AFP: Iran said on Tuesday that more than 60 researchers from 30 countries will attend a controversial conference on the Holocaust next week to examine the event without any “preconceived ideas”. by Farhad Pouladi
TEHRAN, Dec 5, 2006 (AFP) – Iran said on Tuesday that more than 60 researchers from 30 countries will attend a controversial conference on the Holocaust next week to examine the event without any “preconceived ideas”.
Deputy Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mohammadi said the staging of the conference on December 11-12 was a response to the lack of answers to questions posed over the Holocaust by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Ahmadinejad, who has also called for Israel to be wiped off the map, has repeatedly raised questions about the scale of the Holocaust and even described the mass slaughter of six million Jews in World War II as a “myth”.
“Ahmadinejad asked did the Holocaust happen or not. And if it happened why are scholars prevented from doing research on this and why are revisionists thrown into prison?” Mohammadi told reporters.
“And if it happened, why should the Palestinians pay for this?”
The conference will, he said, “without any preconceived ideas, provide the atmosphere for scholars and researchers from both sides to give their papers in the utmost freedom”.
Mohammadi declined to give the names of the 67 international “scholars” he said would be attending over fears their home countries would ban them from travelling to Tehran.
He stressed that Iran’s “study” of the Holocaust “does not mean we deny the crimes of Hitler”.
“Since we are not accused of and not responsible for the Holocaust, we are an impartial judge,” he said.
He brushed off any idea that staging the conference would prompt anti-Semitism and racism, pointing to the existence of Iran’s own 25,000-strong Jewish community.
“Anti-Semitism is a Western phenomenon, we never had it, we are strongly against any racist moves since we consider all human beings and divine religions as equals.”
“The Jews have been living in Iran for centuries… and even after Iran became an Islamic nation, they have been living here in harmony, so it proves that we are an impartial referee,” he added.
Tehran has already sparked controversy by opening an international exhibitition of cartoons on the Holocaust, in response to the publication in Western papers of caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed.
“But when it comes to research we believe that this subject (the Holocaust) can be investigated and it should not be considered a red line,” Mohammadi added.
“In Iran one can investigate and research Islamic issues and even deny them and no one will stop you you,” he said.
The controversy surrounding Iran’s stance over the Holocaust was on the agenda of the outgoing UN Secretary General Kofi Annan when he discussed it with Ahmadinejad in Tehran earlier this year.
Annan, during his September visit to Tehran, said the right to freedom of speech had to be exercised with “sensitivity” and that the Holocaust was an “undeniable historical fact”.
Mohammadi also said that Iran views the Holocaust conference as a prelude to organizing other conferences on killings in other parts of the world.
“We are going to have a conference in February about Latin America and in that gathering one of the topics is the genocide that was inflicted on the indigenous Americans,” he said.