Iran lashes out at Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s Charlie Hebdo cartoons

IMPORTANT POINTS
  • A Tehran-based French think tank is being shut down in protest at a publication by French magazine Charlie Hebdo.
  • The magazine published a special issue that featured caricatures of Iran’s supreme leader.
  • The research institute had previously reopened as a sign of warming relations between the two countries.
Iran has announced the closure of a Tehran-based French research institute in protest at caricatures of the Islamic Republic’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, published by French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.
The magazine printed the cartoons in support of months of protests in Iran as part of a special issue to mark the anniversary of Iran in which 12 people died, including some of his best-known cartoonists.

“As a first step, the ministry is ending the activities of the French research institute in Iran (IFRI),” the Iranian foreign ministry said on Thursday (local time), a day after Tehran warned Paris of the consequences.

A sign reads the French institute for research in Iran

The Tehran-based French Institute for Research in Iran was shut down from its office following the release of the Charlie Hebdo issue commemorating the 2015 terrorist attack. Source: EPA / Abedin Taherkenareh

The French government must hold “the perpetrators of such hatred” accountable, she added, also calling for “a serious fight against anti-Islamism and Islamophobia” in France.

Iran has been rocked by more than three months of protests sparked by the September 16 death of Mahsa Amini, 22, an Iranian Kurdish woman arrested for allegedly violating the country’s strict dress code for women.

It has responded with a crackdown that the Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights said it had killed at least 476 people in protests that Iranian officials commonly describe as “riots.”

Affiliated to the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, IFRI is a historical-archaeological institute created in 1983 after the merger of the French Archaeological Delegation in Iran and the French Institute of Iranology in Tehran.
Ministry spokeswoman Anne-Claire Legendre said in a statement that Paris could not verify the Iranian statement but called it “clearly regrettable if it is confirmed”.
“We have not received any official information at this time about the reported announcements by the Iranian authorities to close the French research institute in Iran,” Legendre said, calling it “an important center for culture and exchange.”
Located in central Tehran, IFRI was closed for many years but reopened under the 2013-2021 presidency of moderate President Hassan Rouhani in a sign of warming bilateral ties.
Seen by supporters as a champion of free speech and unnecessarily provocative by critics, Charlie Hebdo has a style that is controversial even in France.

But the country was united in grief when the magazine was the target of a deadly attack in January 2015 by Islamist gunmen who claimed to avenge the weekly’s decision to publish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.

The latest issue contained a variety of sexual images depicting Mr. Khamenei and other clerics. Other cartoons pointed to the use of the death penalty by the authorities as a tactic to quell the protests.
Mr. Khamenei, the successor of the revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, is appointed for life. Beyond day-to-day politics, criticism of him is forbidden in Iran.
Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian tweeted that “the offensive and indecent act of a French publication to publish cartoons against religious and political authority will not go without an effective and decisive response.”
The Iranian Foreign Ministry also summoned French Ambassador Nicolas Roche on Wednesday.

“France has no right to insult the sanctity of other Muslim countries and nations under the pretext of freedom of expression,” said State Department spokesman Nasser Kanani.

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