The Iranian art of lying

Why are we so good it?


The Iranian art of lying
by Siamack Baniameri

A friend was enthusiastically recounting his run-in with a police officer in a Los Angles freeway. It turns out that my friend was doing 90 in a 55-mile-an-hour zone in his brand new BMW with the wife by his side and mother-in-law in the backseat. It’s not often that you get a chance to do 90 on LA's freeways. So, my friend figured, what the heck, what’s the worst that can happen?

Just when he is ready to push his Beemer to the limit, he spots flashing lights in his rear-view mirror and immediately revises a plan to get out of the ticket. While slowing down and pulling over to the side, he tells the mother- in-law to fake a heart attack. Following his lead, the wife slides to the backseat and the mother-in-law starts playing the part. My friend quickly messes up his hair, lights up a cigarette and clears his throat.

The stage is set for Persian bullshitting theatricals.

The police officer slowly approaches the car and looks inside. The mother-in-law presses on her chest and takes a deep breath. The wife rubs her mother’s legs and says in broken English, “please don’t die. We are almost there at the hospital.”

Intimidated by the presence of the police officer, the mother-in-law is close to having a real heart attack in the backseat.

“Excuse me officer," my friend said, "my mother-in-law in the back has a bad heart and she is having a stroke. I was driving very-very fast to get her to the emergency room. That’s why I’m smoking a cigarette. I’m very-very stressed.“

The police officer sticks his head inside the car and glances at the ladies in the back. The mother-in-law makes a chocking sound and closes her eyes. The police officer immediately steps back and waves at my friend to proceed. Knowing that he has gotten away with getting another ticket, my friend steps on the gas and takes off like a bat out of hell with a smile that goes from ear to ear. Score!!!

Now let’s go from LA to NY. President Ahmadinejad made his annual pilgrimage to the United Nations for a few days of fun, festivities and shopping. He spoke to rows of empty chairs while displaying his divine luminosity. As he roamed from one meeting to another and from one interview to the next, he showcased his God-given talent of bullshitting, which happens to be the most important asset in most Iranians’ arsenal. And of course, yet again, we witness his interviews with American networks and softball questions followed by Ahmadi’s skillful answers -- more BS, and like a bad nightmare, it just goes on and on.

I personally believe Ahmadinejad has mastered the art of Persian bullshiting theatricals. He represents the very persona of many of us inside and outside of the country. He is real. Like many of us, he lies without hesitation and in most situations, he actually believes his own lies. Ahmadi gets us. He understands that most of us take our cues from a defeated culture, which has adopted lying as a mean of survival. he looks you in the eyes and says it like it is NOT! Like my friend in LA, he understands that Westerners in most cases give you the benefit of the doubt, and that by itself creates great opportunities for bullshit followed by a grin and a sense of accomplishment.

Another good example is the public hanging of a 17-year-old that took place a few days ago in Karaj, west of Tehran. The prosecutor was asked about the legalities of executing a minor. He responded that the kid was really 18, if you use a different calendar and consider the way stars and moons line up. I was waiting for him to mention that based on the Mayan calendar the kid was already dead, so what’s the big deal (bullshit + grin + sense of accomplishment).

Throughout our history, we Iranians have always been great liars. That includes making up stories about the Persian Empire, Islam, dynasties, left, right and everything in between. Lying is a big part of our dogma that has practically ruined our lives and our country. We have built our culture, religion and history based on wacky lies and self-fulfilling prophecies. For many of us the line between truth and bullshit has become so blurry that we simply can’t tell the difference anymore. We talk about democracy and human rights as if our problems can just magically disappear. We fail to recognize that our plight, our shortcomings have nothing to do with the lack of freedom and democracy. The problem is our sick culture of lying and deception.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Not all Iranians are reality-challenged. I personally know many who are admirably honest. But most have crawled under a rock and have distanced themselves from their own kind.


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Veiled Prophet of Khorasan


by Veiled Prophet of Khorasan on


Note: The header of this post was revised from AO to AE. In order to fix my previous mistake.

