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UNESCO Chief: Iran Holocaust Cartoon Contest Incites Violence, Racism

UNESCO’s director general condemned Iran’s recently opened Holocaust cartoon contest, saying that the event encourages hatred, violence, and racism. The contest, which began Saturday and will last until the end of the month, offers a top prize of $12,000.

“Such an initiative, which aims at a mockery of the genocide of the Jewish people, a tragic page of humanity’s history, can only foster hatred and incite to violence, racism and anger,” Irina Bokova said in a statement released over the weekend. “This contest goes against the universal values of tolerance and respect, and runs counter to the action led by UNESCO to promote Holocaust education, to fight anti-Semitism and denial,” she added, repeating a criticism similar to one she issued in January.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also condemned to the contest during his weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday. “It denies and belittles the Holocaust and it is also preparing another Holocaust. I think that every country in the world must stand up and fully condemn this,” said Netanyahu.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner expressed concern on Sunday that the contest could “be used as a platform for Holocaust denial and revisionism and egregiously anti-Semitic speech, as it has in the past.”

“Such offensive speech should be condemned by the authorities and civil society leaders rather than encouraged. We denounce any Holocaust denial and trivialization as inflammatory and abhorrent. It is insulting to the memory of the millions of people who died in the Holocaust,” Toner added.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was roundly criticized for an interview he gave last month denying that the contest was officially sanctioned by the Iranian government. An editorial in The Washington Post judged that the support so-called moderates like Zarif extended to the contest means that they are doing “a good job of disguising” any differences between themselves and hardliners.

Nikahang Kowsar, an Iranian-born cartoonist who fled the country in 2003 after receiving death threats, addressed Zarif’s false claim that the regime didn’t back the contest in The Times of Israel:

So here is a contest that is supervised by Tehran’s Municipality, while the Ministry of Interior and Tehran’s City Council have authority over Tehran’s mayor and his office. It’s a rabidly anti-semitic contest, held with no objection from the Rouhani administration, and the funny thing is that the winners of this hate-fest are awarded prize money that is sent to them through the standard channels, controlled and monitored by the government.

Kowsar then castigated journalists for not pressing Zarif on his dishonesty in general. “When Zarif claims Iran doesn’t jail people for their opinions, they should be ready to follow up with tough questions about those whom the Islamic Republic has not only jailed, but tortured, assassinated and executed for their opinions, including converts, practitioners of the Baha’i faith, members of the LGBT community and critics of the government,” he wrote.

[Photo: Mehr News ]