation.” Iran itself has denied such claims. Such phrases are merely war propaganda being spread by the mainstream media to prep Americans for yet another war.

Further reading:

‘Wiped off the Map’ — The Rumor of the Century by Arash Norouzi

‘We don’t Want Your Stinking War!’ by Professor Juan Cole