Obama in Farsi, on Twitter and WhiteHouse.gov
By Scott Wilson
President Obama today stepped up his condemnation of the Iranian government's violent suppression of demonstrations -- and the White House wanted to make sure the Iranians themselves took note.
Obama began his mid-day news conference with a prepared statement in which he said "the United States and the international community have been appalled and outraged by the threats, beatings and imprisonments of the last few days." Soon after, the White House posted the statement on its website -- in English and Farsi.
In addition, White House staff provided a tweet of the news conference in Farsi and subtitled the web video of Obama delivering the statement in that language.
The multilingual outreach is of a piece with this White House's extraordinary effort to ensure that as many Muslims as possible heard Obama's June 4 speech in Cairo, his outreach to the Islamic world. Transcripts of that speech were posted in 13 languages on the White House website, and the State Department provided a real-time SMS service in four languages (including Farsi).
But the posting today also marks a shift, and perhaps a step closer to what the ruling clerics of Iran might call meddling. The White House posted Obama's more mild Saturday statement on the Iranian violence only in English, and there were no Farsi tweets to be heard.
A White House official said the translation was provided so the "Iranian people could read it in their own language." The official noted that Obama criticized the Iranian government today for mistranslating some of his statements in recent days to make it seem as if he is fomenting the unrest.
His statement today was also translated into Arabic. Will the democracy advocates of Egypt, Syria and Saudi Arabia (where women lobbying for the right to drive, among others, might take note of Obama's praise for the bravery of Iranian women) be inspired, as well?
Posted at 6:06 PM ET on Jun 23, 2009
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