Here’s a fine bit of news from 2015: Irina Bokova, the director-general of the United Nations Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization criticized the upcoming Second Iranian Holocaust cartoon contest, saying it went against UNESCO’s values. The competition was launched in Iran in response to French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo’s decision to publish cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed. The winner of the contest will receive a cash prize of $12,000, the runner-up $8,000 and third place $5,000, according to Iranian media reports.
Irina Bokova is a great friend of the Islamic Republic, has visited there, meets frequently with Iranian officials and supports it through UNESCO projects. Last July, according to IRNA, Iran announced its plan to establish a regional higher education institute for water administration. The decision to set up the institute was made following a visit to Tehran of UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova who met with Energy Minister Hamid Chitchian.
Back in March 2015, Irina Bokova in her message on the occasion of International Day of Nowruz, a traditional Iranian festival of spring, said that in these uncertain and turbulent times, “let us all embrace the values of Nowruz and carry forward its message of peace, harmony, tolerance and reconciliation.”
And in November 2014 Irina Bokova met with Iran’s Education Minister Ali Asghar Fani, told him she remembered fondly the Iranians’ exemplary hospitality during her recent visit of Iran and the exalted status of the Iranian culture and civilizations, and announced UNESCO’s readiness for any kind of cooperation with Iran.
So, if anyone could get the Iranians to scrap the insulting display of anti-Semitic cartoons, with all its ramifications regarding the value of Jewish lives, it should be their great friend, UNESCO director-general Irina Bokova. Especially after she condemned the competition publicly.
A year went by, and IRNA ran the following report last December 17: “Organizers of the 11th Tehran International Cartoon Biennial has allocated a cash prize of $50,000 for the best cartoon on the Holocaust, the organizers announced on Wednesday. Three other cartoonists will also receive cash prizes of 12,000, 8,000 and 5,000 dollars respectively, the secretary of the biennial, Masud Shojai-Tabatabai, announced. … He added that the competition will be held in June 2016 in Mashhad with cartoonists participating from 50 countries.”
Here is another bit of news, from Monday, this week: The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization recently filed a serious complaint with the Iranian government over its plan to hold a cartoon contest for caricatures denying the Holocaust. Ha’aretz has learned that UNESCO director-general Irina Bokova plans to raise the issue when she meets Iranian President Hassan Rohani, who will be addressing the organization’s staff on Wednesday (January 27), International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Now we have to sit back and watch the Iranians adhere to the request from their great friend at UNESCO and take down the shameful competition. So far, Iran’s only response to international condemnations has been to up the first prize from$12,000 to $50,000.