Creating people's geographies
Guardian Monday 14 August, 2006
The Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Photograph: Elizabeth Dalziel/AP
His political approach has become a byword for populism and yesterday President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad endowed it with a hi-tech dimension by launching his own weblog.The hardline Iranian leader’s debut on the international blogosphere came in the form of a 2,300-word tract that asked readers to decide if the US and Israel were trying to start a new world war. Mr Ahmadinejad, who has identified himself with Iran’s army of poor people, also described his humble origins in an impoverished rural village. His entry into the mass ranks of bloggers marks the latest step in a concerted effort to communicate directly with ordinary Iranians over the heads of the elites. Mr Ahmadinejad’s first year in office has been distinguished by a series of old-fashioned mass rallies throughout Iran aimed at wooing mass public support.
His resort to more up-to-date means appears on the presidential website at ahmadinejad.ir. His first missive is available in English, French and Arabic – as well as Farsi – suggesting he is also aiming at an international audience.
It includes one of Mr Ahmadinejad’s bluntest statements yet on the conflict between Israel and the Iranian-backed militant group, Hizbullah, in Lebanon. “Do you think that the US and Israeli intention and goal by attacking Lebanon is pulling the trigger for another world war?” He invites readers to vote yes or no.
In an autobiographical passage, the president attempts to explain the personal circumstances behind his radical Islamist political beliefs, including his fervent desire for Iran to pursue nuclear technology in defiance of western opposition.
“During the era that nobility was a prestige and living in a city was perfection, I was born in a poor family in a remote village,” he writes, labelling himself the son of “a hard-bitten toiler blacksmith”.
He ascribes his rapid rise to academic excellence which enabled him to finish 132nd out of 400,000 in university entrance exams.
He also describes reading newspapers with the help of adults while in first grade at school, from which he learned how Americans in Iran had been granted immunity from the country’s laws by the shah. “I realised that Mohammad Reza [had] attempted to add another page to the vicious case history, which was the humiliation and indignity of the Iranian people versus Americans.”