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Iran closes French institute in Tehran after Charlie Hebdo mocks Khamenei

Foreign ministry warns French counterparts of consequences after magazine publishes caricatures of Iran's supreme leader in a special issue
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei waves during a meeting with a group of Iranian women in Tehran, 4 January 2023 (Reuters)

Iran announced the closure of a French research institute in Tehran after satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo published caricatures of the country's Supreme Leader Ali Khameini

The caricatures were published as part of a competition that received over 300 submissions from across the globe.

The issue was published on the eighth anniversary of the 2015 Paris attacks on the magazine’s office - which left 12 people dead - and purportedly aimed to back protests against Iran’s government, which have been ongoing since September.

The caricatures depict Khamenei and other senior clerics as executioners of protesters and engaging in sexual activity.

"In reviewing cultural relations with France and examining the possibility of continuing French cultural activities in Iran, the ministry is ending the activities of the French Institute for Research in Iran as a first step," said the Iranian foreign ministry in a statement.

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The decision comes a day after Tehran warned about the consequences of the cartoons.

Iran’s embassy in Paris called on Wednesday for French authorities to "take the necessary and immediate measures [regarding] this magazine in order to prevent the continuation of this campaign of insults and hatred".

Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian tweeted in response that "the insulting and indecent act of a French publication in publishing cartoons against the religious and political authority will not go without an effective and decisive response".

The ministry also summoned Nicolas Roche, the French ambassador to Iran.

Laurent Sourisseau, director of Charlie Hebdo, wrote in an editorial that the issue was meant to “show our support for Iranian men and women who risk their lives to defend their freedom against the theocracy that has oppressed them since 1979."

The French Institute for Research in Iran was founded in 1983 as an archaeological centre by the French archaeological delegation in Iran and the French Institute of Iranology in Tehran.

It was closed before Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s former president, reopened it during his 2013-2021 term.

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