According to experts on Iranian history and culture, the recent Daily Telegraph article purporting to show that Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is Jewish is a fraud perpetrated by political opponents playing on anti-Semitic motivations.
Sabourjian, Ahmadinejad's previous surname, has "absolutely nothing to do with Jews."
According to Menashe Amir, a long-time director of Voice of Israel Radio's Persian-language broadcasts and a leading expert on Iran, the story of Ahmadinejad's former name indicating Jewish roots is nonsense. In print and on the radio in recent days, Amir has reiterated that Sabourjian, Ahmadinejad's previous surname, has "absolutely nothing to do with Jews."
Rumors of a Jewish back-story to the upstart former Tehran mayor are not new in Iran, circulating among his opponents, as well as among some Iranian Jews. However, the rumors remained the stuff of Persian conspiracy theory until it was picked up by the UK's Telegraph. After that mainstream publication printed the rumor, it has been printed and reprinted in online media as a near-certain fact.
Yet, the rumor regarding Ahmadinejad's supposed Jewish background was primarily motivated by anti-Semitism, in that it was seen by those who believed it that it was an effective insult to the Iranian leader that would challenge his legitimacy. In fact, Amir noted, the rumor was most recently revived intentionally by Mehdi Khazali, an opponent of Ahmadinejad who is also the son of a conservative Iranian cleric.
Concurring with Amir regarding the name Sabourjian, Professor David Yerushalmi of the Center for Iranian Studies at Tel Aviv University said that the "-jian" suffix is as Muslim as it is Jewish.
In an article in Monday's Guardian newspaper, also printed in the UK, Meir Javedanfar cites Robert Tait, a Guardian correspondent, and Kasra Naji, a biographer of Ahmadinejad, as saying that Sabourjian indicates an occupation as the person who colors threads used in carpet weaving. "Carpet weaving or colouring carpet threads are not professions associated with Jews in Iran," writes Javedanfar.
The Telegraph article also claimed that Sabourjian is on a list of names reserved for Iranian Jews compiled by Iran's Ministry of the Interior. The problem with this claim, according to Amir, is that no such registry exists.
Furthermore, Jews in Iran did not live in small villages such as the one Mahmoud Ahmadinejad hails from, Amir explained. According to Amir, with the exception of Jews in the Kurdish areas, Jews tended to congregate in the nation's major cities.
"I highly doubt if Ahmadinejad has any Jewish blood," commented veteran Iranian pro-democracy activist Amil Imani in a conversation with Israel National News. "For sure he does have the blood of Iranian people on his hands though. This is simply propaganda to deceive the world, yet again."