Are you lying?

A lie isn’t a lie unless you’re really lying


Are you lying?
by Ghahremani

I don’t know about other cultures, but we Iranians thrive on little lies. As a child, you grow up with exaggerated expressions of love such as, “May I be sacrificed for you,” or “You are my liver!” Not to mention the grizzliest accounts of hatred: “If I catch him, I’ll cut him into little meat cubes!” Though this sounds horrific to the non-Iranian, to the rest of us it’s just words and you know that when your dad is “going to kill you,” it just means he’s mildly annoyed at something you did.

Back when physical punishment was ruled out, grownups came up with scary lies. We all knew about “Lu-lu”, but each family also came up with their own fictitious character. Ours was the “Big Head – kalleh gondeh”. I had seen him once in the darkness outside the window, searching for bad kids and it was years before I learned that it had been our nanny with a huge pot on her head. To this day I make sure the shades are drawn at night, just in case.

Then you’re old enough to stay up and listen to family stories: the long tale of Uncle this defeating the lion on a hunting trip and Aunt that having a face that crowds lined up to get a glimpse of. You look at the frail figure of your uncle and the wrinkles on your aunt’s face and listen to the rest not so much for its glorification of the family, but just because it’s a good story.

To tell a caller that Mom’s out shopping, while she sat there and watched, was simple obedience. To sneak out on a date but tell your parents you’re going to study was your only chance at it, and a pretend fasting was your way of showing respect for your parent’s religion. You never had to tell your teacher that your absence of last week was due to grandma’s family luncheon because Uncle Doctor would provide a note to explain how sick you’d been.

What the rest of the world may consider lies, to us is a means of preventing harm. The teacher would much prefer for your homework to burn in a fire than realize you never did it, it was much kinder to your father’s heart if he thought you lost your report card, and why should a good girl ruin the family reputation by broadcasting that she had a boyfriend?

So far, we may not seem any different from the rest of the world. After all, our lies are justified by good motives, which isn’t all that different from what the West calls “white lies.” But what about the lies that aren’t justified, and which shade is no longer considered “white?”

The youngest in the family, I was amazed at how quickly I’d be caught lying. While my brothers and sisters could get away with murder, I failed at the simplest schemes. No sooner had I begun my story than someone would demand, “What did really happen?”
How could they know?
Years later my sister told me it was because I swore even before anyone had expressed doubt. “I didn’t take the cookies, I swear to God!” or, “As God is my witness, I didn’t break that!” This may explain some of my suspicions of anyone who swears by the holy saints or takes their father’s soul witness.

The beauty of a good lie is in creativity, use of imagination, as well as narrative skills. The more people lie, the more detailed their scenarios are. I remember the story of one of my brother’s classmates, who skipped school and was caught playing in the arid riverbed behind their school.
“What are you doing here?” the principal asked him.
The scared boy responded. “Fishing, sir. I’m fishing!”
The principal looked around. “Fishing in dry land?”
“Smoked fish, sir, smoked!”

But that’s a kid. What about grownups? My uncle’s stories were the best because he never told the same version twice. If it involved money, the amount went up in time, if it had something to do with politics, the era changed from World War to Reza Shah to Mossaddegh, and if my aunt was present, his adventures never involved any ladies.

Living in the Midwest before the revolution, we’d hear less of such accounts, but then came the revolution and the surge of immigrants also brought their unbelievable stories. Aware of the Pahlavi’s rather short family lineage, I was amazed at the number of Iranians who claimed to be relatives of the shah, and while many people did lose everything, the number of mansions – if not palaces – that people had left behind made Tehran bigger and more glamorous than Paris. I have to yet meet an Iranian who will tell me they had much less in Iran, that they are doing well here, and that the land of opportunities has indeed offered them a chance to build a better life.

Years ago, I promised myself I’d set a good example for my kids by being honest, but then came a day when I asked my daughter to answer the phone.
“Whoever it is, just say I’m in the shower.”
“I won’t lie for you, Mom.”
“Are you calling me a liar?”
She blushed. “Are you really in the shower?”
Unable to respond, I was reminded of a relative who actually lives in the shower. I’ve called her morning, noon, and night and that’s where she always is!

We are a nation of top students, we were all “hot” in our days, our physical features are all natural - and oh, that surgery was to fix a broken nose. We are all younger than our birth certificates indicate, weigh a lot less than the scale shows. We all meet people who think we were classmates but are in fact were the same year as an older sibling. I grew up an Iranian and to me a lie isn’t a lie unless you’re really lying.

