Iranians protest outside French embassy after cartoons

Demonstrators gather with images of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei during a protest against Charlie Hebdo weekly outside the French embassy in Tehran – Copyright AFP Jaafar ASHTIYEH

Dozens of Iranians gathered Sunday outside the French embassy in Tehran to protest against cartoons of the Islamic republic’s supreme leader published by the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo.

On Wednesday, the magazine published cartoons of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in support of months of protests in Iran sparked by the death in custody of Mahsa Amini after her arrest for allegedly violating the country’s strict dress code.

Iran has warned France about “offensive and obscene” cartoons that appeared in a special issue marking the anniversary of the deadly attack on the magazine’s Paris office in 2015.

Dozens of protesters, most of them seminary students, gathered in front of the embassy in the center of Tehran’s capital and set fire to French flags, AFP reported.

“France, be ashamed!” the crowd chanted.

Waving Iranian flags, they held pictures of Khamenei and banners reading “I will sacrifice my life for the leader” and “Shame on Charlie Hebdo.”

“I came to support my revolution, my leader,” said 17-year-old seminarian Karim Heydarpour.

Similar protests took place in Iran’s holy city of Qom, 128 kilometers south of Tehran, the state broadcaster reported.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani said on Sunday that freedom of speech should not be used as an excuse to “insult” religion.

France “has no right to justify insulting the shrines of other countries and peoples and followers of divine religions under the pretext of freedom of speech,” he wrote on Twitter.

According to him, Paris must observe “the fundamental principles of international relations, namely mutual respect (and) non-interference in the internal affairs of others”.

On Thursday, Iran said it was closing the Tehran-based French Institute for Studies in Iran “as a first step” in response to the cartoons after summoning its ambassador to Paris to protest the publication.

Located in the center of Tehran, IFRI was closed for many years, but was reopened under the presidency of moderate President Hassan Rouhani from 2013-2021 in a sign of warming bilateral relations.

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