If you read my post I do have convincing answers I will repost them below:

  • Reason for Iran not doing much naval research: Iran was never much of a naval power. That means Iranian ships were not built for major naval work. The main ports of Iran are either in the Persian Gulf and south or Caspian sea.
    There is not much to explore in the north as it is a lake. The
    southern regions lead to Arabia; India and Africa. Iranians "explored"
    all those regions. Of course they were heavily inhabited and nothing to
  • Research done by Iranians: This is of course a very minor sample. On the other hand Iranians were fully involved in trade all the way from China to Europe. Iranians did go all the way to Egypt and China. Many Iranian scientists put their work in Astronomy {Tusi}; Medicine {Abu Ali Sina} Mathematics {Khawrazmi} and other sciences.  




What the heck is your "own" kind?

by comments on

"most have crawled under a rock and have distanced themselves from their own kind"

Who are your own kind?  Isn't it enough for you as long as they are human.  Do they have to be your "own" kind?  Do they have to benefit you financially because they are your "own" kind?

Anonymous Everyday


by Anonymous Everyday on

I am no newcomer to this site, yet I never cease to be amazed at how good you are with twisting things.

Dude, why can't you separate C. Columbus' evil deeds from the initial courage it must've taken to set out into the unknown? Does your brain have different compartments? Do you think you can separate the two? Also not all expeditions are naval. Have you ever heard of the polar expeditions???

If you don't have a convincing answer, nobody holds a gun to your head, just don't respond.



Re emotional approach

by Arj on

Dear Parham, in the instance of enforcement of mandatory hejab, not all (and perhaps with the possible exception of Tehran, not even the majority of) Iranian men at the time were against it! It is regrettable and sadening, but does not imply cowardice. For at the same time, many of these men risked and/or lost their lives in the war fronts! One could argue that such an attitude may be rooted in innate misogynistic tendencies of a society, underdevelopment, lack of education and predominant religiousity. But to solely attribiute a complex social issue of this scale to such vague and obtuse concepts as cowardice is over-simplifying and ultimately triavilizing the issue!

Veiled Prophet of Khorasan

Iranian expeditions

by Veiled Prophet of Khorasan on


Iran was never much of a naval power. That means Iranian ships were not built for major naval work. The main ports of Iran are either in the Persian Gulf and south or Caspian sea.

There is not much to explore in the north as it is a lake. The southern regions lead to Arabia; India and Africa. Iranians "explored" all those regions. Of course they were heavily inhabited and nothing to "discover". On the other hand Iranians were fully involved in trade all the way from China to Europe. Iranians did go all the way to Egypt and China. Many Iranian scientists put their work in Astronomy {Tusi}; Medicine {Abu Ali Sina} Mathematics {Khawrazmi} and other sciences.  

As for "Christopher Columbus" I am glad we have no Iranian like him. The man was a butcher and genocidal murderer. It is an honor that no Iranian was as low a scum as he was. If the fact that Iranian "curiosity" did not include genocide offends some too bad! Now "we" have to apologize for not murdering a whole continent of people. Maybe it is not in Iranian genes to murder other races. Or to subjugate them as Spanish and British did.


hustling - no exclusive club for lying

by MM on

* habitual lying leads to better lies (practice makes perfect) since the body/facial clues tend to normalize over a long period of lying.

* cultures tend to exaggerate: Alexander "the Great" becomes eskandar-e mal'oon in Farsi, and I am sure that the Indians have a few adjectives for Nader Shah ("the Great"), who plundered the Indian jewels.

* we were told to make sure we haggled with the merchants in Istambol's bazzar (today, for you, $5???? why).  Of course, we have haggled in Tehran's bazzar, but I have never seen an Iranian go into a Wal-Mart and try to negotiate a price down.

* I am sure that no one believes what a car salesperson tells him without verification in the US, and we all have stories of zerangi by friends who may or may not be Iranian.


Anonymous Everyday

speaking of courage

by Anonymous Everyday on

Now that the topic has turned to courage has any of you ever wondered why throughout our long history of civilisation we've never heard of any Iranian expeditionists and poineers such as Christopher Columbus or Mathew Henson or others who'd leave the comforts of their homes to go and face the unknown - regardless of what motivated them???  Is it a lack of courage for a lack of curiosity I wonder.


hamsade ghadimi

good read baniameri.  the

by hamsade ghadimi on

good read baniameri.  the art of bullshitting as you describe also has been used primarily as a survival technique.  i remember in one of esmail fasih's book, he described that iranians, under the rule of greeks, where forbidden to speak persian or celebrate iranian holidays (true or not, i don't know; he's a ficition writer).  he described that iranians were obedient to the greeks when outside of thier homes but when inside, they celebrated norooz in more dramatic fashion than before the greeks and spoke persian while making fun of greeks.  i'm sure iranians behaved the same way under rule of many other people who've ruled iran.  otherwise, fasih argued that we wouldn't be speaking persian today or celebrating norooz. 

at any rate, the explanation for some iranians being masters in lying does not take from the gist of your blog.  it's a reaction to the environment we've lived in (and live) and it is what it is. hoping for days when we can bullshit at a rate below the global average.


