On May 14, 2016, the second international Holocaust Cartoon Contest exhibition will open in Iran, with the first place winner – reportedly to be announced in June – receiving a large cash prize. According to reports in the Iranian press, the May 14th date was chosen to coincide with Nakba Day (catastrophe day), the term used by Palestinian to refer to the events surrounding Israel’s independence in 1948.
The contest reportedly received over 800 submissions from artists in 50 countries, and the exhibition will feature 100 works, as well as 50 profile cartoons on the subject of “Netanyahu”, a reference to the Israeli Prime Minister.
In a recent New Yorker magazine interview, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif denied accusations that the Holocaust contest is supported by the Iranian government. However, according to the Middle East Media Research Institute, the secretary of the NGO responsible for contest Massoud Shojaei Tabatabaei stated that the contest organizers cooperate with the Iranian Ministry of Culture, and that everyone in the Iranian regime “knows that this exhibition is highly respected.”
Iran held its first Holocaust cartoon contest back in 2006 under President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, receiving 204 entries from Iran and around the world. During his tenure as President, Ahmadinejad repeatedly used his position to promote Holocaust denial, a practice that continues to this day in parts of Iran. The 2006 contest’s winning submission depicted Israel constructing a wall, painted with an image of the infamous railway leading to the gates of Auschwitz, around the Dome of the Rock mosque in Jerusalem. Other winners included images of Palestinians in concentration camp garb, the “myth of the gas chambers” and a Holocaust museum in the shape of a swastika.