Today, media reported that President Rouhani of Iran called the White House for “mentally retarded”.

Mr. Reza Akbari, on Twitter, wrote the following:

I re-tweeted with a comment:

Mr. Akbari then re-tweeted my re-tweet stating the following:

So the question is now what did Rouhani say? Here is a clip of what Rouhani said in Farsi:

This is what he says in Farsi: “Kakhe sefid dochar-e malooliat-e zehni shodeh.” This is said the first 9 seconds of the clip, and it is these 9 seconds that are of interest.

The translation of these 9 seconds are now a matter of controversy.

I argue that the translation to English should be as follows:

“The White House have a mental retardation.”

In the current discourse surrounding President Rouhani’s recent statement, it appears that supporters of the Iranian regime are attempting to reinterpret the phrase “Malooliat-e Zehni”. Nonetheless, the interpretation they propose is, in my view, incorrect and I will elucidate why.

The term in contention, “Malooliat-e Zehni”, is composed of two parts. “Zehni” in Farsi unequivocally translates to “mental” in English, which is not under dispute. However, the disagreement arises with the translation of the entire phrase “Malooliat-e Zehni”. A segment of individuals, predominantly comprising those affiliated with the Iranian regime’s propaganda apparatus, suggest the English translation as “mental disability”. However, most media sources have rendered this phrase as “retarded”.

Regime supporters on platforms such as Twitter and YouTube have argued that the Farsi equivalent for “retarded” is “aghaboftade”, thereby suggesting a one-to-one lexical correspondence between English and Farsi. This is an overly simplistic perspective, disregarding the rich linguistic nuances and synonymy that exists in any language. The term “retarded” has multiple counterparts in Farsi, including “aghaboftade”, “aghabmoonde”, “Malool-e Maghzi”, “Malool-e Zehni” (the term used by Rouhani), “Kamtavani-e Zehni”, among others.

It’s important to note the variations in connotations among these terms. “Aghaboftade” and “aghabmoonde” are derogatory, while “Malooliat-e Zehni”, used by Rouhani, carries a more sophisticated implication.

An interesting reference in this matter is the Iranian psychology platform, “Ravanasay”. The operators, Iranian psychologists, discuss “Malooliat-e Zehni” in their content, stating that one possible diagnosis for “Malooliat-e Zehni” could be chromosomal conditions like Down’s Syndrome. Further, the articles cite DSM V, the authoritative text in psychiatry, which categorizes “Malooliat-e Zehni” into mild, moderate, severe, and profound degrees. “Malooliat-e Zehni” is widely used in Iran when referring to what is typically known as “retardation” in English, which can be validated by numerous Iranian publications.

Interestingly, DSM V no longer uses the term “mental retardation”, but rather “intellectual/mental disability”. Therefore, if we accept the interpretation of Rouhani’s critics, that he said “mental disability”, it is still synonymous with “retardation” as per the DSM V.

To reiterate, even if one concedes that Rouhani used the term “mental disability”, it is tantamount to “mental retardation”. Therefore, the media translation aligns with medical terminology and current scientific understanding.

However, it’s crucial to emphasize the inherent problem here – using such terminology is degrading, given that millions of people worldwide live with mental disabilities. It’s inappropriate and offensive to use such language, especially in the context of political discourse.