Contrary to Al Jazeera Claims, Iran State Media Insists Iranians Actually ‘Hate Obama’
Iran’s semi-official state news agency Fars slammed on Thursday a recent op-ed on Al Jazeera America claiming Iranians are eager for a nuclear deal with world powers, calling it the “Gaff [sic] of the Century.”
Fars especially criticized the piece’s heavy reliance on “a full-length, 40-foot-high photo of President Barack Obama alongside an ancient Persian warrior, both wearing spiffy pairs of shoes,” that the authors claimed was an advertisement for a shoe company, appearing on a billboard in downtown Tehran.
The Al Jazeera article claimed that “the fact that a shoe company has chosen to use a beaming Obama to sell its product — and that the government allows it — reflects the rapidly changing social climate.”
Fars shot back, saying the article was “astonishingly reckless” and called it part of the “misinformation campaign” launched by Qatari-run Al Jazeera, misrepresenting public opinion in Iran on the nuclear deal and ties with the United States.
The Iranian media agency said that the, “only truthful phrase that can be found throughout the article” is the one that describes the billboard as towering over one of Tehran’s main squares.
Despite Al Jazeera’s attempt “to convince the Western audience how much Iranians adore US President Barack Obama,” based on “this centerpiece of proof and evidence,” the billboard “very evidently and expressively shouts the opposite and portrays how much Iranians hate the US president,” Fars said.
Apparently the “ancient Persian warrior” in spiffy shoes that appears next to the president is nothing of the sort. He is actually, “Shimr who [even disgusts] and is cursed by many Sunni Muslims as well as Iranian Christian and Jews” for beheading Shia Islam’s third Imam, Hussein Ibn Ali, in Karbala, located in modern day Iraq.
Hussein’s death at the hands of the Caliph Yazid’s army, of which “Shimr is the most hated among the three top commanders” of that army, is central to Shia Islam’s worldview and theology, and bears similar connotations to Shias as the crucifixion of Jesus does to Christians.
“President Obama is standing alongside the most hated person in not just the Iranian, but the [entire] Shiite community through the world and throughout the history,” Fars clarifies, adding that anyone, “with the least knowledge of Iran or Islam can realize who the guy in red is.”
According to Fars, so hated are Yazid and Shimr that in Iran today they, “exemplify the leaders of modern day Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.”
Fars also notes that the caption under the billboard was mistranslated by Al Jazeera. It does not say, “Be safe and comfortable. Walk with us.”
Instead, what it actually says is, “Be with Us, (and) Be Safe’ in the year 61 After Hijra (the lunar calendar year equal to 680 A.D.),” and in a line below that repeats, “‘Be with Us, (and) Be Safe’ in the year 2014,” with the intention of drawing a parallel between Shimr’s and President Obama’s assurances of safety and friendship.
The original Farsi in the ad, Ba ma bash, “be with us” is also perhaps a play on the U.S. president’s name, Obama.
Fars also stresses the apparent ignorance of even the most basic aspects of Iranian culture reflected in the Al Jazeera article, alleging that any Iranian or Shia “recognizes the character in the first glimpse as his clothing and red color are enough,” due to Shimr’s depiction in the annual Ashura play commemorations of Hussein’s martyrdom.
“There are so many other elements in this photo that even make the caption unnecessary for any Iranian, from any ethnicity, culture or religion to easily grasp that the person in red is Shimr,” the Fars article continues, noting that Iranian hatred for Shimr is so deep-seated that his name is reserved “to describe a blood-sucker like former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.”
The banner also “neither belongs to a shoe or any other company nor is it an advertisement,” but is one of a series of political billboards that appear around Tehran, depicting the United States, Israel and their respective soldiers as being in league with the infamous Shimr.
Fars included a series of these photographs to make its point, as well as a dismissal of the other claims made in the Al Jazeera article, noting that due to the errors, “the Al Jazeera article has already made itself a satirical media for Iranians. The piece is surfing in the social media as ‘the joke of the year.'”