Reuters: A Moroccan won first prize on Wednesday in Iran’s International Holocaust Cartoons Contest, which had sparked outrage in Israel, the West and among Jewish groups.
By Parisa Hafezi
TEHRAN (Reuters) – A Moroccan won first prize on Wednesday in Iran’s International Holocaust Cartoons Contest, which had sparked outrage in Israel, the West and among Jewish groups.
Iran’s best-selling newspaper, Hamshahri, launched a competition in February to find the best cartoon about the Holocaust, in which 6 million Jews were killed by the Nazis.
The contest was a retaliation for last year’s publication of caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad in Danish and other European newspapers that angered Muslims worldwide.
Presenting a prize to a representative of Moroccan cartoonist Abdellah Derkaoui, Culture and Islamic Guidance Minister Mohammad Hossein Saffar-Harandi praised Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who has described the Holocaust as a “myth”.
“Our president was the brave and freedom-seeking person who started this debate without being concerned about its consequences,” Saffar-Harandi said.
Derkaoui’s cartoon shows a crane with a Star of David sign, putting up blocks making a wall separating the Muslim shrine, the Dome of the Rock, from Jerusalem. The wall has a gate, shown in the distance, that looks like one at the Auschwitz concentration camp, where Jews were incarcerated and killed.
“The taboo is broken now. People should not think that by questioning the Holocaust, they are committing a crime,” the minister said. The Moroccan cartoonist won $12,000.
Masoud Shojai-Tabatabai, head of the Cartoon House which helped organize the exhibition of entries, said the government was not financing the prizes but he did not say who was.
In September, while in Tehran, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan condemned the cartoon exhibition and said the Holocaust was an undeniable historical fact.
“We should be careful not to say anything that is used as an excuse for incitement to hatred or violence,” he said.
The second prize, worth $8,000, went jointly to French and Brazilian cartoonists. The third-placed competitor was an Iranian cartoonist.
Shojai-Tabatabai did not reveal the French cartoonist’s name. “You can call the French cartoonist ‘Mr. X’. If I reveal his name, he may face imprisonment in France.”
Organizers said some 1,193 drawings had been received from 62 countries including some European states where it is a crime to deny the Holocaust. Some 204 were on display.
The messages of the cartoons displayed were not always clear although several seemed to poke fun at the United States, Iran’s arch-enemy.
The competition drew condemnation from the Israeli government, Jewish groups and the mayor of Paris. The United States called the idea “outrageous”.
Israeli government spokesman Gideon Meir called on the international community to express disgust for “such an anti-Semitic and inhuman event”.