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Iranian Cartoon Contest Lampoons IS, Alleged Backers

A bearded man labeled as an Islamic State militant lies on a bed covered with a U.S. flag while a masseuse wearing sleeves embossed with Israeli flags works on his shoulders.

A man with a long dark beard sits immersed in blood in a bathtub shaped like the map of Iraq. A machine gun is propped against the wall behind him.

Another bearded man lies on a bed covered with a U.S. flag while a masseuse wearing sleeves embossed with Israeli flags works on his shoulders.

These are just some of the cartoons displayed at an exhibition launched in several Tehran art galleries over the weekend that highlights atrocities committed by Islamic State (IS) militants -- and accuses the United States, Israel, and Saudi Arabia of backing the Sunni-led extremist fighters.

The exhibition is organized by Iran's House of Cartoons, which previously organized a controversial Holocaust cartoon contest.

The group says that 280 works from some 40 countries -- including Australia, Brazil, and Indonesia -- have been put on display to mock IS militants and shed light on their purported backers.

The works were selected from 800 submissions, and the contest's organizers are offering cash prizes ranging from $700 to $1,500 for the top three entries.

Winners are due to be announced at a May 31 ceremony, where a book featuring cartoons from the contest will also be made public.

Speaking at a May 24 press conference in Tehran, Mohammad Habibi, the contest's executive secretary, said some of the foreign cartoonists had to use pseudonyms due to "security concerns."

Habibi claimed that selected works from the contest will be displayed in countries affected by IS militants, including Syria and Iraq.

In an interview with Iranian state television, Seyed Masud Shojayi Tababaei, the contest's administrator and head of the House of Cartoons, said the contest was organized in two parts. "In the main section, we focused on the terrorist group Daesh [IS] and its Western, Arab, and [Jewish] backers," he said.

Tababaei added that in the second part of the contest, cartoonists had been asked to depict the faces of those who support IS militants.

The "Faces" section of the contest features caricatures of world leaders, including U.S. President Barack Obama, French President Francois Hollande, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Saudi Arabia's King Salman.

Hard-line Iranian officials have accused the United States, Israel, and some Arab countries of either creating or backing IS militants.

On May 25, the commander of Iran's elite Quds Force, Qassem Soleimani, accused Washington of having no will to stop the extremist group. "How is it that America claims to be protecting the Iraqi government, when a few kilometers away in Ramadi, killings and war crimes are taking place and they are doing nothing?" he was quoted as saying by Iranian media.

Soleimani reportedly asked, "Does it mean anything else other than being an accomplice in the plot?"

The Obama administration has consistently reiterated its commitment to "degrade and ultimately defeat" the group's fighters. Washington has spearheaded an international coalition against the militant group, which occupies large swathes of northern Iraq.

Iran regularly organizes cartoon exhibits while punishing cartoonists who dare mock or criticize Iranian politicians.

Iranian artist and activist Atena Farghadani reportedly went on trial in Iran last week on charges that include "insulting members of parliament through paintings."

Her initial arrest last year is said to be linked to her image that features Iranian lawmakers depicted as animals while voting on a draft law that restricts access to contraception.

-- Golnaz Esfandiari

About This Blog

Persian Letters is a blog that offers a window into Iranian politics and society. Written primarily by Golnaz Esfandiari, Persian Letters brings you under-reported stories, insight and analysis, as well as guest Iranian bloggers -- from clerics, anarchists, feminists, Basij members, to bus drivers.


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