French Weekly ‘Charlie Hebdo’ Has Again Angered the Iranian Regime for Publishing Caricatures of Its Supreme Leader

The Iranian regime is fuming over the publication of cartoon drawings mocking its supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo.

On January 4, Iran’s foreign ministry summoned the French ambassador, and the next day, announced the closing of the French Institute for Research in Iran “as a first step,” with more retaliations to come if the French government doesn’t sanction those responsible for the illustrations.

“The insulting and indecent act of a French [media] in publishing cartoons against the religious and political authority will not go without an effective and decisive response,” tweeted Iranian foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian on Wednesday. Iranian officials “will not allow the French government to step over the line. They have definitely chosen the wrong path,” added Amir-Abdollahian in Farsi. In a statement on January 5, the Iranian foreign ministry alleged the “offensive” action was also “another sign of Zionism’s attempts at exercising influence on media in order to promote Islamophobia.”

By Thursday night, Charlie Hebdo’s website was also hacked, according to French reports.


Indeed, angering the Iranian dictatorship was a big reason for publishing the cartoons in the first place.

“Make the funniest and meanest caricature of Ali Khamenei,” instructed the notoriously irreverent and controversial Charlie Hebdo in an international call for submissions to a drawing contest, called #MullahsGetOut, in December. The initiative aimed “to support the Iranians who are fighting for their freedom, by ridiculing this religious leader from another age and consigning him to historical oblivion.”

The contest came in response to Iran’s violent crackdown on protests since the September death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini after Iranian morality police took her into custody for allegedly disobeying the nation’s hijab dress code.

Out of hundreds of submissions, 30 were chosen for Charlie Hebdo’s January 7, 2023 special edition, headlined “Mullahs, go back to where you came from!” (Moullahs, retournez d’ou vous venez). The winning entries include a sex and violence-obsessed Khamenei, taunted and humiliated by women. Long hair, headscarves, and high-heeled pumps become symbolic weapons in these drawings, which crush and hang by the neck a desperate Khameni.

The issue was sold out at most print-media kiosks in Paris by Wednesday evening, according to salespeople that Midnight Publishing Group News questioned. It is available online, and its cover illustration features a line of disgruntled, mini mullahs filing into a nude woman’s open cervix, her dark hair flowing as she grins at the viewer.

A person holds a placard reading "Je suis Charlie" during a remembrance rally at Place de la Republique on the one year anniversary of the attacks. Photo: YOAN VALAT/AFP/Getty Images

A person holds a placard reading “Je suis Charlie” during a remembrance rally at Place de la Republique on the one year anniversary of the attacks.
Photo: YOAN VALAT/AFP/Getty Images

The issue further marked the anniversary of the 2015 terror attack that killed 12 people in and outside the publication’s Paris headquarters. Its director and illustrator known as Charb, plus other iconic cartoonists Cabu, Wolinksi, and Honoré, were among those murdered in the coordinated operation that also killed four at a kosher grocery store in eastern Paris. The attackers said they were taking revenge on behalf of the Muslim prophet Muhammad, whose depiction, along with other religious and political leaders, had graced the pages of Charlie Hebdo as sexually explicit and vulgar caricatures.

The magazine was also targeted with firebombs and threatened prior to the 2015 attacks for illustrations of Muhammad deemed blasphemous by certain interpretations of Islamic law, and had its own security detail. In 2006, Muslim groups sued the publication for attacking the religion, but French judges ruled Charlie Hebdo was not taking aim at a single group, but rather poked fun at individual leaders.

The #MullahsGetOut contest “was also a reminder of why Charlie’s cartoonists and writers were assassinated eight years ago, and how [those reasons] are sadly still topical,” wrote the publication’s director Laurent Sourisseau, known as Riss, in an editorial. The drawings submitted all “say ‘no’ to religious tyrants,” and show “people’s attachment to freedom,” he added.

