“Satan” is the same word at “Sheitan” in farsi, and it means, of course, the devil, or rather, the Devil. It speaks volumes to the peculiar notions of childhood and parenting in Iran then that a naughty or mischievous child is also called “sheitan”, or rather, in the spoken vernacular “sheitoon”. It is perfectly possible, in fact, to talk to a little child in loving and affectionate tones, calling them “a little sheitoon bala”, or ask them to refrain from “sheitooni”. This does not imply that you are dealing with Rosemary’s baby, rather, it simply means you want the child to stop drawing on the walls, or jumping down from sofas, or whatever it is that children do, I don’t really know.
But the word “sheitan” crops up frequently in speeches by high-ranking officials in Iran, men with beards and long flowing robes. It is usually used to describe heinous acts of statehood on the international stage, in reference to countries who have gained something of a reputation for such misdeeds: the UK, USA, and of course, Israel. “Acts of satan” is how they are usually described. These men are of course using the word with reference to its first, original meaning- devilish, fiendish. But then, because such speeches are considered important enough to warrant translation, they are frequently rendered in English as “naughty acts” or “mischievous acts”, conjuring up images in my head of global posturing and aggression being something similar to a children pushing each other in the playground. It sets my teeth on edge, whenever I see or hear these stupid mis-translations, “mischievous America”, “naughty Israel”, and I want to shout and scream, and give a lecture, similar to the one I just gave you, Gentle Reader, to the fucking moron who translated and aired the text.