CNN’s interview with new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani created headlines around the world, with reports that Rouhani had specifically denounced the Holocaust, finally
ending the alleged Holocaust-denial that had followed Iranduring the time of Rouhani’s predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
However, Iran’s Fars News Agency came out shortly after the story came out to accuse CNN of mistranslation — specifically arguing that Rouhani, who was speaking in Farsi, had never said the word “Holocaust” nor the phrase “Whatever criminality they committed against the Jews, we condemn.”
Now a third translation of Rouhani’s comments concurs. The Wall Street Journal writes today that their independent translation agrees with Fars. Rouhani did not say the word “Holocaust,” instead speaking vaguely about “historical events.”
So what happened? A CNN source told Business Insider that the translator who worked on the interview was “hired by the Iranians”, and the interview was “re-voiced/dubbed exactly as she translated.” CNN has now posted the entire transcript online.
Perhaps it seems like semantics, or an honest result of different translation styles. However, given how closely the interview was being watched — not to mention the fact that the interviewer, Christiane Amanpour, is fluent in Farsi herself — it’s a big issue.
As Michael Moynihan of the Daily Beast notes, the Fars translation of Rouhani’s comments, with their hazy language and repeated references to “history,” actually sounds a lot more like the words of a Holocaust-denier than a Holocaust-acknowledger. The New York Times points out that it actually sounds a lot like the language Ahmadinejad used to use.
Finally, we have to wonder why all these interviews are being conducted in Farsi anyway. Rouhani completed a Ph.D at Glasgow Caledonian University in Scotland. He is reportedly fluent in English.
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