by Rasmus Christian Elling
This speech by Ahmadinejad is interesting for several reasons:
1) It is a classic example of his rhetorical prowess. He uses emphasis and intonation to bring the audience to a frenzy at regular intervals, with girls screaming as if at a pop concert; note his superb mix of traditional politician oratory and occasional references to the audience and his local ‘friends’ in a very laid-back and colloquial fashion; and note his body language, his laughs and his smiles. I’m sorry to say it – but he’s hellova good speaker.
2) This is the first time I’ve seen Ahmadinejad speak in the tongue of a non-Persian ethnic group (he might have done this before though, I’m not sure). Even though we all know he’s an unscrupulous crowd-pleaser, I was still surprised by this: the osulgarâ or neo-conservative faction has always been opposed to the ‘abuse of ethnic sentiments’ for political goals. Indeed, Ahmadinejad and his people have been very critical of what was seen as currying favor with ethnic groups during the Khatami period. Yet here we see Ahmadinejad trying his best Azeri: to one of the men in the crowd he suddenly says “hey Mr. Ghoraqi, what’s that gentleman over there saying?” (this is his usual approach: he asks ‘the people’ directly what they want and what they wish for); and, to the great delight of the audience, he announces that “Hand in hand, we must develop Iran together” – syllable by syllable in Azeri Turkish (albeit with an awful accent).
3) After he talked about how to build and develop Iran, he defended his economic policy of subsidy distribution against those who have called this policy gedâ-parvari [something like ‘pro-beggar’ or ‘beggar-supporting’]. This is actually a specific counterattack on Rafsanjani, who had called Ahmadinejad’s policies exactly that; but it is also a general attack on the elites or ‘those of you with full pockets and stomachs’.
4) He then talks of how one of his ‘friends’, a university professor, had told him about a doctoral student who had given the professor one of the famous Zanjan knives as a present. Ahmadinejad concludes that the Zanjan knife is “at the service of the people: you peel fruit with it, you make food with it, you work in the fields with it – that is, you serve with it. However! The ill-wishers must know this: if they threaten Iran’s rights, the Iranian nation will cut off their feet and hands with the knives of Zanjan!”.