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Iran: Rouhani congratulates Jews on Rosh Hashanah - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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In this Aug. 15, 2013, file photo, Iranian President Hasan Rouhani speaks during the debate on the proposed Cabinet at the parliament, in Tehran, Iran (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi, File).

In this Aug. 15, 2013, file photo, Iranian President Hasan Rouhani speaks during the debate on the proposed Cabinet at the parliament, in Tehran, Iran (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi, File).

London, Asharq Al-Awsat—A message offering congratulations on Jewish New Year appeared on a Twitter account registered to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday.

The tweet from @HassanRouhani reads: “As the sun is about to set here in #Tehran I wish all Jews, especially Iranian Jews, a blessed Rosh Hashanah.”

The unprecedented greeting to the world’s Jews by an Iranian president surprised many individuals and observers more accustomed to the controversial statements of Iran’s former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

On Thursday, Mohammad Reza Sadeq, who is said to be an advisor to Rouhani, was quoted by Iran’s FARS news agency as denying that the tweet as an official congratulation issued by the Iranian president.

“Prior and during the recent election campaign, some of Mr Rouhani’s supporters opened various online accounts using his name and some of these accounts may still be active,” Sadeq was quoted as saying.

Sadeq added that “the president does not have a Twitter account and any statements should be taken from the president’s official website.”

The official website of the Iranian presidency has not issued any clarification at time of writing.

The Twitter account in question calls itself the ‘Iranian President’s English Account,’ and shows one of Rouhani’s official photo portraits, as well as the official logo of his presidential website.

Interestingly, the account is only ‘following’ three others: Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei, and two of Rouhani’s backers, both influential former presidents, Hashemi Rafsanjani and Seyed Mohamamd Khatami.

At the same time Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s, foreign minister, has opened his own Twitter account specifically to “interact in English.” His second tweet reads: “Happy Rosh Hashanah.”

An American user of the micro-blogging site re-tweeted Zarif’s message, and replied, writing: “Thanks. The New Year would be even sweeter if you would end Iran’s Holocaust denial, sir.”

Zarif replied: “Iran never denied it. The man who was perceived to be denying it is now gone.”

The coincidence of two seemingly genuine Twitter accounts belonging to Rouhani and his foreign minister offering their congratulations on Jewish New Year is likely to be seen as a conscious gesture to improve Iran’s image across western and global public opinion, after reaching a nadir in the Ahmadinejad years due to the ex-president’s controversial statements on the Holocaust.

Despite the emigration of large numbers of Iranian Jews in recent decades, according to latest estimates there are still around 30,000 Jewish Iranians resident in the country, the largest Jewish population in the Middle East after Israel.

In addition, the presence of a Jewish representative in the Iranian parliament is guaranteed in the country’s constitution.