So, the brand new Swedish ambassador to Iran violated "diplomatic ethics" during a meeting with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad this week. And what, exactly, did he do? Well, the ambassador crossed his legs during the meeting and Ahmadinejad was so offended that he crossed his own in retaliation. Huh?
Okay, so right off the bat we're going to admit that our Persian isn't up to speed and we're relying on a ton of Google Translate, but the original site with the play-by-play is an Iranian website called Asriran (right). We're positive there's something lost in translation because "naughty" makes the leg-crossing sound frisky. But you see that's the offending foot of one Pete Tiller, the new Swedish ambassador. The Armenian website, Panorama, has this translation:
Peter Tiller crossed his legs during a meeting with Ahmadinejad following the ceremony of presenting his credentials, something which, according to experts, contradicts international diplomatic norms, said the website.
"The Swedish Ambassador to the soles of his feet were not..." reads our struggling Google Translate. And so we looked that up, and found that pointing the soles of your feet toward someone is actually offensive in Muslim culture. Here's an explanation of the custom, from the University of West Florida:
Pointing the soles of the feet towards someone is impolite because the soles of the feet (shoe) are considered dirty, closest to the ground, closer to the devil and farther away from God. When in the presence of Muslims, be careful not to raise or cross your legs in such a way that the sole of the foot faces others in the room.
Faced with the offensive soles of Tiller's feet, Ahmadinejad responded just as aggressively: "Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, for his part, himself crossed his legs in response to the impoliteness of his interlocutor," reads Panorama. Fars News Agency, an Iranian outlet with ties to the government, has a photo of the retaliation (notice the "foot drop cannot be appealed language at the top"):
There's another shoe dropping joke here, isn't there?
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.