“Why is it acceptable in Western countries to draw any caricature of the Prophet Mohammed, yet as soon as there are any questions or doubts raised about the Holocaust, fines and jail sentences are handed down?” Tabatabai told the Observer that year.
But there’s a difference between drawing an offensive caricature and participating in the negation of an established historical fact. And while Holocaust denial didn’t begin with Iran, Tehran’s contribution to the practice has been especially shameful. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran’s president from 2005 to 2013, claimed that the Holocaust was a “myth” designed to protect the existence of Israel. In 2006, the year of the first cartoon contest, Tehran sponsored an international conference to “review the global vision of the Holocaust.” Ahmadenijad’s successor Hassan Rouhani acknowledged and condemned the Holocaust upon taking office in 2013, but neither he nor his suave, U.S.-educated Foreign Minister Mohammed Javaid Zarif have expressed regret for their country’s role in its denial. Ayatollah Khameini, Iran’s Supreme Leader and the man who controls the country’s foreign policy, has called the Holocaust a “distorted historical event.”
Iran’s Holocaust cartoon contest arrives amid worsening anti-Semitism across Europe.