The curious case of ‘woke’ Ahmadinejad

The former Iranian president mixes criticism of American racism with anti-Israel comments. Ahmadinejad quoted the Tupac song "Changes" to amplify his statements.

Former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad addresses the UN General Assembly in New York in 2012. (photo credit: REUTERS)
Former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad addresses the UN General Assembly in New York in 2012.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
“How can one be indifferent to the sufferings, discrimination and inequalities of millions?”
“Everyone has the right to live with respect, dignity and comfort.”
These are things that many people have said before, in different wordings and contexts.
But this week, the unlikely person who made these statements on Twitter was former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Ahmadinejad presided over the Islamic Republic when it topped lists of state executions, including as punishment for homosexuality; killed dozens of protesters on the street; and discriminated against its minorities.
Now, Ahmadinejad has a new persona. He’s now “woke” – a slang term for enlightened, often used to describe adherents of left-wing politics – but he has not dropped his anti-Israel and antisemitic attitudes.
For example, Ahmadinejad said Iran “has always respected all nations and their basic rights... [and] has always called for friendship and cooperation with all.” How this fits with his calls to “wipe Israel off the map” is a question he didn’t answer, despite being asked repeatedly on Twitter.
In a tweet directed to US President Donald Trump, Ahmadinejad wrote: “The Zionists are always causing problems for the #AmericanPeople so real issues are not concentrated on. #ZionistPlot #ZionismIsNotJudaism.”
Last year, Ahmadinejad tweeted that the 2009 demonstrations against his presidency, in which the Iranian regime shot and killed dozens of protesters and arrested thousands, “were planned by the Zionist Regime.”
Since he fell out of favor with Ayatollah Khamenei and left the presidency in 2013, Ahmadinejad has had a relatively low international profile.
He joined Twitter in January 2017, and seems to be trying to gain international attention with his English-language tweets, counting on readers not to notice his hypocrisy.
On Monday, he quoted murdered rap legend Tupac Shakur – “It’s time to fight back, that’s what Huey said. Two shots in the dark, now Huey’s dead.” – in a tweet supporting the Black Panthers, a radical group for African-American rights, on the anniversary of its founding in 1966.
Minority populations in Iran, including Kurds, Jews and Baha’is, face discrimination and legal restrictions.
Although Iran under his presidency blocked social media accounts and cracked down on dissidents, Ahmadinejad tweeted: “Freedom has no limits; ideas and thoughts should never be limited... Any type of restrictions on ideas and beliefs especially on social media will lead to chaos and dictatorship.”
Ahmadinejad has also lamented that Colin Kaepernick, the NFL player who courted controversy for starting the trend of kneeling during the US national anthem, has not been signed to a football team this season.
On September 11, he hinted towards conspiracy theories, saying “politicians have not told the truth about what really happened.”
Other recent Ahmadinejad tweets include a call for judicial reform in the US, and sending “thoughts and prayers” to victims of Hurricane Florence with #StaySafe at the end.