A video of UK’s Ambassador to Tehran Simon Shercliff talking about Iran has sparked a social media buzz with Iranians wishing they were enjoying the country as he does.
The British Embassy in Iran stirred social media discussions earlier this week when it shared a video interview with the British envoy in which he engaged in a casual and friendly conversation in Persian. During short questions and answers published as an Instagram post, Shercliff expressed his views on various cultural, social, historical, and tourism-related aspects of Iran.
In addition to expressing his fondness for Iranian people and culture, he called Shiraz “the best city” he visited and Rasht a city that bears the most resemblance to British cities. Mimicking the accent of people in the central city of Esfahan (Isfahan), he said that he liked best this accent of Persian. He also acknowledged his appreciation for Iranian cuisine and claimed that he can make a good Iranian kabab.
He named the mythological figure Kaveh the Blacksmith as his favorite, a statement that was construed by several pro-regime users as signaling “a code.” Kaveh is a 5000-year-old figure in Iranian mythology who led an uprising against ruthless ruler Zahak, a metaphor for Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in a lot of slogans chanted by people during last year’s uprising against the regime.
A large number of Iranian users commented on the British Embassy's Instagram post, with some users saying that Iranians never forget UK policies and actions against Iran in the 20th century and some wishing for the Iranian people to enjoy Iran just as much as Shercliff does.
Some users asked for Shercliff's assistance in facilitating the visa application process, especially for Iranian students aspiring to study in the UK. This comes at a time when many Iranian citizens face significant challenges in obtaining visas from various embassies, notably the British Embassy, amid a surge in immigration from Iran.
A lot of users pointed out Ambassador Shercliff's fluency in Persian, contrasting it with the often-limited English proficiency of Iranian diplomats. Others criticized the video's release, viewing it as part of what they referred to as the UK's "hidden and old policies" of social influence in other countries.
Praising the Shercliff's fluency in Persian, moderate Iranian news website Rouydad 24 said that “over 90 percent of Iranian diplomats in other countries were reported to lack proficiency in the local language.” "On the contrary, you can see the British ambassador showing off a commendable command of even Iranian dialects, as evidenced in this video with his proficiency in Esfahani Persian."
A pro-regime website in Tehran said that the ambassador’s profound understanding and precise mastery of Persian language, culture and customs raises questions about his background and training, claiming that such a level of cultural acumen can only be achieved if he received training from the British foreign intelligence service, the MI6. The website also mentioned Alireza Akbari, a former Iranian defense ministry official and an Iranian-British citizen, who was accused of spying for MI6 and executed.
London’s ambassador in Tehran has appeared regularly in news pieces in Iranian media as he has been summoned several times during the past year to the Islamic Republic’s foreign ministry over remarks either by himself or by other British officials about the regime’s crackdown on protesters. The latest incident was in August when he was summoned after he published comments calling for the release of jailed journalists.
In January, he published pictures, which he took together with his French and German colleagues Nicolas Roche and Hans-Udo Muzel, showing their embassies where Iranian regime elements had vandalized with anti-West slogans. A few days after a group of Iranian citizens voluntarily helped paint the walls, Tehran municipality headed by a hardliner mayor, installed banners near the embassy in the downtown bearing the sentence, “Shame cannot be erased with paint.”
In 2021, Russia's ambassador to Iran Levan Dzhagaryan (Jagarian) tweeted a photo of himself and Shercliffat the Russian embassy in the chairs made famous by a celebrated portrait of World War Two leaders, saying it was taken from the "historic steps of the 1943 Tehran conference." The 1943 conference was attended by former US president Franklin D. Roosevelt, Former UK Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and former Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.