Speaking on Les Matins LCI, France’s foreign minister Catherine Colonna has clapped back at Iranian demands that the French government sanction Charlie Hebdo. “Freedom of expression exists in France, as opposed to what is happening in Iran, and it is exercised under the control of a judge, and within the framework of an independent justice system—something Iran undoubtedly knows little about,” she said. “Moreover, in French law, the notion of blasphemy does not exist.”

In a Thursday statement, France’s foreign ministry said its Iranian counterparts had not yet officially confirmed the closing of the 1983-founded IFRI cultural institute. Its shuttering “would evidently be regrettable,” said a government spokesperson.

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Republican Leaders Accuse the National Museum of African American History of ‘Bias’ in Its Display on Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas

A freshman Republican lawmaker from Florida has accused the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture of bias and dishonesty in the way it presents the story of Justice Clarence Thomas in a display about the Supreme Court.

In 2017, the museum added the display, which presents information on Thomas and Justice Thurgood Marshall, the first Black Supreme Court Justice. It includes a photo of Thomas as a college student, a photo of him assuming his position at the court in 1991, and a copy of Jet magazine featuring him on the cover. A display text gives a biography of Thomas and compares the two men’s judicial philosophies, explaining that Thomas identifies himself as an advocate for “judicial restraint,” and for the “original intent” of the writers of the Constitution.

Representative Byron Donalds, who is Black, authored a letter complaining that the museum’s treatment of Thomas, the second African American to serve on the nation’s highest court, “falls short.”

President Donald J. Trump is presented with an award by Florida State Rep. Byron Donalds, left, and Matthew Charles, one of the first inmates to benefit from the First Step Act of 2018, at the 2019 Second Step Presidential Justice Forum Friday, Oct. 25, 2019, at Benedict College in Columbia, S.C. Official White House photo by Shealah Craighead.

President Donald J. Trump is presented with an award by Florida State Rep. Byron Donalds, left, and Matthew Charles, one of the first inmates to benefit from the First Step Act of 2018, at Benedict College in Columbia, South Carolina. Official White House photo by Shealah Craighead.

“Black history cannot and should not be political,” reads the letter, which was also signed by South Carolina Senator Tim Scott, Utah Representative Burgess Owens, and other prominent conservative leaders.

Addressing the museum’s director, Kevin Young, who assumed the position this year, and advisory council chair Kenneth Irvine Chenault, the lawmakers acknowledge that the museum largely fulfills its mission but note that, “It is unfortunate to see pitfalls likely driven by irresponsible bias.” The museum must present Thomas’s whole life and history, they conclude, “and not the disingenuous effort displayed today.”

Young declined an interview, but the museum sent a statement: “While all our exhibitions are based on rigorous research, they are still open to interpretation,” it reads. “Through scholarship, publications, and education, the museum will continue to explore the rich contributions and complexity of African Americans.”

Representative Donalds’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

Also co-signing the letter were five prominent figures in Black conservative circles: Heritage Foundation president Kay C. James, who served in the office of personnel management under George W. Bush; Bruce LeVell, who headed up Donald Trump’s Diversity Coalition; Alveda King, a niece of Martin Luther King Jr. and former Republican Representative from Georgia; Los Angeles attorney Marc T. Little; and political commentator Paris Dennard.

Supporters of Thomas were outraged when the museum opened, in 2016, including a mention of the Justice only in connection with Anita Hill’s sexual harassment accusation during his confirmation hearing in 1991, which he notoriously described as “a high-tech lynching.”

Installation at the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

In 2019, in the context of “rumors” about his retirement, Thomas incorrectly criticized the museum’s display, saying that it misrepresented the inspiration for his beliefs about affirmative action, which he opposes. While noting that he’d never been to the museum, he said that a group of students had told him that the display attributes those beliefs to his childhood educational experiences.

In fact, the display correctly states that his beliefs came about in connection to his law school education. However, he again condemned the museum’s portrayal of him, which he had not seen but had only heard about and which was still factually correct.

