Monday, December 25, 2006

Satirical jokes raise a stink in Tehran

December 24, 2006
Sunday Telegraph
Colin Freeman

"Osama bin Laden is sent to Hell and sees President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran dancing with Jennifer Lopez. " 'Is this your punishment?' asks Osama. 'No,' the Iranian leader replies, 'it's Jennifer Lopez's punishment.' "

It might not be the most sophisticated example of political satire, but for millions of Iranians, such jokes are proving to be the perfect way to let off steam about their hardline leader. With opponents unable to criticise him too fiercely in the state-censored media, gags about his policies, piety – and, cruelly, his personal grooming – have proliferated instead via text messages and emails.

...Fond of denouncing all things American, and rarely dressing in anything more statesmanlike than a beige anorak, he is portrayed as an ignorant, bigoted bumpkin in jokes swapped among Teheran's educated middle-class.

Some jibes are cutting, such as the tale of how the president finds lice when combing his hair one day. "OK, male lice to the left and females to the right," he says – a reference to his reported attempt to introduce segregated corridors in the city hall during his previous job as mayor of Teheran.