November 16, 2006

Not by the Hair of His Chinny-Chin-Chin

Rumors have long swirled that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was involved the 444-day Iran hostage crisis, with no less than five hostages coming forward to accuse him publicly of being one of the ringleaders. Other former hostages have said they were uncertain if Ahmadinejad was involved, while others deny his presence.

From time to time the story reemerges with a new twist, and this time that twist was provided by Russian online daily Kommersant, which ran an English-language article with accompanying pictures that seem to show a young Ahmadinejad leaning against the wall of the American embassy in Tehran the day it was stormed.


Texas Rainmaker is convinced that the man in the photo is Ahmadinejad, while Daniel Pipes isn't sure, and Allah flatly says it isn't the Iranian president.

Who's right?

I decided to see if I could get a professional to weigh in on the controversy, and so I sent a short email to several forensic photographers and biometrics experts asking their opinions, based upon the version of side-by-side comparison photo provided at Hot Air.


Certified Forensic Photographer Alexander Jason responded. His verdict?

With the one 1979 photo alone for comparison, it is not possible to make a strong conclusion about that man being the same man in the later photo. However, based upon an analysis of the 1979 photo and other, recent photos of Ahmadinejad, it is my preliminary conclusion that these are NOT the same person.

Some time ago, I was asked by a governmental group to perform an analysis of similar old and new photos. I still had a collection of the recent photos and I used some of them for my analysis.

While there are substantial similarities in the faces and hairlines, it is possible to have such similarities among different people, particularly when they are from a relatively homogenous racial population. The only significant difference I could detect was in the beard grown pattern: Specifically in the area beneath the lower lip. In the older photo, the man appears to have a dense, full beard in that area. In more recent photos of Ahmadinejad, he appears to have relatively sparse beard growth in that area. For that reason, based on the one old photo when compared against more recent photos, it is my opinion that they are two different people.

See the attached image.


Mr. Jason's well-trained eye caught what most of us would have missed. The armed man leaning against the embassy wall in November of 1979 has much more facial hair in the chin area than does Ahmadinejad in the present day photograph. And just in case anyone wants to speculate that Ahmadinejad could have suffered from male pattern chin baldness over time, Mr. Jason has that covered as well.


We may never know who the man with the battle rifle leaning against the U.S. embassy wall in 1979 was, but based upon the photo provided by Kommersant and Mr. Jason's analysis, that man is not Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

* * *

On an unrelated note, Mr. Jason also has an interesting perspective on the JFK assassination.

Who says those working in forensics can't have a sense of humor?

Posted by Confederate Yankee at November 16, 2006 12:02 PM | TrackBack

On the other hand, another notorious picture of hostage takers includes an Amadinejad look-alike with the proper facial-hair pattern:

It depends upon what your definition of "people's friend" is

Posted by: Sissy Willis at November 16, 2006 01:23 PM

I mentioned the sparse facial hair either side of center below the lip yesterday at Hot Air as the reason I did not think it was Ahmadinejad. It's not something that changes, to which I can personally attest and, I should add, is why I noticed it rather quickly.

OTOH, I'm now uneasy about concurring with a forensic photographer that holds an opinion of the JKF assassination that clearly amounts to quackery. :-)

Posted by: Dusty at November 16, 2006 02:03 PM


That photo's been debunked.

Good work, CY.

Posted by: John from WuzzaDem at November 16, 2006 03:09 PM

it doesn't matter whether he was a hostage taker or not, he is still scum that the world would be better off without...

Posted by: steve sturm at November 16, 2006 03:55 PM

I'm lost. So he hijacked the US Embassy. I'm fond of the U.S but you guys have consistently intefered with Iran for decades now and as far as I can work out, Iraq is the first time Iran has been close enough to fight proper soldiers. Which incidentally is a fight that is commonly held to be a losing battle for the US.

He's a weird character Ahmadinejad though. Typical Phd engineer. Here's some interesting video of him I came across.

Posted by: Charles Frith at November 16, 2006 03:57 PM

Yes, Charles, you are lost and which also has little, if anything, to do with CY's post.

Posted by: Dusty at November 16, 2006 04:12 PM


I think you mean Mr. Alexander, not Mr. Jason.

Not that there's anything wrong with that!

Buck Naked

Posted by: George Costanza at November 16, 2006 04:45 PM

Uh... If you look at a picture of me from 1979 and compare it to now, you're going to see a whole lot more hair on top of my head than there is now. In my case, the beard still grows as thickly as it did then (although the color of the hair has changed) but who is to say that Male Pattern Baldness can't strike the chin as well as the top of the head?

Posted by: The Monster at November 16, 2006 06:29 PM

That guy is too old to be Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. My guess is that is his father.

Posted by: scotty at November 16, 2006 06:51 PM

What Scotty said.

Posted by: Anonymous at November 16, 2006 09:09 PM

ahmm...has anyone ever heard of beard trimmers? Some weeks my beard below my lip is full. Some is neatly trimmed. Lets look at his nose. Flat and wide.The bags below his eyes, the large earlobes. Im more inclined to say that its an older sibbling. But not just because of facial hair trim style. Paleeeze.

Posted by: Rey at November 16, 2006 11:29 PM

From "When the idea of storming the American embassy in Tehran was raised by the OSU, Ahmadinejad suggested storming the Soviet embassy at the same time!" (Former hostage Colonel David Roeder states: Out of his 51 interrogations, Ahmadinejad personally had conducted one-third of them!)

Posted by: MB at November 17, 2006 06:49 PM