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Iran Hosts Holocaust Cartoon Contest

Iranian journalist Elahe Khosravi, reads Iranian daily newspaper Hamshahri, in Tehran, Iran on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2006. The prominent Iranian newspaper said Tuesday it would hold a competition for cartoons on the Holocaust to test whether the West extends the principle of freedom of expression to the Nazi genocide as it did to the caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad.

For the third time, Iran is holding a Holocaust cartoon-drawing contest this weekend that will feature works that belittle the past suffering of Jewish people and deny the atrocities of the Holocaust.

Some 150 works from artists in 50 different countries are on display, with the top 16 finalists set to share $50,000 in prize money. The number one artist will walk away with $12,000.

Masuod Shojai-Tabatabai, the secretary of the contest, claimed it had nothing to do with denying the Holocaust, but that it was meant to highlight the plight of Muslims currently being massacred “by the Zionist regime in Gaza and Palestine.”

He said the event’s sponsors have no interest in denying the Holocaust or “ridiculing its victims.” The event was organized by Owj Media & Cultural Institute and the Sarsheshmeh Cultural Center, non-governmental organizations with ties to the Iranian government, but without explicit government backing.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Zarif sought to make clear that there are no ties between the Iranian government and the cartoon contest in a recent interview with the New Yorker.

“It’s not Iran,” he said. “It’s an N.G.O. that is not controlled by the Iranian government. Nor is it endorsed by the Iranian government.”

The World Jewish Conference, a Jewish advocacy group, refuted Zarif’s claims, though saying it is a sort-of open secret that the organizations running the event are directly linked to and funded by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.

“It has always been clear who runs Iran: the fundamentalist radicals seeking Israel’s destruction,” Ronald Lauder, the group’s president said in a statement. “The fact that Iran is once again providing a platform for this competition proves that it has still not changed its colors and if given the chance, could still be as dangerous as ever.”