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Iran’s Holocaust Cartoon Contest Had 16 French Attendees Last Year

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Russ Read Pentagon/Foreign Policy Reporter

Iran’s yearly holocaust cartoon contest has had dozens of cartoonists in attendance hailing from countries who saw its effects first hand.

While holocaust denial coming from Iranian officials isn’t particularly surprising, the fact that many participants in past contests are from Western countries may be. According to a website dedicated to the contest, participants include two Americans, one British citizen, three Swiss, three Germans, 16 French and three Canadians.

The contest, the third of its kind to be held in Iran, is sponsored by the Islamic Republic government and is set to take place in June. Irinia Bokova, director-general of U.N.’s Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), has come out strongly against the event and is expected to challenge Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on the issue. Bokova is scheduled to meet with Rouhani Wednesday, which is international holocaust remembrance day.

The Iranian government has a history of holocaust denial, which was highlighted during the tenure of former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who claimed the holocaust was a myth and a “pretext for establishing the Zionist regime” of Israel. His successor president Rouhani has taken a less bombastic position on the holocaust, calling it a “reprehensible and condemnable crime.” He has, however, raised questions as to the accuracy of its reporting, saying “the aspects that you talk about, clarification of these aspects is a duty of the historians and researchers.”

Iran’s supreme leader Khameini, who has ultimate control of affairs of state, has repeatedly questioned the holocaust. The holocaust is “an event whose reality is uncertain and, if it happened, it’s uncertain how it happened,” said Khameini during a sermon in 2014.

The fact that European cartoonists attending the event were French more than any other nationality highlights an ongoing problem with anti-semitism that has caused many Jews to leave France altogether. Anti-semitic attacks in France saw an 84 percent increase between January and May 2015, compared to the same time period in 2014. The problem has become so rampant that Jewish leaders have told Jews to “hide” themselves when going out in public.

A prize of $50,000 is to be paid to the winner of the June contest.

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