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In a Precedent-Setting Move, the Supreme Court Denies Jewish Heirs’ Attempt to Reclaim the $250 Million Guelph Treasure

The US Supreme Court has ruled against the heirs of a consortium of Jewish collectors who allege that their families were forced to sell the Guelph Treasure, a collection of Medieval devotional objects now valued at upwards of $250 million, to Nazis in the 1930s.

In a unanimous decision, the court ruled that the collectors will not be able to secure the 42 silver artifacts’ return through the US legal system based on the case presented during oral arguments in December, reports Bloomberg Law. The decision could impact Holocaust-era restitution cases for decades to come.

Alan Philipp, Gerald Stiebel, and Jed Leiber, the heirs of the Guelph Treasure’s former owners, had sued Germany for restitution on the grounds that the transaction was among the many forced sales of artworks by Jews living under the Nazi regime. The treasure is held by the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation (the Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz, or SPK), which runs Berlin’s state museums, and is on view at Berlin’s Museum of Decorative Arts.

In general, other countries cannot be sued in US court, according to the 1976 Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act. The plaintiffs’ case rested on whether or not the sale of the Guelph Treasure could be considered an “expropriation exception,” where property was taken “in violation of international law.”

The arm reliquary of St. Sigismund from the Guelph Treasure. Photo ©Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kunstgewerbemuseum/Fotostudio Bartsch, Berlin.

The arm reliquary of St. Sigismund from the Guelph Treasure. Photo ©Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kunstgewerbemuseum/Fotostudio Bartsch, Berlin.

But the court found that “the law of takings”—which has previously been used to secure the return of four Gustav Klimt canvases, including his famed Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer (1907), to refugee Maria Altmann—did not apply here.

The heirs had argued that the treasure’s forced sale violated international law as an act of genocide. But the court found that the only international law covered by the exception is property law, and that the seizure of a property belonging to a country’s own citizens is a domestic matter, and therefore not under the jurisdiction of US law.

“We need not decide whether the sale of the consortium’s property was an act of genocide, because the expropriation exception is best read as referencing the international law of expropriation rather than of human rights,” chief justice John Roberts wrote in the opinion. “We do not look to the law of genocide to determine if we have jurisdiction over the heirs’ common law property claims. We look to the law of property.”

During oral arguments, Nicolas O’Donnell, attorney for the heirs, argued that excluding acts of genocide from the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act would imply that “Congress intended to disadvantage the Nazi’s first victims, German Jews. This makes no sense.”

A Guelph Treasure Crucifix, currently on display at Berlin’s Museum of Decorative Arts, or Kunstgewerbemuseum. Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

A Guelph Treasure Crucifix, currently on display at Berlin’s Museum of Decorative Arts, or Kunstgewerbemuseum. Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Roberts countered: “The exception places repeated emphasis on property and property-related rights, while injuries and acts we might associate with genocide are notably lacking,” he wrote. “That would be remarkable if the provision were intended to provide relief for atrocities such as the Holocaust.”

The long-running battle over the treasure originated in Germany in 2008, but the heirs were unable to secure the treasure’s return. The German Advisory Commission on Nazi-looted art found in a non-binding 2014 ruling that the sale had not taken place under duress. The plaintiffs tried again in US court the following year. Despite a German motion to dismiss the case, a Washington, DC, district court agreed to hear the dispute—a decision upheld twice upon appeal before the case landed in the country’s highest court.

The case has now been sent back down to a district court to determine whether the dispute can be adjudicated on other grounds. One potential avenue, raised by the plaintiff during the oral arguments in December, is the question of whether the art dealers were considered German nationals at the time of the sale. If, as Jews, their German citizenship was considered invalid, then the law of domestic takings would no longer apply.

“My clients are obviously disappointed in the court’s ruling,” O’Donnell told Midnight Publishing Group News in an email. “We are considering our next steps for when the case returns to the district court.”

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