A photograph of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad holding
up his identity card during elections in March 2008 "clearly shows his family has Jewish roots," London's Daily Telegraph reported on Saturday.
According to the report, a close-up of the document reveals that the Iranian leader, who has described the Nazi Holocaust of European Jewry as a "myth," was previously known as Sabourjian – a Jewish name meaning cloth weaver.
The Telegraph said the short note scrawled on the card suggests that his family changed its name to Ahmadinejad when they converted to embrace Islam after his birth.
The Sabourjians, according to the report, traditionally hail from Aradan, Ahmadinejad's birthplace, and the name derives from "weaver of the Sabour", the name for the Jewish Tallit shawl in Persia.
The name is even on the list of reserved names for Iranian Jews compiled by Iran's Ministry of the Interior, said the Telegraph's report, which also quoted experts as saying that Ahmadinejad's attacks on Jews could be an overcompensation to hide his past.
"This aspect of Mr Ahmadinejad's background explains a lot about him," the Telegraph quoted Ali Nourizadeh of the Centre for Arab and Iranian Studies as saying.
"Every family that converts into a different religion takes a new identity by condemning their old faith. By making anti-Israeli statements he is trying to shed any suspicions about his Jewish connections. He feels vulnerable in a radical Shia society," he said.
A London-based expert on Iranian Jewry told the newspaper that the "jian" ending to the name specifically showed the family had been practicing Jews.
"He has changed his name for religious reasons, or at least his parents had," the Iranian-born Jew told the Telegraph. "Sabourjian is well known Jewish name in Iran."