Sat, Apr 15, 2006 - Page 6 News List

Ahmadinejad fails to see funny side of text jokes

THE GUARDIAN , TEHRAN

A stray electronic missive has been blamed for a spate of arrests and a national scandal in Iran after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took umbrage at an unwelcome text received on his mobile phone.

According to whispered accounts in Tehran, his ire was stirred when someone sent him a joke suggesting he didn't wash regularly enough.

Although officials claim he possesses a lively sense of humor on this occasion it suffered a serious failure. Realizing the joke was doing the rounds of Iranian mobile phones, the president lodged an official complaint with Iran's judiciary department.

That in turn has acted as a pretext for an official purge of the SMS system in the country. Ahmadinejad has since told his staff to pay close attention to all jokes circulating about him by text.

An anti-regime Web site called Rooz Online claims that under the crackdown the head of the country's mobile phone company has been sacked and four people arrested and accused of colluding with the Israeli foreign intelligence service, Mossad.

But poking fun at the president has becoming a national pastime in Iran. In a fusillade of seditious traffic, the regime's senior figures and its most sacred policies are all fair game -- with Ahmadinejad a particular target.

One joke tells of a man who dies and goes to hell, where he sees the famously strait-laced Ahmadinejad dancing with the Hollywood star Jennifer Lopez. "Is this Ahmadinejad's punishment?" he asks.

"No," goes the reply. "It is Jennifer Lopez's punishment."

"While the outcome of the recent arrests in connection with SMS messaging is not clear yet, what is certain is that SMS jokes have put some people into serious trouble," Rooz Online wrote.

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