Zohreh Ghahremani is the author of Sky of Red Poppies, available now on Amazon & most bookstores.


Recently by GhahremaniCommentsDate
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more from Ghahremani

Is lying an Iranian trait? Do Italians, Americans, British lie?


Here are some examples:

The British are always lying about their economic situation. Always crying we are poor, we are in a deficit, we don't have money, this is particularly true of the Royal Family -the House of Windsor whose assets alone are worth over $500 billion. So, why is Queen of England feigning poverty? Why are the Brits who sit on full coffers of gold -- and trillions and trillions of pounds feigning poverty? Is this a self serving social-economic trait? of course. By the way, if you were to criticize the queen of England, you would be arrested or deported. Do the British have political freedom? No.

You just used an American/British an idiom -when you claimed that your brothers can "get away with murder but you can't." Although generally people consider this hyperbole, using your interpretation, it is a big lie. Did your brothers murder someone? If they did, were they acquitted? 

Americans lie all the time when they ask: How are you? Do you think they really care how you are? They really don't want to know how you are. Its simply a gesture of greeting. 

Ask anyone who doesn't want to do something and some people will lie, some will simply say no, and some will say maybe. 

Lies are inherent quality of all people who have something they want to keep private for many reasons. For example, perhaps they don't want to share their wealth (e.g. Queen of England) and ....


Grow up!

Orang Gholikhani

Each country has his own relations with lies

by Orang Gholikhani on

Each country has a different relationship toward truth and lying.

French people tolerate some kind of lying versus US or German people. A French man never tell a lady, she is not beautiful and the lady would prefer this lie than the truth. During Clinton affaire and all process everybody was amazed here.

Tarof is very specific to Iran and it is more politness than a lie !


lying -here is a good example lying. Judge it for self


Here is the latest poison from Mrs. Sepahpour where she completely lies
about Iranians protesting against Jimmy Carter during a book signing.
Shame on Soraya Sepahpour Ulrich for distorting the truth. Mr. Carter
threw the book at the Iranians and iranians reacted with disgust. These
are Iranians whose children, husbands, wives, and family have been murdered, tortured, raped, beaten by the Islamic Republic which Jimmy Carter helped establish. Soraya condemns these victims of islamic republic.  i hope Mrs.Soraya Sepahpour Ulrich
experiences a similar fate soon.


Demonstrations Against Jimmy Carter in
Los Angeles by Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich

Soraya Sepahpour writes on this website://

I believe that it is important for the Americans (and other nationals) to become acquainted with the Iranian Monarchists.

Enamored with the ancient regime, they blame Jimmy Carter for the
revolution in Iran. The following is their reaction to Jimmy Carter's
book signing in Los Angeles on 25 October.

Some highlights of the video (said in Persian, the English needs no explanation):

Minute 2:00 - a woman insults (in her mind) by calling Carter a "dog".
(this is for clarification in case some did not get the accent).

Minute 3:25 - A woman dressed in blue/green and a black hat, says:
"laanat bar pedarate, pedar sag, namard, Khomeini rid be Iran,
enshallah bachehat beran zeere masheen'. May your father be cursed,
your father is a dog, you are not a man, Khomeini destroyed Iran
[literally translates into Khomeini shat all over Iran--more culturally
compatible so say Khomeini fxxx-up Iran], Enshallah (Allah
willing--note the cultural dependence on Islam/Allah!) your children
get run over by a car.

Minute 9:05 - a woman says "We are here to welcome Ayatollah Carter
and ask him how can he permit himself [literal, more accurate would be
how dare he] to come to the corner where the largest Iranian community
lives".... She continues to say that she is disappointed that more
people are not there--but they are the "Facebook" crowd.


Carter's books is torn by various people and thrown all over the place. They are obliged to clean up.

It is worthwhile mentioning a couple of things.

Please note that as I have stated on previous occasions about the
elections, the "Green Movement" has been hijacked. Note the green
wristband and Neda's picture and the general use of color green in the

Also note the Ahura Mazda necklaces in the crowd. Since Islam
replaced (for the most part) Zoroastrian in Persia, is there a
conscious effort to fight Islam with Zoroastrian ideology?

JE comments:  I watched the first four minutes of the video, which
gives a good idea of the vehemence of the small but vocal crowd.  I
never knew that any group could despise the gentle elder statesman
Jimmy Carter with such zeal.  What, I wonder, would they have had
Carter do differently vis à vis the Iranian revolution?

I bet Pres. Carter wishes he had picked a different Border's.


