The reaction was not long in coming. Iran announced on Thursday the closure of the French Research Institute in Iran (Ifri), the oldest and most important French research center in the country, in response to a Charlie Hebdo publication of cartoons deemed offensive to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
On Wednesday, the Iranian authorities warned France that they would take action following the publication on the same day by a satirical weekly of these drawings of the top religious and political leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran. These announcements are “unfortunate if true,” Paris responded this Thursday afternoon.
“The ministry is terminating the activities of the French Institute for Studies in Iran (Ifri) as a first step,” the Iranian Foreign Ministry said in a statement. He accuses the French authorities of “continued inaction in the face of anti-Islamic speech and the spread of racist hatred in French publications.”
In its press release, the ministry asks the French government to hold “the authors (propaganda) of such hatred” accountable, emphasizing that the “Iranian people” will “seriously” follow the response France will give. He also calls on Paris to take “a serious fight against Islamophobia”.
The cartoons, published in Charlie Hebdo, were selected in a competition announced in December as demonstrations, which authorities called “riots,” continued in Iran to protest the Sept. 16 death in custody of Mahsa Amini, an Iranian Kurd arrested for violating the country’s strict rules. . dress code.
In December, the newspaper claimed that this “international competition” was aimed at supporting “Iranians who are fighting for their freedom.” The issue contains several sexually explicit cartoons featuring Ayatollah Khamenei and other Iranian clerics, as well as cartoons denouncing the use of the death penalty as a tactic to intimidate protesters.
Asked by AFP, the French embassy in Tehran said it would not comment yet. But ahead of the announcement of Ifri’s closure, French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna pointed out that “freedom of the press exists (in France) contrary to what is happening in Iran”, recalling that the crime of blasphemy does not exist in French law. “The bad policy is the one pursued by Iran, which practices violence against its own population,” she added on Thursday in response to a question from the French television channel LCI.
On Wednesday, his Iranian counterpart, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, denounced the “insulting and obscene act” that “will not remain without a firm response.” “Iran does not accept in any way insulting its (…) Islamic, religious and national values (…) and France has no right to insult what is sacred (…) for Muslim countries under the pretext of freedom of speech,” the ministry said. Press Secretary Nasser Kanani said the same day. Iran “holds the French government responsible for this heinous, insulting and unjustifiable act,” he added. On the same day, French Ambassador to Iran Nicolas Roche was summoned to Tehran’s Foreign Ministry.
Ifri’s headquarters in central Tehran have been closed for years. It was reopened under the presidency of the moderate Hassan Rouhani (2013-2021) as a sign of warming Franco-Iranian relations. It includes a rich library used by French learners and Iranian scholars. Ifri was born in 1983 after the merger of the French Archaeological Delegation in Iran (DAFI), established in 1897, and the French Institute of Iranology in Tehran (IFIT), founded in 1947 by Henry Corbin, according to his website.