Ahmadinejad: More Jewish roots surface

By Jessica Elgot, October 5, 2009
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Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Claims have resurfaced about Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s possible Jewish heritage.

A close-up of Mr Ahmadinejad holding up his identity card has been released, showing that the Iranian President’s previous name was Saburjian.

The Jewish Chronicle reported in July that Iranian blogger Dr Mehdi Khazali was detained after writing on his website earlier this year for writing about the name change from Saburjian, a name thought to be Jewish in origin.

The name is thought to derive from “weaver of the Sabour”, the word for a tallit in Persian and the name is on the list of Iranian Jews compiled by Iran's Ministry of the Interior.

The family is thought to have changed their name to Ahmadinejad after converting to Islam.

During the election campaign, reformist candidate Mehdi Karroubi also challenged Ahmadinejad in a live TV debate to give his full name.

Experts on Iran were sceptical about the claims when they first surfaced.

Dr Raza Molavi, executive director of Durham University’s Centre for Iranian Studies, reacted with amusement. “Academics usually treat this with a pinch of salt. Unless they have valid first-hand documentary evidence, anything they say would just be a guess.”

Dr Nima Mina, lecturer in Persian at London University’s School of Oriental and African Studies, believed the story might be a political insult intended by opponents to discredit the president.

“Ahmadinejad and the circle around him have a background in the defence and security network. There is a strong faction that is extremely antisemitic — it is not a question of being anti-Zionist. People who create these rumours are trying to hit them with their own weapons,” he said.

Last updated: 11:26am, June 7 2011