International Holocaust Cartoon Contest
was a cartoon competition sponsored by the Iranian newspaper Hamshahri
, to denounce what it called 'Western hypocrisy on freedom of speech
'. The event was staged in response to the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy
, and presented the Iranian claim that The Holocaust
was a myth.
On February 6
, Farid Mortazavi, graphics editor of Hamshahri
, announced a competition for cartoons on the Holocaust
. The twelve best contributions were to be rewarded with a golden coin each, which were later increased to $5000 to $12000 prizes for the top 3 cartoons and 3 gold coins each for 12 other cartoonists. Later, Hamshahri
published an English introduction to the contest, as well as preliminary rules.
The contest was created in response to the twelve cartoons published by the Danish
(see Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy
) to challenge the championing of freedom of speech
in the defense of the Jyllands-Posten cartoons. This was done under the notion that those who supported the Jyllands-Posten's right to free speech in matters concerning Islam would be placed in a precarious position were they to condemn the antisemitic
cartoons targeted at one of the most sensitive of Jewish topics. In that introductory message for the contest, Hamshahri
denounced what they called Western hypocrisy on the freedom of speech, alleging that "it is impossible in the West to joke upon or even discuss certain topics related to Judaism, such as the Holocaust
, and the pretexts for the creation of Israel
On February 14, 2006, the editor in chief of Hamshahri commented in Persian that "the purpose of establishing such a competition is not to offend or ridicule anyone, but to do a discussion about the realities of the Holocaust." He also indicated that Hamshahri tries really hard not to cause pain for anyone and also added that the newspaper has no contention with the Jews in Iran or any other place, but that it has problems with Zionism. Masood Shojaei, the director of Iran’s Caricature House which cosponsored the competition also said: "Iran’s Caricature House, as the only technically qualified center involved in the competition regards the holocaust topic as a terrible and saddening issue". The exhibition put on by The Iran Cartoon Organisation and Hamshahri newspaper opened on August 14, 2006.
After the winners were announced in November 2006, Shojaei said the competition would become an annual event. The Associated Press quoted him as saying "Actually, we will continue until the destruction of Israel". However, Shojaei categorically denies that he even spoke to the Associated Press reporter.
Reactions in Iran
Conservative newspapers such as Kayhan
and Jomhouri Eslami
have hailed the decision by Hamshahri
for the contest, and their cartoonists, such as Maziyar Bizhani
have actively entered the competition.
Several reformers criticized the cartoon competition and also the president's statements about the Holocaust. Emadoddin Baghi
, a famous member of religious-intellectuals circle, Ebrahim Yazdi
, the head of Nehzat Azadi Party, Hamid Reza Jalaeipour
, a prominent figure of Islamic Iran Participation Front
and Sadeq Zibakalam
, a prominent political analyst of the Kargozaran
party criticized these new policies by calling them "useless, scientifically-baseless and purely political actions which originates from the authorities' lack of historical knowledge". In an interview with BBC
, Nikahang Kowsar
, a former cartoonist for Hamshahri
, said he thought the competition was the wrong approach. "It's a bad reaction to a bad action coming from the Danish newspaper", he told the BBC. He also claimed in his weblog that, Hamshahri
cartoonists will have a bad fate if they refuse to take part in the competition.
Reaction outside of Iran
On February 8, Flemming Rose (the cultural editor for Jyllands-Posten), told CNN: "My newspaper is trying to establish a contact with that Iranian newspaper Hamshahri, and we would run the cartoons the same day as they publish them". Later that day, the paper's editor-in-chief said that Jyllands-posten would under no circumstances publish the Holocaust cartoons.
On February 14, 2006, the Hamshahri website suffered a denial-of-service attack. Simultaneously, the websites of Iran's ministry of education and two major Iranian banks, Sepah Bank and Refah Bank, became inaccessible, as they were all hosted by the same backbone.
That same day, an Israeli group announced an anti-semitic cartoon contest open to Jews only. One of the two founders of this group was quoted as saying "We’ll show the world we can do the best, sharpest, most offensive Jew hating cartoons ever published! No Iranian will beat us on our home turf!".
Six of the least controversial cartoons of the International Holocaust Cartoon Competition were republished by Danish Newspaper Dagbladet Information on September 8, 2006 after the editor consulted the main rabbi in Copenhagen, and three cartoons were later reprinted in Jyllands-Posten as well.
On November 1
, Abdellah Derkaoui, a Moroccan, was announced as the winner and received the first prize of $12,000. The second prize of $8,000 was divided between the Brazilian cartoonist Carlos Latuff
, from France. One prize went to Italy, two prizes to Morocco, one prize to Jordan, one to Syria, three to Brazil, and several prizes went to Iranians.