Excellent piece

by Abarmard on

Witty and interesting. Thanks

Veiled Prophet of Khorasan


by Veiled Prophet of Khorasan on


I am really debating in a vacuum. So I am going to stop after this. For example if one was fighting the Basiji for the past 20 years and left last month. Then they obviously are in a different position. Also if one fought on the side of Iran in the war that gives proof they are no coward. If one left 30 years ago then that is different. As you say I do not know your history nor do I know the history of most posters here. That means I don't know who did what. 

Let me restate: anyone is "allowed" to say whatever they want. You don't  need to be Iranian. I am not the official censor or the "chomag be dast"! By "no position" I mean it sounds hypocritical. Problem with anonymity is we don't know. So we must assume anyone posting here is in the West. Meaning safe and sound.



by Parham on

"people outside Iran are not in a position to call those inside cowards."

If you only talked about those who had done their bad and run away, I would understand your position. The way it is, I don't. Any Iranian has a right to say what they think.


"For at various historical junctures, depending on the accasion, people's contingent support or at least indifference towards IRI's oppressive policies (e.g. that of mandatory hejab in early 80s) have been rather based on fundamental sentiments, i.e. prevalent apathy towards women's rights with regards to hejab at the time!"

And how is that based on logic and not emotions, AND is not "using Iranian people's attitude towards IRI as a measure to substantiate a point in that regard"?



by Rea on

Appreciate your honesty, point taken, I won't. 

Yet I'd never call cowards hundreds of 000s of brave Iranians who defied the odds in 2009 and who continue their daily struggle. Iranian women, in particular.


I'm out of here before people accuse me of being an undercover agent of so n so.


The cunning instinct!

by Arj on

Years ago, just before the advent of internet, I was researching for a social science study, when I stumbled upon, and was totally side-tracked by, a 150 year old book written by a British socialogist about his eye witness acounts of travels trough the Near, Middle and Far East! What fascinated me about this book was, despite having been written before the invention of photography, its pictorial descriptions of peoples and places which were done in hand-drawings with impaccable accuracy and details!

However, my reminiscing about the book is due to the author's observations about the peoples of ME and Central Asia, their differences and similarities. Among those observations was one on the cunning nature of the peoples of the region (that icluded present day Turkey, Iran and Afghanistan) as a survival instinct of inhabitants of the old silk road who had been exposed to constant invasions and conquests by various hostile neighbouring nations and nomadic tribes. In other words, what we see today (not only in Iran, but nations like Turkey, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq...) is the bartering, cunning culture of the descendants of the merchants of the ancient Silk Road!

All that said, judging an entire nation on simplistic notions in a black-and-white context as "liars" or "cowards" can rather stem from emotinal approaches than logical! Moreover, using Iranian people's attitude towards IRI as a measure to substantiate a point in that regard is a fallacious way of proving a point! For at various historical junctures, depending on the occasion, people's contingent support or at least indifference towards IRI's oppressive policies (e.g. that of mandatory hejab in early 80s) have been rather based on fundamental sentiments, i.e. prevalent apathy towards women's rights with regards to hejab at the time! As it still can be seen today in the more conservative regions such as Yazd, Kerman, Kashan, Semnan...! 

maziar 58

oon yaroo

by maziar 58 on

ye 100 affarin be shoma ghorban oon honestytoon.

khadee' been part enemy part friend of iranian culture since yazd gerd was defeated and so on.


