An interview between Iranian president Hassan Rouhani and CNN made headlines yesterday after Rouhani was quoted decrying the Holocaust, mentioning the term for the event itself, and calling it “reprehensible and condemnable.” The statement was widely welcomed from a country whose previous leader, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, continually denied the event; but there was a problem: Rouhani doesn’t seem to have said what CNN reported. FNA, Iran’s state news agency, wrote today that Rouhani was misquoted, adding to his interview and altering what he said in the course of translation – which CNN says was performed by a translator the Iranian government hired.
Below is the relevant quote, first by the interpreter on the CNN segment then by FNA. Important changes in the CNN translation have been bolded:
“I’ve said before that I am not a historian and then, when it comes to speaking of the dimensions of the Holocaust, it is the historians that should reflect on it. But in general I can tell you that any crime that happens in history against humanity, including the crime that Nazis committed towards the Jews as well as non-Jews is reprehensible and condemnable. Whatever criminality they committed against the Jews, we condemn, the taking of human life is contemptible, it makes no difference whether that life is Jewish life, Christian or Muslim, for us it is the same, but taking the human life is something our religion rejects but this doesn’t mean that on the other hand you can say Nazis committed crime against a group now therefore, they must usurp the land of another group and occupy it. This too is an act that should be condemned. There should be an even-handed discussion.
“I have said before that I am not a historian and historians should specify, state and explain the aspects of historical events, but generally we fully condemn any kind of crime committed against humanity throughout the history, including the crime committed by the Nazis both against the Jews and non-Jews, the same way that if today any crime is committed against any nation or any religion or any people or any belief, we condemn that crime and genocide. Therefore, what the Nazis did is condemned, [but] the aspects that you talk about, clarification of these aspects is a duty of the historians and researchers, I am not a history scholar.”
FNA’s translation of Rouhani’s statements offers no clear rejection of Iran’s Holocaust-denying past and doesn’t mention the event itself; nor does it imply quite as vigorous an endorsement of pluralism as the original translation implies. Further, CNN’s translation, according to FNA, added several sentences at the end of the actual statement, though CNN says this is because they only broadcast excerpts of Rouhani’s interview but apparently included a translation of more comments.