A photograph of the Iranian president holding up his identity card during elections in March 2008 clearly shows his family has Jewish roots.
A close-up of the document reveals he was previously known as Sabourjian – a Jewish name meaning cloth weaver.
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…
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.
Interestingly, rather than flatly deny the charge when asked about it, the Iranian embassy in London simply refused to comment. This is actually old news, sort of: The Guardian reported on the name change all the way back in 2005, shortly after Dinnerjacket became president, but there’s nothing in their account about the Jewish roots of the name “Sabourjian.” The closest they get is an oblique acknowledgment that the name was changed “for a mixture of religious and economic reasons, relatives say.” (For what it’s worth, an unnamed cousin is quoted as saying Ahmadinejad was into the Koran even as a small child, which means if he had a Jewish upbringing, it must have been awfully brief.) From what I can tell, not until earlier this year when one of his political opponents made hay about it did the Jewish resonance of the name became a public issue. How can that be, I wonder. The world’s most notorious Holocaust-denier comes from a Jewish family, and the evidence of it was published in a major western newspaper almost five years ago — and no one’s brought up it until now? How’d that happen?
Update: I tweaked the headline slightly because the Telegraph piece doesn’t actually claim that he was “born Jewish,” merely that the family was Jewish at one point. Presumably they converted before he was born and didn’t get around to changing their name until later. Which raises an interesting question for further investigation: How long ago did the Sabourjian clan make the switch to Islam?
Update: No, wait — it says right there in the blockquote that they didn’t convert until after he was born. Hmm.