Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Mistranslation that Saved the Day in the UN General Assembly

A huge embarrassment of monumental proportions was avoided at the UN General Assembly on Friday, when the translator of Rouhani's speech, conveniently mistranslated the derogatory Persian word of "Zangi" used to describe black people in a negative way, simply as "madman"!

Right after Rouhani blamed the terrorism and anti-Western feelings in the region today as a reaction to the racism of the West, he went on to say "Certain Intelligence agencies have put the blade in the hand of the drunken Zangi" but the "drunken Zangi" was simply translated as "Madman" by the UN translator. [see 3:59 video below]

"Zangi" is actually a Persian derogatory word used in a negative way to describe black people. It refers to the black slaves from Zanzibar and East Africa. This expression has its origin in Rumi's Mathnavi (book 4, section 53*). A verbatim translation of Rumi's verse is "It is better to put a sword in the hand of an intoxicated negro than "that knowledge" should fall to a worthless fool.“

I can just imagine how the East African delegations and in particular, the members of the Zanzibar delegation in the UN would have reacted, had they understood fully well what Rouhani was referring to! The translator definitely saved the day and avoided a huge diplomatic egg on the face for Rouhani.

In the past,  Mohammad Javad Larijani, the head of the Human Rights Council in the Islamic Republic used the nearest thing to the "N" word in Persian, i.e. Kaka Siah, to demean the US president, Barack Obama.


  1. Wicked comment! Iranian racism rears its head again. Or maybe rattle, as in rattlesnake. How could Rouhani have been so seemingly unaware of the risks of coming out with such a pejorative word at the UNGA of all places?!!

  2. Barmakid10:33 AM

    I have my thoughts on this matter, but, really, I just wanted to drop by and say, "salam." It's been a while, but I plan on resuming my "armchair activism" xD

    Hope all is well,