Middle East

Mistranslation of Mursi speech in Tehran sparks uproar

Egypt's President Mohamed Mursi (L) speaks with Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during the 16th summit of the Non-Aligned Movement in Tehran, August 30, 2012. (REUTERS/Egyptian Presidency/HO)

BEIRUT: Last week’s Non-Aligned Movement summit in Tehran might be over, but controversy continues to swirl over official Iranian efforts to manage the content of the gathering.

Bahrain has criticized Iranian officials over a mistranslation of a speech by Egyptian President Mohammad Mursi, while his spokesman denied that Mursi discussed the prospect of better ties with Tehran.

In Jeddah, the Gulf Cooperation Council Sunday demanded Iran halt its “interference” in their internal affairs, citing the NAM summit incident. In a statement, the GCC asked Tehran to “cease these acts and not resort to or threaten to use force.”

Social media sites have pounced on the creative official translation of Mursi’s Thursday address – the word “Syria” was replaced with “Bahrain” when the Egyptian president listed Arab states that had experienced revolts since last year.

Mursi also perturbed his hosts by describing the government of Syria as “illegitimate” and calling for its ouster, while the official translation maintained that he hoped for the “continuation of the Syrian regime.”

His words prompted Syrian delegates to leave the hall but after the mistranslation was exposed, the Internet was abuzz with the question of why the Syrian diplomats walked out if Mursi’s comments had been positive.

Manama lodged a complaint with Iran’s charge d’affaires over the mistranslation on Iranian state television and radio.

“This is a violation, fabrication and unacceptable media behavior that shows how Iranian media is interfering in Bahrain’s internal affairs,” Bahrain’s government-run news agency BNA said, adding that Bahrain had demanded an apology.

The head of Iran’s state media said Sunday the word “Syria” had been mistranslated on only one of its channels. “In a verbal mistake, this translator said ‘Bahrain’ instead of ‘Syria’ and this became a pretext for Western media,” Ezatollah Zarghami was quoted as saying by Mehr news agency.

Some Iranians complained online about the mistranslation. “With that intentional translation by Iran’s state television, a great insult was delivered to its viewers,” a reader who gave his name as Ahmadi wrote on the website of the Asr-e Iran newspaper, which published a correct translation of the speech.

In addition, Mursi made no mention of resuming ties with Iran during the visit, his spokesman Yassir Ali said Sunday, denying statements by Iranian officials.

“The meeting between President Mohammad Mursi and his Iranian counterpart [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad did not broach the subject of boosting the level of representation or of opening an embassy,” said Ali.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on September 03, 2012, on page 1.




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