Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez were sorta like the Thelma and Louise of international dictators and had a friendship so deep that they joked around about atomic bombs. That doesn't matter to Ahmadinejad's political opponents, who think hugging Hugo Chavez's grieving mom is pretty much the worst thing ever. The picture (above) from Hugo Chavez's funeral is sort of sweet. When you take away the fact that one of them is the mom of a newly-deceased tyrannical Venezuelan president and the other is the instigating president of Iran and thorn in the side of the United States, it's just a friend consoling his friend's mother at a funeral. But to Iran's religious conservatives this was a grave offense.
"Shaking hands with a non-mahram (unrelated by family) woman, under any circumstances, whether young or old, is not allowed. Hugging or expressing emotions is improper for the dignity of the president of a country like the Islamic Republic of Iran," Mohammad Taghi Rahbar, the Friday prayer leader of Iran's second city, Isfahan, is quoted as saying in The Telegraph. As Al-Arabiya notes, it's not like the people doing the criticizing were always against Ahmadinejad—they strongly supported the president during the 2008 elections. What a difference five years make. "Iranian MP Mohammed Dehghan said, in an implicit reference to Ahmadinejad, that such an act by a prominent executive official opposes the behavior of a Muslim who is constrained by religious commitments," Al Arabiya reports.
The reason Ahmadinejad hugged Elena Frias de Chavez, is because he and her son were good friends. It was just last January the two were seen joking around about a "big atomic bomb" in Venezuela, and giggling over how much the U.S. hates both of them. In 2009, when people were protesting Ahmadinejad's presidential election win for six straight days, guess who was there voicing his support for his man? That's right. It was Chavez. And that friendship is also the reason why Ahmadinejad wrote on his personal website that Chavez would return to earth with Jesus and why the Iranian president also declared a day of mourning for his fallen friend—both going over as well with Ahmaedinejad's opponents as the hug with Chavez's mom.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.