How much did she receive to write this bull crap? Why is this b#$#$
living in luxury in the united states and jetting back and forth? WHile
iranian people suffer.


we are not that bad

by norooz on

Iranians don't ever lie compared to Mexicans.  I don't know any other nation that lies so much without any reason. I ask them why? They say, it doesn't hurt anybody.  

Anahid Hojjati

JJ, zarbolmasalha are metaphor too

by Anahid Hojjati on

So in order to explain that it is not only Iranian poets who use metaphor, think of case of Iranian 

 ضرب المثلها .

They are metaphor. Like when Mulla Nasreddine said

آستین نو پلو بخور

this is a metaphor, or many other

ضرب المثلها  


Red Wine


by Red Wine on

چون که جوابی دریافت نکردیم،مطلب نوشته شده را تنها حمل بر یک یاد داشت ساده تلقی‌ خواهیم کرد.

فرهنگ ایران و درک ایرانیان امری ساده نیست که در چند کلمه خلاصه شود و فروید بازی دراورد .. هزار آسمان و ریسمان بافت و ایراد گرفت ! خیلی‌‌ها آمدند و لاتم،عئن و صدمه زدند و رفتند و فرهنگ اصیل ایرانی با کم و زیادش همچنان با قدرت ایستاده است و هیچ کس نخواهد توانست ذره یی از آن را کم و یا خدشه دار سازد.

ما این هستیم،همین هستیم،اگر ایرادی هم هست در خودمان است سالهاست که کرور و خروار دیوان و کتاب یک قران و صد شاهی‌ بی‌ اساس نگاشتند و قصه‌ها گفتند و حال هیچ !

خداوند مملکت ما را از دست شیاطین روزگار محفوظ بدارد.

الهی که دشمنان ایران،فرهنگ و تاریخ ایران از زمین محو شود و مملکت به ایرانیان واقعی‌ عودت داده شود.

زنده باد ایران زمین و ایرانیان.



Taarof and hospitality

by Princess on

I disagree that we taarof because we are very hospitable. People in Asia are all very hospitable, my experience has been, the poorer they are, the more hospitable they are. I have been asked to tea by complete strangers in Beirut, Damascus, Istanbul, etc (notice, these are not just rural areas either) and their offers have felt more genuine than most Iranians'.

Afghans are extremely generous, but they don't do the exaggerated taarof like Iranians do. Nepalese are some of the poorest people I have seen, yet they are the most hospitable people I have ever come across.

I am not saying Iranians are not hospitable, what I am saying is we are not the most hospitable people as some of us claim to be and taarof has nothing to do with it.


Anahid Hojjati

Dear JJ, about use of metaphor by poets

by Anahid Hojjati on

Dear Jahanshah, you wrote:"for instance I've always thought that the reason why we have so many poets is that the plain truth often has severe consequences."

Dear JJ, it is not just the poets. What do you say about Divaneh's piece on magassha and shirineeha? He has used metaphor too. How about the story of "choopan dorooghgoo"?

By the time that we had that story in our book, many of us were living in the city and hardly saw any choopan, so for many of us use of goosfand and gorg was a metaphor too. So, I don't think use of metaphor is limited to poets in Persian literature. Also, not every poet uses metaphor and even the ones who use it in one poem, may not use it in another.

Also another reason for using metaphor is that without using it, the poem may turn into a collection of politcal slogans such as 

زندانی سیاسی آزاد باید گردد



Jonny Dollar


by Jonny Dollar on

Now I know why my dad always would say:"PESAR CHERA ENGHDAR SAADEYY? i really never tried to change. just stay true to your heart. Honesty is the best way to go! Taarof is part of culture of Mahmoon dousti. What's wrong with that? we compare everything with the west, when we move here! 

In Tehran it is taarof, but if you travel to less cosmopolitan cities like kermanshah va kordestan, you would see for yourself, their taarof is real for the most part. on many occasions when visiting there, somebody who we just asked for address would ask us why wouldn't we stay with them. at first, we thought it was taarof, but they got real annoyed when wouldn't (not all) and we would end up spending the night there!

yes, i think taarof in the old time was real till people from different regions moved to tehran, it became much less sincere.

'"In the end, a man's life is measured not by what he has but by what he has given!"


do kalameh az...

by Monda on

my Italian ex-father-in-law: Take away the (*humorous) "little lies" and you will end up having one Boring Life! I just remembered how this similar to Redwine's comment. 

