Iran Shuts Down French Institute Due to Charlie Hebdo's Khamenei Cartoons

Iran’s government said they shut down the Tehran-based French Institute of Research in response to cartoons from the latest edition of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. Some of the caricatures they published were sexually explicit.

According to Iran’s foreign ministry, closing down the French institute is a “first step” to its response against the cartoons and threatened further action if the French government fails to "hold to account the perpetrators and sponsors of such instances of spreading hatred."

The foreign ministry of Iran also said in its statement regarding the French Institute’s closure that it would consider reviewing cultural ties between Iran and France and French cultural activities in the country.

In a Tweet, Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian warned that Charlie Hebdo’s "insulting and offensive action" of publishing cartoons critical of the Islamic Republic’s "religious and political authority will not go without an effective and decisive response.

Nicolas Roche, the French ambassador to Iran, was summoned by Iran’s foreign ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanani. He told him that the French satirical magazine did "not have the right to justify disrespect against the sanctities of other countries and Islamic nations under the pretext of freedom of speech."

In response, France’s foreign minister Catherine Colonna told French media outlet LCI TV before Iran announced the closure of the French Institute that "freedom of the press exists [in France], contrary to what is happening in Iran” and blasphemy was not punishable under French law.

Hezbollah, a Lebanese and Islamist militant group backed by Iran, condemned the cartoons mocking Iran’s Supreme Leader and the other ruling clerics, describing them as an “ugly act by the magazine.

We call upon the French government to take decisive measures to punish those behind the act for attacking dignitaries of a whole nation,” Hezbollah said in a statement. “The French government ... should not be a partner in this offense.

The French government did not comment on Hezbollah’s statement. The group considers Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, as their religious leader and tens of millions of other pious Shia Muslims worldwide.

Charlie Hebdo published the caricatures as part of a special edition marking the eighth anniversary since the attacks in its Paris office in 2015, where two terrorists stormed its office and shot down 12 people, including five of the magazine’s cartoonists. The attacks were made in response to Charlie Hebdo’s decision to publish caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad.

The cartoons were also part of a contest where Charlie Hebdo asked participants to draw cartoons criticizing Khamenei and the Islamic Republic regime. The magazine did the competition to show their support for the ongoing anti-government protests in Iran.

Some caricatures were explicit, including a cartoon showing a woman urinating on Khamenei. Another cartoon, which made it to the magazine’s front page, depicted a line of Iran’s clerics walking inside a naked woman’s vagina, with a message saying, "Mullahs, go back to where you came from."

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