Iran warns France against ‘insulting’ Khamenei cartoons

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Paris (AFP)- Iran on Wednesday warned France of the consequences after the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo published cartoons depicting Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that Tehran deemed insulting.

The weekly had published dozens of cartoons ridiculing the highest religious and political figure in the Islamic republic as part of a competition it launched in December in support of the three-month-old protest movement.

“The offensive and indecent act of a French publication in publishing cartoons against religious and political authority will not go without an effective and decisive response,” Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian tweeted.

“We will not allow the French government to go beyond its limits. They have decidedly chosen the wrong path,” he added, without specifying the consequences.

Seen by supporters as a defender of freedom of expression and by critics as unnecessarily provocative, Charlie Hebdo’s style is controversial even in France.

But the country was united in pain when in January 2015 it was the target of a deadly attack by Islamist gunmen who claimed to be avenging the magazine’s decision to publish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.

“Not the Last Word”

The issue contained a variety of sexual images depicting Khamenei and other clerics. Other cartoons highlighted the authorities’ use of the death penalty as a tactic to suppress protests.

“It was a way of showing our support for the Iranian men and women who risk their lives to defend their freedom against the theocracy which has oppressed them since 1979”, wrote the director of Charlie Hebdo, Laurent Sourisseau, known as Riss, in an editorial. .

All the cartoons published “have the merit of challenging the authority claimed by the supposed supreme leader, as well as the cohort of his servants and other henchmen”, he added.

Nathalie Loiseau, a French MEP and former minister loyal to President Emmanuel Macron, called Iran’s response an “attempt to interfere and threaten” Charlie Hebdo.

“Let it be perfectly clear: the repressive and theocratic regime in Tehran has nothing to teach France,” she said.

Khamenei, the successor to revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, is appointed for life. Beyond day-to-day politics, criticism of him is banned in Iran.

Khomeini in 1989 issued a famous religious edict, or fatwa, ordering Muslims to kill British author Salman Rushdie for what he considered the blasphemous nature of the “Satanic Verses”.

Many activists blamed Iran last year when the writer was stabbed at an event in New York, but Tehran has denied any connection.

The Iranian regime has been rocked by three months of protests sparked by the September 16 death in custody of Mahsa Amini, an Iranian Kurd arrested for allegedly breaking the country’s strict dress code for women.

He responded with a crackdown by the Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights, which said it had killed at least 476 people during protests, which Iranian officials generally describe as “riots”.

Charlie Hebdo published the cartoons in a special edition to mark the anniversary of the deadly attack on its Paris office, which left 12 dead, including some of its best-known cartoonists.

“Eight years later, religious intolerance has not said its last word,” said its director.

“He continues his work in defiance of international protests and respect for the most basic human rights.”

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