He/Emilio (roohash shaad) really did mean humorous. With Italians as with Iranians, humor really is the second most preferred defense. Little lies/taroff being number One. Then the combination of both, Iranian style or Italian style just leave you in tears of laughter Or makes you feel discombobulated.

On a good note, I see our children sifting through antiquated taarofs and lies, really well. As they become more capable of distinguishing between little lies and Big lies.



 ردّ واین


 ردّ واین مواظب باش این خانم خودیه

ایشونم مثه شما بطور سببی قجری می‌شه. اگه شما از تبار عامی‌ باشی‌ اونوقت داری به شوهر این خانم توهین میکنی‌. بابا آخه عرق فامیلیت کجا رفته؟ اسرار فامیلو که آدم رو نمیکنه حاجی!


Red Wine


by Red Wine on

استغفر الله ... چند روز نبودیم و باز عجب معرکه بازاری شده است این سایت محترم !...

پس زهره خانم معتقدند که ایرانی دیگر تعارف نکند ؟ سر در نمیاوریم ... تعارف یعنی‌ دروغ ؟!يقول هؤلاء الناس نادرة.

 از کی تا به حال ایرانی فرنگی‌ شده ؟ بیشتر توضیح دهید که مطلب فرهنگی‌ است و واجب !

لطفا این جریان را برای ما که از تبار عامیان هستیم روشن فرموده و از گمراهی رهایی دهید، سپاسگزاریم .


Jahanshah Javid


by Jahanshah Javid on

I really enjoyed this piece. You bring up excellent points, which are not usually talked about. It's my impression that Iranians do not have an easy relationship with truth and honesty, both of which get sacrificed for in favor of survival and the need to always be ahead of the game. For instance I've always thought that the reason why we have so many poets is that the plain truth often has severe consequences. Speech is not protected. So we resort to metaphors to try to make a point or to criticize something or someone.

Meanwhile an honest person is often seen as a weak simpleton (saadeh). You must strive to be smart, zerang. Always make sure you're not being screwed. Because they're out there to get you. There's always things feeling that disaster is around the corner. And you must be prepared to survive and get ahead!

Am I wrong?

Thanks again for a wonderful essay.


Dear JD, Easier said than done

by Monda on

 به ایشان تذکر بدهید که دروغ نگویند.

Lord knows I have tried doing just that! Truthfully, it has worked with those who are truly interested in me and my relationship with them. However, I notice that the "little lies" are so engrained in our cultural natures, that some Iranians, outside or inside, are not aware of their disrespectful, superficial or energy-wasting nature. Silent tolerance of the BS, often works better with those people, without exhausting myself.

Of course, it is very endearing when the shop-keeper suggests that his entire shop belongs to you, I have noticed in most circumstances the "taarof" exchange gives them time to better assess the costumer's gullibility. But the frequent practice, within closer range is Confusing.  

By the way, our culture is not the only domain where I have experienced the consequences of taarofs or phony lies. Italians have mastered it in different forms, so have Turkish, Greek, and many other cultures that I cannot readily site.



Thank you again.

by Princess on

I enjoyed reading your other article on taarof. You explained it very well which at times brought a smile to my face, but I'd have confess I don't see much sweetness in taarof. (OK, maybe in the last scene with your teenage son:))

It might be my partly German upbringing, but I think what bothers me is this:

"Such lighthearted, yet meaningless, dialogue can go on for hours, especially if you find nothing else to talk about."

All parties know that it is meaningless, yet they carry on with it.   



Taarof or lie?

by Ghahremani on

Agreed. However, Taarof is our sweetest lie! For a smile, allow me to refer you to my article of 2005:


As for those who think no one in their family ever tells a lie, the amount of lies they have actually believed sounds unbelievable! 



by Princess on

I agree with you whole heartedly. Lying is so integrated into our culture that we don't even realise that we are often raised to be hypocrites.

Take "the art of taarof" for example, isn't it just learning to say what you really don't mean? I find taarof extremely draining and inefficient, to the point that I avoid some people because of it. And I think it is very sad to hear that "so and so khaareji shode" because they don't taarof anymore.

I mean, in Iran even complete strangers, such as Taxi drivers, do it, for god sake. Now, that cannot be about leaving a good impression.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this. 


