‘It is important that this cartoon is published’

On December 9, Iranian Sanaz Bagheri (35) saw a call on Instagram: “Charlie Hebdo is launching an international competition to create caricatures of the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” the opening line on the account read Charlie Hebdo. Bagheri, who lives in the Netherlands, still had plenty of Ali Khamenei cartoons lying around and submitted them all.

Eight years after the bloody terrorist attack on the satirical French weekly Charlie Hebdo Thursday with a special edition. “It was our intention to support the Iranians’ struggle for freedom by ridiculing their religious leader from another era and thus pushing him into historical oblivion,” the website reads.

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In the number of Charlie Hebdo Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is depicted, among other things, wearing a bomb as a turban and drowning in a sea of ​​blood in a cartoon. That last cartoon comes from Bagheri. “To my great surprise, they wanted to publish it. Many cartoonists participated in that competition. I was also very happy and honored because Charlie Hebdo is a very controversial paper for the Iranian authorities. That is why it is extra important that this cartoon is published.”

Why is it like that?

Bagheri: „I consider this number of Charlie Hebdo as a symbol of resistance. The French magazine supports the demonstrators in Iran. You also see that the Iranian regime has been touched by these publications. They have called for it not to be published, but fortunately that has happened.”

Aren’t you afraid of the consequences of your cartoon?

“Not really. I know the regime can be dangerous, but what I’m doing is nothing like what the protesters are doing in Iran. I am staying in a safe location.”

Still, the police are now advising Bagheri, na an interview that she gave to the news website NU.nl, to ask the media not to mention her place of residence. Into the cartoons Charlie Hebdo met with fierce criticism in Iran.

The Iranian foreign minister spoke on Twitter of an “insulting and indecent act” against their spiritual leader. The French foreign minister responded sharply to the criticism: “In France we have freedom of expression, unlike Iran.”

When did you decide to become a cartoonist?

“I hadn’t made many cartoons in Iran. I really had to teach myself years ago. Three cartoons were eventually published in Iran, but I stopped because it became too dangerous.

“When I came to the Netherlands more than three years ago, I tried to pick up drawing again. I’m doing it professionally now and I’m constantly trying to make new cartoons. In general, my cartoons are about deteriorating human rights, but now I mainly try to fight the Iranian authoritarian regime.”

What do you hear from your friends and family in Iran?

“Many Iranians were outraged when I started publishing cartoons in the Netherlands. They said it was very dangerous. That didn’t bother me much. I wanted to fight against the regime. Since the summer protests erupted, all Iranians around the world have formed a bloc against the authorities. Everyone is fighting now. I have many Iranian friends in the Netherlands who used to do nothing, but are now at the forefront of the battle.”

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How do you view the current situation in Iran?

“It is heartbreaking, but I believe in the power of the protests. In fact, I think we are in a revolution. I also see the authorities threatening, torturing and even killing the demonstrators. But the protests are going strong, the demonstrators are very brave. In time, the regime will be overthrown and the goal of the protests will be achieved: the return of our freedom.”

What role do you play in the protests?

“Five years ago I would have stood next to the demonstrators in Iran, but now that I live in the Netherlands, I try to contribute from here. I try to put pressure on Western governments with letters, so that they too hear the sounds in Iran. And now I try to make an impact with my cartoons.”

How do you see Iran’s future?

“I am convinced that the Iranians will continue until the regime falls. Nobody wants to go back to the past. In the meantime, I try to do what I can: I keep making cartoons and standing by my fighting compatriots.”