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Britain's "Daily Telegraph" claims it has new evidence showing Ahmadinejad was "previously known as Sabourjian -- a Jewish name meaning cloth weaver."

A photograph of the Iranian president holding up his identity card during elections in March 2008 clearly shows his family has Jewish roots.

The short note scrawled on the card suggests his family changed its name to Ahmadinejad when they converted to embrace Islam after his birth.

Golnaz Esfandiari blogged about Ahmadinejad's "Jewish family" in January, when the son of a conservative cleric called for the Iranian president's family roots to be investigated.

UPDATE: Writing in "The Guardian," Meir Javedanfar casts doubt on the Jewish links:

The reason that Ahmadinejad's father changed his surname has more to do with the class struggle in Iran. When it became mandatory to adopt surnames, many people from rural areas chose names that represented their professions or that of their ancestors. This made them easily identifiable as townfolk. In many cases they changed their surnames upon moving to Tehran, in order to avoid snobbery and discrimination from residents of the capital.

The Sabourjians were one of many such families. Their surname was related to carpet-making, an industry that conjures up images of sweatshops. They changed it to Ahmadinejad in order to help them fit in. The new name was also chosen because it means from the race of Ahmad, one of the names given to Muhammad.

And writing for the "Atlantic," John Hudson sums up some of the debate in the blogosphere about whether it would even matter if Ahmadinejad was Jewish.

-- Luke Allnutt

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Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at

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