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Iran launches Holocaust denial cartoon contest

Behrouz Mehri, AFP | Archival image shows drawings from the first Holocaust denial cartoon contest in Tehran in 2006.

An international cartoon contest has been launched in Iran around the theme of Holocaust denial, in response to French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo’s decision to publish cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed.


Holocaust denial is not uncommon in the Islamic Republic, an arch-foe of Israel, but the controversial competition is a response to the January 14 issue of Charlie Hebdo, whose cover featured a teary Prophet Mohammed holding a sign saying “Je Suis Charlie” (I am Charlie).

The three-word slogan became a rallying cry across France and much of the world in the wake of the deadly terrorist attacks on January 7 at the magazine's offices, carried out as revenge for drawings published by Charlie Hebdo that mocked the founder of Islam.

The post-attack issue of Charlie Hebdo featuring a sympathetic Mohammed, with a historic 7.3-million copy run, sold out in just days.

The competition in Iran has been launched by the Tehran-based House of Cartoon and the Sarcheshmeh Cultural Complex, the Iranian newspaper Tehran Times reported over the weekend.

The winner of the contest will receive a cash prize of $12,000, the runner up $8000 and third place $5000, the daily said.

Second edition

It is not the first time a Holocaust denial cartoon contest has been organised in Iran. The first one was launched by the Iranian daily Hamshahri in 2006, in response to cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published that same year.

At the time, the House of Cartoon’s Masoud Shojaei-Tabatabaii, a driving force behind cartoon initiatives past and present, said the contest exposed the “West’s double standards when it comes to freedom of expression… which forbids any debate about the legitimacy of the Holocaust.”

More than 750 cartoons were sent to Iran from around the world for the contest's first edition, including entries from the United States and Britain, Iranian organisers boasted.

Around 200 of those cartoons were then selected to be part of an exhibit in a Tehran museum.

The first contest and associated exhibit was firmly condemned by the United States, Israel and many Jewish organisations.

Flag burning and candles

Iranian authorities have strongly condemned the new Charlie Hebdo cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed.

Echoing angry protests from Niger to Pakistan, around 100 ultra-conservative Iranian students shouted slogans and burned a French flag outside France’s embassy in Tehran to denounce the blasphemous cartoon – as well as alleged manipulation by the United States and Israel – on January 19.

However, in the days that followed the bloody attacks in Paris, dozens of anonymous Iranians also left candles, flowers and letters of solidarity with France outside its embassy in Tehran.

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