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May 8, 2016 6:36 am

Iranian FM’s Denial of Government Connection to Holocaust Cartoon Competition False, Says Contest Organizer

avatar by Lea Speyer

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This Holocaust-themed cartoon by Abdellah Derkaoui won first prize at last year's international competition. Photo: Wikipedia.

This Holocaust-themed cartoon by Abdellah Derkaoui won first prize at last year’s international competition. Photo: Wikipedia.

Claims made by Iran’s foreign minister that his government has no official connection to an Iranian Holocaust cartoon contest are false, the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) reported on Thursday.

According to the report, Massoud Shojaei Tabatabaei, secretary of the Holocaust International Cartoon Contest, admitted in an April 27 interview with the Iranian website Nasimonline that his organization “cooperates with the Ministry of Culture.”

Tabatabaei’s comment contradicts those made by Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, when he told The New Yorker magazine in April that “it’s not Iran” hosting the contest, rather an NGO that is “not controlled by the Iranian government. Nor is it endorsed by the Iranian government.” As The Algemeiner reported, Zarif said the organizing NGO “doesn’t need a permit to hold the function,” adding, “We need to issue visas for people who come in, and we take into consideration that people who have preached racial hatred and violence will not be invited.”

According to Tabatabaei, the Iranian government “knows that this exhibition is highly respected. Therefore, the foreign minister’s statements are not in line with the Ministry of Culture.”

Exiled Iranian journalist Aida Qajar called out Zarif’s and the Iranian regime’s denial of associating with the contest, writing on the website IranWire, “It is true that [Iranian President] Hassan Rohani’s government is not directly and officially responsible for the exhibition. But if it seriously opposed it, the administration could refuse to issue a permit and deny visas to participants. Zarif once tweeted that ‘the man who denied [the] Holocaust is gone.’ But is Rohani’s government ready to tangle with the Supreme Leader and the Revolutionary Guards over this issue?”

The first Holocaust cartoon contest was held in 2006, under the sponsorship of then-president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, following the publication of Muhammad cartoons in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in September 2005. The second took place in 2015, under the auspices of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp’s (IRGC) cultural organization. The event was held after French publication Charlie Hebdo published caricatures of Mohammed. Both contests garnered international condemnation. 

The third Holocaust International Cartoon Contest will open in Tehran on May 14 and the first-place winner will receive a $50,000 cash prize.

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