Veiled Prophet of Khorasan

Re: Actually

by Veiled Prophet of Khorasan on


No. It is not clear!  You must have not read my post. I did not say anything about you in particular. I said:

  • people outside Iran are not in a position to call those inside cowards. Specially those who did not fight on the side of Iran in the war. That is my opinion and has nothing to do with you.
  • I resent people who participated in the revolution. Then when it got tough took off to the West. And now want the new generation to clean up their mess. I don't know if you were one of them. I guess you know that. 
  • With Bolton and MEK pushing for a regime change I worry. Reasons are obvious. They are up to no good. They are enemies of Iran and with Neocons I do not trust anything. 
  • I did not say anything about what I would do. But I have suggested in the past a government in exile be set up. With real elections and legitimacy. With that in position I may well be willing to go and work for freedom
  • I also don't like this coward label being thrown around. 
  • Lastly I will add "democracy" means different things to people. I am for a secular free system with a "bill of rights". Not for plain out majority vote. Majority must be restrained from imposing its will on the minority.

G. Rahmanian

Lies, Strengths & Weaknesses Of Citizens!

by G. Rahmanian on

I am not sure if such values or metaphors should be discussed in relation to nation building or establishing democracy. Creating sound social, political, economic/financial and cultural foundations within a democratic system of governance have little to do with the characters of individual citizens. We already have plenty of examples of democracies where the rule of law determines the existing relationships among the citizens of such democracies; where strength, weakness or other characteristics of the citizens are simply non-issue. Such values or metaphors also differ conceptually from one nation to another. Even within any given society the concept of courage, strength, weakness or lies change from one group to another. Whereas honor killings are accepted among culturally more backward people, it is, generally, looked upon as primitive savagery among the citizens in culturally more advanced nations. The same goes to lying or other socio-historically based cultural characteristics or values.



by Parham on

... I'm being very precise. I'm saying:

1- You don't know anything about my past, so you can't come here and say I'm sitting outside making comments. Even if I were only making comments from the outside, as an Iranian, I would have a right to do so and it wouldn't be any of your business to tell me to do otherwise.

2- You don't know what I would or would not do in the present or the future -- you don't know whether if I have to go back and fight for establishing democracy, I'd do it or not. You are just saying I wouldn't because you yourself are like that. You probably wouldn't go back and fight and you think everybody else is like you. Exactly what I was describing below.

Is it clearer now?

Oon Yaroo

Lie Detector Test for Iranians....!

by Oon Yaroo on

Lie Detector Test for Iranians:

You are a liar if you:

1) On your yearly trip to Iran at the Imam Khomeini airport to the customs officer you declare "nothing" as souvenir or imported goods,

2) At the same place you state, "thank God I am back home in IRR!"

3) En route to Tehran and just before you land, you spray mint scent in your mouth to disguise/cover up the alcohol breath of yours,

4) You [ladies] clean up your make up and put on a scarf or chadoor,

5) You [ladies] reverse the operation in (4) out of Iran,

6) Grow beard and not take a shower before you arrive in Iran,

7) On the way back to US, at your airport of destination and while being processed in the customs line, you state" thank God I am back home in US of A!"


Then you are a liar!


PS I have not been in Iran since March 1979. But, I do lie once in a while!

Veiled Prophet of Khorasan


by Veiled Prophet of Khorasan on


What I know about you is what I read and it is not obvious. What are you saying: should we go back and fight? Should we expect Iranians back home to do all the work. Do you plan to go back.

What about the Brenard and the Neocon plan. It is worth the risk now. I just do not understand what you have in mind. Why not say exactly what you mean. Instead of making cryptic remarks.


Dear Divaneh

by Parham on

Oh yeah, I'll agree to disagree with you on this one, sure! I don't think women all of a sudden started to wear hejab "because they went crazy about Islam all of a sudden", I think they had to wear it, because it was imposed on them. In fact, I think you must be kidding!
But you're right, let's leave it at that.

Veiled Prophet of Khorasan


by Veiled Prophet of Khorasan on


I already responded to Parham. It is difficult to tell what he means at least for me. 

These Iranian "cowards" fought Iraq for around 8 years. With inferior weapons and while being opposed by almost all the world. While being gassed and hit by chemical weapons. Provided by West. Meanwhile "we" the brave diaspora were sitting on our rear ends doing nothing. How dare "we" and I mean anyone who did not fight in the war call them cowards. 

It is a giant insult and makes me very upset. If anyone wants to be angry at me: by my guest. Instead of insulting each other and Iranians in general we must think. Instead of posting 60 year old speeches maybe think ahead a bit. All this self rightous indignation is too much. What are the ideas and what are the plans? All I see in IC is pointless one liners such as:

  • Iranians are liars.
  • Pahlavi come clean with their money.
  • USA and Israel bomb the Mollahs.

