Former President of Iran Mahmoud Ahmadinejad discussed the flak he received in Iran after hugging Hugo Chávez's mother at his funeral. Ahmadinejad made his remarks in an interview that aired on Javanan Online TV (Iran) on June 20, 2021. He said that some people are "sick in the head" and do not understand that he had considered Chávez's mother to be a mother figure and there is nothing untoward about the hug. Ahmadinejad said that Chávez was a great man and that he was assassinated. He said that he was forbidden from meeting foreign officials visiting Iran, and the Foreign Ministry places obstacles on his foreign travel. Ahmadinejad and the interviewer discussed different strategies used by Iranians to avoid shaking hands with foreign officials of the opposite gender. She went on to ask Ahmadinejad whether he speaks English, he replied that he does speak English but prefers not to do so.
Mahsa Iranian Interviewer: "How are relations with the Leader?"
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: "How would you want them to be?
Interviewer: "How should I know? Who am I to know such things?"
Ahmadinejad: "Well, I am exactly the same..."
Interviewer: "Does your silence indicate content?"
Ahmadinejad: "Look, in principle, we shouldn't look at things this way. I believe that,,, First of all, the truth belongs to everybody."
Interviewer: "The truth belongs to everybody?"
Ahmadinejad: "Yes, to everybody. Everybody has rights. Because all people are human beings they have the right to determine their fate, their lifestyle, the kind of regime that runs the country, the decisions... Everybody has rights and everybody's right is equal.
[Hugo] Chavez was a great man, a great human being. He was a great man with a humane and global perspective. He was very popular.
They did to him what they did and, unfortunately, he has left us.
Despite being Christian, he admired the Hidden Imam very much.
Someone who can make a speech for six hours straight without repeating any point, and the audience continue to sit down and listen to the end, is someone who has a lot to say. He was assassinated. He was poisoned, because had he stayed in power these past eight years, Latin America would have moved united, like one person. He was like a bulldozer.
When he died, I just had to go to his [memorial] service.
Mr. Chavez's mother was sitting there, as the main mourner. She was 84 or 85 years old and ailing. She was unable to move. They had trouble getting her there and have her seated on a chair. Everybody was approaching her, expressing their condolences, and shaking her hand. When I got there..."
Interviewer: "You expressed your condolences, shook her hand, and left."
Ahmadinejad: "No! She got to her feet. This is very important. After all, she was unable to move. She said: 'My son has arrived. My son has arrived.' She came over and hugged me, and I soothed her. If there had not been some vile people in Iran, surely I would have been the one to hug her, and I would have let her cry for half an hour, and I would have cried myself. It was a real motherly feeling. I felt like she was my mother, and she felt I was her son. She said: 'When you are here, I am clam. Nothing will happen to us.'"
Interviewer: "Are you in touch with his mother?"
Ahmadinejad: "No, no. Unfortunately, they completely cut off our relations. In addition, when foreign officials come here and demand to meet me, the Foreign Ministry does not allow this. They also give me a hard time with my traveling. When I traveled to Turkey, they would not issue a diplomatic passport for me, and I had to travel with my regular passport. This is a violation of all the international protocol."
Interviewer: Why is it like that with you?"
Ahmadinejad: "This is how it is in Iran.
In the name of religion, people invented all kinds of things that have nothing to do with our religion. An 85-year-old woman is considered a mother of mine. What other feeling can there be there besides a motherly sentiment? But some people are sick in the head, and because of that, they think that everybody else is sick in the head. So in Iran, they made a scandal out of [my hug with Chavez's mother]. When we got back to Iran, we saw that all hell broke loose."
Interviewer: "And you had no idea..."
Ahmadinejad: "It became the main headline, but it is really very simple. It was like hugging your mother."
Interviewer: "When Iranian ambassadors in other countries participate in meetings, or when important officials travel abroad, and some lady comes to shake their hand, what do they say? 'Have you seen a child that small?'"
Ahmadinejad: "It has become very difficult for our officials. Some [foreign officials] feel as if they are treated with disrespect. Some lady comes over, extends her hand, and when you pull away your hand, she doesn't know why..."
Interviewer: "We say: 'No, no, no! Don't touch my hand!'"
Ahmadinejad: "We use this motion. What else can we do? She feels that she had been insulted. She doesn't know why. And then the Foreign Minister needs to make explanations."
Interviewer: "But the coronavirus helped us in this. Now we either make fists or do nothing.
Inshallah, the people who meet our dear [representatives abroad] will always be older than 80, so there wouldn't be a problem..."
Ahmadinejad: "You can't be sure that there wouldn't be a problem... "
Interviewer: "Apparently, it's no problem if the 80-year-old woman is considered to be their mother."
Ahmadinejad: "No, she can be 60 and still considered as their mother.
You need to have pleasure in this world. Some people believe that having pleasure is a sin, and these are the people who have a problem [in the head]."
Interviewer: "And the last question: Can you speak English or not?"
Ahmadinejad: "I can but don't want [to]. Yes. That's very Iranian."
Interviewer: I want to test your English speaking right now..."