The editors of a French satire sheet appear to have once again crossed a line in publishing cartoons which some might say mock Islam and in which most certainly poke fun at the Iranian regime.
Charlie Hebdo this week published dozens of cartoons depicting the Islamic Republic’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, which it said aimed to support anti-government protests sparked by the death of a young woman in September while in the custody of morality police.
Iran summoned the French ambassador on January 4th to condemn the publication of offensive caricatures of the country’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.
Soon after, French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna said Iran should look at what is going on at home before criticising France.
Charlie Hebdo’s latest issue features the winners of a recent cartoon contest in which entrants were asked to draw the most offensive caricatures of Khamenei, who has held Iran’s highest office since 1989.
One of the finalists depicts a turbaned cleric reaching for a hangman’s noose as he drowns in blood, while another shows Khamenei clinging to a giant throne above the raised fists of protesters. Others depict more vulgar and sexually explicit scenes.
“It was a way to show our support for Iranian men and women who risk their lives to defend their freedom against the theocracy that has oppressed them since 1979,” Charlie Hebdo’s director, Laurent Sourisseau, known as Riss, wrote in an editorial.
Such a veiled attack on Iran by the French probably couldn’t have come at a worse time.
Ties between France and Iran have deteriorated in recent months as efforts to revive nuclear talks, to which France is one of the parties, have stalled and Tehran has detained seven of its nationals.
Speaking to LCI TV, Colonna said it was Iran that was pursuing bad policies through its violence against its population and detention of French nationals.
“Let’s remember that in France press freedom exists contrary to what’s happening in Iran and that this (freedom) is overseen by a judge within the framework of an independent judiciary, which is something that Iran without doubt doesn’t know well,” she said, adding that there were no blasphemy laws in France.
Facing their worst legitimacy crisis since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Iran’s religious leaders have accused its foreign foes of orchestrating the anti-government mass protests to destabilise the country.
The Charlie Hebdo cartoons triggered an angry response from Iran with Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian warning that the “offensive and indecent” move would receive a firm response from Tehran.