None of which will do a *** thing to improve anything.


Dear Parham

by divaneh on

I think we have to agree to disagree on this one. I think all nations go through up and down. I remember how many alamode women suddenly decided to take Hejab and how the whole society had gone mad about Islam. You are not wrong that Iranians have been cowed to accept the injustices in the society, but to write them off is unfair.

I now have to head to bed and have glorious dreams.



by Parham on

Ask yourself this: What (the heck) do you know about me to judge me like that? You're saying you have doubts about me going back and fighting in a cynical way simply because you wouldn't and you don't think any wise person would do it. I said what I said about you based on exactly that!
Now take it the way you want.


Dear divaneh

by Parham on

See, if there was a majority behind those movements, or just enough, things would have turned around. I'd argue with you that things didn't perhaps in part or wholly because of this trait of character in Iranians. If there was no cowardice, we would have stood up by our women when they went out to demonstrate against hejab back when it still wasn't imposed; if we weren't cowards, we wouldn't have let the hejab be imposed at all, but we chose to be "conservative" and it went on and on to the point where even chess was made illegal. Heck, we didn't even have guns pointing at us then!
Do you see what I mean? Do you think I'm generalizing now? That goes with so many things that have happened to us, where we just sat around thinking it wasn't wise to put ourselves on the line. Well we are reaping the benefits now and have been...


Thanks VPK

by divaneh on

I was discussing this in more general terms. Rajavi and Bolton may have their own dream but they will die with those dreams. Iranian people will not be fooled again by the same shit. I however think the discussions should be centred on the strengths and weaknesses of the Iranians that can help or hinder them in creating an honest and just society.

Veiled Prophet of Khorasan


by Veiled Prophet of Khorasan on


This is what I am saying. Please read it carefully to make sure there is no misunderstanding or unintended insults.

  • I do not consider people of Iran to be cowards. People who live outside of Iran are not in a position to tell them what risks to take. I am cynical about the JM because its members helped overthrow the Shah and bring Khomeini. You have said you are not a part of JM therefore it should not matter to you.
  • As for "speak for yourself". That is exactly what I mean. If you meant to call Rea and I cowards then it is a retort. Meaning that you are in the same boat as we are. So if we are cowards then the same applies to all those outside including you. With perhaps the exception of Foroud Fouladvand. Who by the way went back and most likely is dead or in jail. If you did not mean to call us cowards and I misunderstood you then my apologies. I hope that is clear enough.


Dear Parham

by divaneh on

I think you generalise this too far. Let's remember that even after revolution we had many movements and many brave people who tried to change the course of the dictatorship and many lost their lives in that way. I agree that we have more than our fair share of cowards but that can happen in any society who has been betrayed repeatedly by its own governments. Let's also remember the revolutions are not done by the whole nations but by groups of people within those nations who have a strong faith in a particular vision of their country's future. We are not short of such people and IRI's prisons are proofs of that. I think we need to be critical of ourselves and the mistakes that ended us in this hell hole, but we have no reason to lose faith in the Iranian society. It is not even two years since they shook the regime basis.


VPK Parham is not insulting, he is pointing his view out on

by amirparvizforsecularmonarchy on


Coward/liar is not flattery but in the sense he is giving it is a debatable point.  I personally can't swallow it, but he gives cases and points and logic which is irritating because in some cases I will say that I agree, but you think if a foreign country invades iran, the people will just tarof with them.  I don't know, challenge their comfort zone and it gives them enough motivation to break past their fears and they show something very courageous and non-selfish in practice.  I'm not sure any more on this. I know that Shojaat is praised and respected alot among Iranians.  I feel the women of Iran have been brave against the viscious tyranny, they just have no hope of winning against bullets.



by Parham on

There are no insults in what I wrote. Just a reflection of the truth by what you said. What you wrote however, is an insult to me even though it doesn't use any "bad" words. I would, once, like you to try to say exactly the same to me in my face. See if you would.


Why is the so called

by vildemose on

Why is the so called opposition displays cowardice, those who can really make a difference?? Is it because they still hope there is chance that they might recoup their lost turf and treasure under VF?? 

Reform requires the consent of the corrupt