Charlie Hebdo provoked the Iranian leadership so strongly with caricatures that there were riots in the theocracy. But it’s not just the supporters of the mullahs’ regime who are bothered by the action.
09.01.2023, 17:3309.01.2023, 17:52
Ali Khamenei’s life hangs by a thread. Iran’s supreme spiritual leader tries to save himself from drowning in a bloodbath by grabbing a hangman’s knot.
This is one of more than 300 cartoons submitted to the #MullahGetOut contest launched by French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo.
Eight years after the Islamist-motivated attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo on January 7, 2015, the newspaper published a special edition. This not only looks at the past, but also at the present: the protests in Iran.
The editorial team was almost wiped out at the time because of caricatures about the prophet Mohammed. Now the newspaper, which is still under police protection, is showing solidarity with the protest movement in Iran – and is shooting with full force against Iran’s religious leaders.
Provocative front page
The front page shows a stark naked woman giving birth, with tiny midget ayatollahs walking into her vagina. Next to the picture is written: «Mollahs, retournez d’où vous venez» (Mullahs, go back where you came from). The news service Twitter classified the cartoon as “sensitive content”.
Special issue of January 7!
👉 The winners of our international cartoon contest #MullahsGetOut
👉 Report with the Mutazilites, those who want to reform Islam
👉 Will the Iranian revolution inspire the Middle East?
On sale Wednesday! pic.twitter.com/HFmo9GGyzK
— Charlie Hebdo (@Charlie_Hebdo_) January 3, 2023
The publication is the result of the #MullahsGetOut campaign. Since December, the editorial team has been collecting caricatures of people from all over the world. The only requirement: to make fun of the religious leadership in Iran – and to “send it to the dustbin of history”.
By the time the magazine went to press, the newspaper had received more than 300 cartoons – as well as thousands of threats. The newspaper published the 35 “most mature, most original and most apt” cartoons. Many of the cartoons are said to be from Iranians living in exile.
A selection of the submitted caricatures:
Competition has a catch
The action is no accident. The initiative targets an action in 1993 when the Iranian Revolutionary Guard called for caricatures of Salman Rushdie, the author of the novel The Satanic Verses.
People protest against Salman Rushdie, author of the novel The Satanic Verses, in the Iranian capital of Tehran on February 18, 1990.Image: AP
The Iranian state newspaper Islamic Revolution published cartoons by the British author Salman Rushdie.Image: AP
As early as 1989, the Iranian ayatollah and revolutionary leader Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa (an Islamic edict) ordering the writer to be killed. Reason: The novel insults Islam. In 2016, the bounty for killing the author was increased from around $600,000 to $4 million. In 2022, Rushdie was stabbed by a Shiite extremist on an open stage in New York. He barely survived the attack.
Iran’s government feels provoked
The action did not go unnoticed in the theocracy. The first reaction was not long in coming. After publication, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced the closure of the French research institute (Ifri) in Tehran. The French carried out archaeological excavations in Iran in the middle of the 19th century, and the finds are housed in the institute. The research center only reopened in 2021 after years of closure as a sign of a rapprochement in bilateral relations between France and Iran.
The satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo triggered an anti-France demonstration on January 8, 2023 in front of the French embassy in Tehran. Image: EPA
According to the Foreign Ministry, the renewed closure is “a first step”. In a statement threw the Ministry «Inaction on anti-Islamism and the spread of racist hatred in French publications».
France referred to freedom of the press
French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna rejected the criticism and made it clear that freedom of the press applies in France, “which Iran probably has no knowledge of”.
In a second statement Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani said that “freedom of expression should not be used as an excuse to insult a religion.” France must respect the “fundamental principles of international relations, including mutual respect and not interfering in internal affairs”.
Iranian policemen stand by their supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei during protests against the publication of the cartoons.Image: AP
The protesters are angry with the French leadership.Image: EPA
The government is not alone in feeling provoked by the publication of the cartoons. According to the AFP news agency, numerous Iranians protested against the satirical newspaper in front of the French embassy in Tehran on Sunday. The mullahs’ supporters set fire to French flags and held up placards reading “I will sacrifice my life for the Führer” and “Shame on Charlie Hebdo”.
Caricatures downplay violence
But the criticism doesn’t just come from within the company’s own ranks. Iranian activist Sanaz Azimipour, who lives in Germany, finds the caricatures tasteless. Across from “Deutschlandfunk Culture” the Iranian-born says that the movement in Iran is feminist and progressive, but she finds the caricatures sexist.
One cartoon in particular criticizes her: ein Cowgirl, which Ali Khamenei tries to capture with a lasso. This would only downplay the violence inflicted on women in Iran.
All other cartoons are here to find.
This might also interest you:
In no other NATO country is the threat as present as in the southernmost of the three Baltic states. Exiles from Putin’s empire are welcome in Lithuania, but they are also viewed critically.
Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Lithuania, a country with a population of just under three million, has received unusual attention. Anyone who plays through the worst possible turn of events and thinks about a direct military confrontation between Russia and the West almost always also thinks of the southernmost of the three Baltic republics.