As may approaches, organizers in Tehran will host the Second International Holocaust Cartoon Contest. Given the terror that the Holocaust embodied, an exhibition, featuring some of the 839 pieces of “artwork” submitted by artist from more than 50 countries, can draw much attention. An event so horrific in which the Nazi regime systematically killed more than 6 million Jews, along with millions of Roma, homosexuals, political dissidents and other undesirables, in addition to current fears of global anti-Semitism, an event of so called “mockery” can be seen as truly unacceptable. However, their stated goals is to provoke Western sensibilities, particularly in response to satirical cartoons concerning Islam. They hope to display the west’s double standard behavior towards freedom of expression, as it permits to mock religious sanctities. Although this can be seen as a direct Iranian anger from the Charlie Hebdo publications in France, the first contest was held in 2006, featuring motifs and themes of Holocaust denial. It also illustrated grievances in the Middle East over Israel's treatment of Palestinians living under occupation. A prompt for this year's contest, include questions such as these: "If the West says that freedom of speech has no borders then why don't they let historians and experts properly research the Holocaust?", and, "Why should the Palestinian people pay for the Holocaust?" Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations responded to this by stating, "It ridicules one of the darkest events in human history, and it cheapens the death of millions of Jews who were murdered." The former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad portrayed Holocaust denial as an argument in his anti- Israel rhetoric. His successor, however, Hassan Rouhani, described the Holocaust as "reprehensible and condemnable" even though he did not indicate whether followed the mainstream historical opinion on the topic. Rouhani is now in the process of negotiations aimed at sealing a deal on Iran’s controversial nuclear program; but as the article states, “an event that is as provocative as this cartoon exhibition won't endear Iran to an already skeptical West.”
Although I find it truly a disgrace to organize such an exhibition, I understand their claimed purpose to provoke western sensibilities and point out a double standard occurrence. However, I do not approve of political cartoons creating satirical portrayals of figures that may be considered holy to others; but I do have to say, there is a difference between denying a genocide and creating more satire. In my past blogs, it is evident that after any genocide, there are people who deny them. Whether this be due to a religious or political stand point, or lack of education, this is a modern day occurrence. Further, it is something that must be eliminated, and especially, something that should not be provoked in exhibitions as this. Ridicule of millions of death is never acceptable, and in Iran’s current political state, I do not think this is a smart move.
April 8, 2015