Jeesh Daram


Jeesh Daram

بمن میگه  "موش بخوردت"!  آخه چطوری موش منو بخوره؟  درچه شرایطی  و به چه صورت؟ هستند بسیار استعارات و تشابهات در زبان فارسی که هدف از مصرفشان نه دروغ است و نه شنونده آنرا دروغ می پندارد.  ایرانیان مردمی شاعر مسلک هستند و در بسیاری موارد شعر را برای اثبات سخنشان بمیان میاورند.  ملتی که سه هزار سال شعر سروده  آزاد است تا آنکه را دوست دارد با جگرش تشبیه کند و آماده باشد تا خود را برای آنچه دوست دارد قربانی کند و یا پای معشوق و قدم او را با خاک پایش بر چشم نهد. ما که هستیم که از زبان فارسی و فرهنگ آمیخته به آن انتقاد کنیم. جمع اینهاست که سازنده زبان زیبای فارسی است.  ما جز این زبان زیبایمان چه برایمان مانده است؟ چه چیزی برای ما گذاشتند؟  کورش هایمان که در خاکند و قهرمانانمان در رویاها و ساخته هامان ویران.  ولی آنچه ما را با یکدیگر نگهداشته است و هنوز ما را یک ملت میخواند زبان زیبای فارسی است.   فارسی سریش بقای ماست. حالا اگر یک بچه ای و جوانی و یا قصاب زاده ای در اینطرف دنیا دروغ میگوید این وصله ای برجامه فرهنگ ایرانی نیست.  بسیاری از ایرانیانی که شما در خارج می بینید از طبقه قصاب و بساز و بفروش بوده و هستند و اینها را نباید مشت نمونه خروار پنداشت. زیرا بسیار هستند ایرانیانی در همین دیار که راست میگویند.   ولی شکی نیست که بهترین ما ملت هنوز در ایران هستند و ما از معاشرت با آنها محروم میباشیم.  در میان همه فرهنگها دروغگویی امری است بدیهی و اگر چهارتا ایرانی هم دیدیم که دروغ میگویند، این بهیچوجه جنبه عمومی و ملی ندارد.  به ایشان تذکر بدهید که دروغ نگویند.  در خاتمه باید اشاره کنم که استفاده از شغل قصابی در بالا یک اصطلاح است و نه آنکه توهینی به آن حرفه باشد.  بهرصورت فرق است بین دروغ و تجسمهای شاعرانه فکری یک ایرانی و مقایسه آن در زبان انگلیسی پشیزی ارزش ندارد و آب در غربال ریختن و باد در کوزه کردن است  

Anahid Hojjati

Dear Zohreh,forget about white lies, there are more serious lies

by Anahid Hojjati on

Recently I have seen educated Iranians let false information about them go worldwide. A person I know had an article of her circulating with added note claiming she is professor in Iran while she has never taught in Iran. Her response was that someone put her name as being a professor and article got a lot of publicity and she can not really complain and then she put smiley face next to the fact that she is not complaining about this huge lie. Then I have seen instances of Iranians taking credit for others' poems. But when I tell some of these examples to some of my Iranian friends, they don't seem to think it is a big deal and bring me examples of worse lies in Iran. As I am getting worked up about these lies, I am reminded that can we really say that we have not lied before getting worked up about others lying? But then some lies and attitude of the people who tell them is more upsetting.


One of the Most confusing concepts in our culture

by Monda on

It is So challenging to try to translate or explain the "little lies" to non-Iranians, without sounding condescending to our culture. Where do all the exaggerations come from anyway? What are they still doing in our communication with other Iranians? Is it only for the sake of familiarity that we hold onto the ghorrboonet beram, fadat sham, etc?

I know this one person cannot stand me, he avoids eye contact while talking to me, but at the end of our conversation he ends it by Ghoboonet beram.  

I hope people leave lots of comments for you here. I hope we get to talk openly about the Iranian style duplicity. It can be energy-draining! I'd much rather no one scarified themselves for my face... just want us to be more truthful and practice some genuine kindness by calling what we do or don't appreciate in each other, right there and then. Life does not need to be as complicated as some of us make it. 


Jonny Dollar

Please don't stereotype! It has a lot to do w/the family

by Jonny Dollar on

that one has been broght up in. If I ever find anyone in my family lies, I would let them know and I would be heart broken.

Cyrus the great disouraged to be a businessman since it would require them, by the nature of it, to lie. In fact, traditionally the worse thing a Persian could have done would have been to TRUJ (dorough) in ancient persian culture. It was never allowed in my family. You see much less of that in kordestan and kermanshah, probably Yazd and i am sure other cities.. i don't know about esfehan.....

I think Zartoshti ha are the least liars, and moslems the most.. Am I right?

"In the end, a man's life is measured not by what he has but by what he has given!"