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Iran Foreign Minister’s English Errors Cause Embarrassment

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The Iranian public are mocking the country’s foreign minister after he tripped over basic words delivering a speech in English to the United Nations.

Over the past days, a video has gone viral in Iran which shows Hossein Amir-Abdollahian being unable to read aloud an English text during a UN Security Council meeting on the situation of the Middle East held on January 23.

His inability to pronounce simple English words was received negatively by the Iranian public, with many saying they felt embarrassed and crestfallen by the incident.

Referring to the video, reformist commentator Abbas Abdi taunted Amir-Abdollahian by saying that he has even a bigger problem than “not knowing English.”

We should ask how familiar Amir-Abdollahian is with international and foreign affairs, Abdi pointed out.

Mohammad Ali Abtahi, a senior aide to former President Mohammad Khatami, wrote on X that many presidents and foreign affairs ministers speak in their mother tongues at international organizations.

“Simultaneous interpretation is available. Why does Mr. Amir-Abdollahian insist on speaking English and bringing disgrace to the country?” Abtahi stressed.

Meanwhile, Yaser Jebraili, a politician close to Iran’s political establishment, stressed that the Islamic Republic officials should not use Arabic, English, and other languages to speak at international organizations.

They should be obliged not to speak in any language other than Persian, he said.

Etemadonline, a news website, juxtaposed Amir-Abdollahian’s speech at the UN and a video of an Iranian Baloch old man explaining in English about the tradition of using hand fans in their region.

Some social network users in Iran have also drawn analogies between Amir-Abdollahian and Reema bintBandar, the Saudi Ambassador to the US, whose fluent English while defending a ceasefire in Gaza has grabbed the attention of many Iranians.

There have also been several references to the language proficiency of many former Iranian officials during the reign of Pahlavi, including Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi himself who could speak fluently in English and French.

Hardliners, however, have defended Amir-Abdollahian, saying a foreign minister should not necessarily be judged by his knowledge of foreign languages.

Ahmad Khoei, a political analyst close to the regime, called Mohammad Reza Shah, King Abdullah of Jordan, and some other officials of the region as “apprentices of colonization” and said they know English because they were “trained” in the universities of “Western occupiers.”

“If one doesn’t speak the colonial language like one’s mother tongue, they will be under attack from the beginning,” Khoei added in defense of Iran’s foreign minister.

An active card-carrying member of the IRGC’s Basij paramilitary force, Amir-Abdollahian is considered to be very close to the inner circle of power in the Islamic Republic.

Iran’s foreign minister is also an affiliate of the IRGC Quds Force and has been accused of being involved in planning meetings in Beirut and Tehran prior to the Hamas October 7 onslaught on Israel, which saw at least 1,200 killed and 240 more taken hostage.