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Iran launches annual Holocaust denial cartoon contest, condemned by US, UNESCO

Iran has opened the International Holocaust Cartoon Contest, an annual competition which showcases cartoons belittling, denigrating or denying the Holocaust.

The annual competition, which was introduced by former-President Mahmoud Ahmadinajad and is sponsored by the Tehran Municipality, offers a prize of £8,000 for the most popular cartoon. Around 150 works from more than fifty countries are expected to be on display at this year’s contest, which runs until the end of May. Masuod Shojai-Tabatabai, the secretary of the contest, said that “the Zionist regime in Gaza and Palestine” is similarly carrying out a Holocaust.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is compared to Hitler in some of the contest’s cartoons, has condemned the competition. He said that Iran “denies the Holocaust, it mocks the Holocaust” and urged “that every country in the world must stand up and fully condemn this”.

Irina Bokova, the director general of UNESCO, the United Nations’ cultural heritage agency, spoke out against the cartoon contest, saying: “Such an initiative, which aims at a mockery of the genocide of the Jewish people, a tragic page of humanity’s history, can only foster hatred and incite to violence, racism and anger.” She added: “This contest goes against the universal values of tolerance and respect.”

Meanwhile, US State Department spokesman Mark Toner called the contest “insulting to the memory of the millions of people who died in the Holocaust”. He said that Washington is concerned that the competition would be “used as a platform for Holocaust denial and revisionism and egregiously anti-Semitic speech, as it has in the past”.

Although the contest is operated by an NGO, it enjoys the tacit support of Iran’s government. Holocaust denial is commonplace among many Iranian leaders. On the eve of this year’s International Holocaust Memorial Day, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei released a video clip which questioned whether the Holocaust is “reality or not”.