Iran-France tensions escalate over Charlie Hebdo cartoons row

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Tensions between Iran and France are on the boil over the publication of caricatures of the Iranian supreme leader, with the country’s top general warning of revenge.

French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo published a series of caricatures depicting Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in its special issue last week, which Iranian authorities deemed “insulting” to the top political and religious figure.

Many Iranian officials, including the president, foreign minister, top military commanders and senior parliamentarians, have issued statements criticizing the magazine and the French government.

There have also been a series of demonstrations in front of the French Embassy in Tehran in recent days amid growing calls to review diplomatic ties with France.

In the most scathing reaction to the publication of the cartoons, which were part of a competition announced by the magazine last month, the chief of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) on Tuesday said Muslims will “sooner or later” exact revenge against Charlie Hebdo.

Maj. Gen. Hossein Salami, speaking at an event in south-eastern Iran’s Zahedan city, asked the owners of Charlie Hebdo magazine to “look into the fate of Salman Rushdie”.

Rushdie was attacked during an event in New York on August 12 last year, almost 33 years after Iran’s then-Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa (decree) against him for his controversial novel “The Satanic Verses” published in 1988.

The IRGC commander said the French satirical magazine, which has previously been involved in controversy over the publication of cartoons of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad, made a “big mistake” by publishing Khamenei’s caricatures and will see the revenge.

“Do not play with (the sentiments of) Muslims,” Salami said. “Salman Rushdie insulted the Quran and the Holy Prophet of Islam 30 years ago and went into hiding.”

“After several years, a young Muslim man bravely took revenge on Salman Rushdie and no one could save him,” he added.

The IRGC general, however, didn’t explain the nature of “revenge” against the French magazine.

The cartoons featuring Ayatollah Khamenei were published days before the 8th anniversary of a terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo headquarters in January 2015, which killed 17 people.—Anadolu Agency