Reuters: At the exhibition entrance, a poster shows a helmet with the Star of David lying on top of others carrying a Nazi Swastika. Inside, the Statue of Liberty is pictured holding a Holocaust book while giving a Nazi salute. By Parisa Hafezi
TEHRAN (Reuters) – At the exhibition entrance, a poster shows a helmet with the Star of David lying on top of others carrying a Nazi Swastika. Inside, the Statue of Liberty is pictured holding a Holocaust book while giving a Nazi salute.
Organizers say displaying more than 200 entries from Iran’s International Holocaust Cartoons Contest aims to challenge Western taboos about discussing the Holocaust, in which 6 million Jews died but which Iran’s president called a “myth”.
“This is a test of the boundaries of free speech espoused by Western countries,” said Masoud Shojai-Tabatabai, head of the Cartoon House which helped organize the exhibition, as he stood next to the Statue of Liberty drawing.
Iran’s best-selling newspaper Hamshahri in February launched a competition to find the best cartoon about the Holocaust in retaliation for the September publication of caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad in Danish and other European newspapers.
Those images of the prophet sparked attacks on European embassies in Muslim nations, including missions in Iran.
“We wanted to challenge European taboos. Why should questioning the Holocaust be a taboo?” he said. “Why should anyone who talks about it (the Holocaust) be fined or jailed?”
It is a crime in European countries such as Germany and Austria to deny the Holocaust. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has dismissed it as a “myth” and said the issue should be open to debate, prompting Western condemnation.
The initial plans for a contest about the Holocaust provoked a storm of condemnation and revulsion in some countries, including the United States, which called the idea “outrageous”.
The newspaper backed off and broadened the rules to include any caricature that tests “freedom of expression”.
The contest, held jointly with Iran’s Cartoon House, a syndicate for caricaturists, will be open until September 14. Until now, Shojai said 1,193 drawings had been received from 61 countries but he said judges chose 204 to put on display.
Several cartoons showed images of the Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler, one showing him smiling as he stood behind President Bush while bombs carrying the Star of David fell. Another showed a turtle with a U.S. emblem laying eggs carrying the Star of David.
The contest was welcomed by some visiting youths who were at the exhibition on Wednesday, two days after it opened.
“After the Holocaust was questioned by the president, now I have real doubts about it,” said Maryam Zadkani, a 23-year-old graphic artist as she wandered around the exhibition.
“I came here to see what other cartoonists around the world think about the Holocaust.”
The winner and runners up will be announced on September 2, with the top three entries receiving $12,000, $8,000 and $5,000 respectively. “The government is not financing the prize,” Shojai said, without saying who was offering the cash.