A cartoon contest that launched in Iran on Thursday has a rather peculiar way of celebrating free speech: In response to international support for Charlie Hebdo’s freedom of expression, Iran’s contest will award $12,000 to the top cartoon on the topic of Holocaust denial, organized by the House of Cartoons and the Sarcheshmeh Cultural Complex. According to NBC News, it will ask the questions “If the West says that freedom of speech has no borders then why don’t they let historians and experts properly research the Holocaust?” and “Why should the Palestinian people pay for the Holocaust?”
Although Iran is well-known for ex-president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust denial antics, it seems to have been walking back that line in recent years — especially through the remarks of current president Hassan Rouhani. The current contest seems to be drawing a parallel between the type of offense many Muslims feel at blasphemous illustrations of the prophet and how the West views Holocaust deniers, while seemingly giving the idea of Holocaust denial credence.
This is the second iteration of this contest, which was first held in 2006 shortly after a Danish newspaper published caricatures of Muhammad. According to Ha’aretz, the previous contest received 750 entries, and the winner “portrayed a concrete barrier around Temple Mount. A construction crane with a Star of David on it is placing the barriers, which portray a black and white photograph of Auschwitz.”