The Islamic Republic’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei used to be revered by some and feared by some other Iranians, but now he is constantly ridiculed and reviled by many people.
Recently, French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo has launched an international competition — called “Mullahs Get Out” — to produce caricatures of Khamenei, as a “symbol of backward-looking, narrow-minded, intolerant religious power.”
On Tuesday, the French daily Le Monde published one of the cartoons, saying that Charlie Hebdo is publishing a special issue on the occasion of the eighth-year anniversary of the Paris terrorist attacks, mocking Khamenei in support of the protests in Iran. Charlie Hebdo has been the target of three terrorist attacks: in 2011, 2015, and 2020. All of them were presumed to be in response to a number of cartoons that it published controversially depicting Islam’s Prophet Muhammad. In the 2015 attack, 12 people were killed.
“The freedom to which every human being aspires is incompatible with the archaism of religious thought and with submission to every supposedly spiritual authority, of which Ali Khamenei is the most deplorable example,” Charlie Hebdo wrote.
As part of the special “January 7” issue, commemorating the anniversary of the 2015 Charlie Hebdo attack, the satirical weekly chose to support Iranian men and women and to “beat the mullahs,” Le Monde said, adding that the paper was able to view 35 drawings selected from the 300 sent to the Charlie Hebdo editorial office, including from Iran, Turkey, the United States, Senegal and Australia.
The magazine advised that a cartoon of Khamenei should be the “funniest and meanest” possible, noting that “Cartoonists and caricaturists have a duty to help support Iranians in their struggle as they fight for their freedom, by ridiculing this religious leader who represents the past and casting him into history’s garbage bin.”
“One cartoon shows Khamenei being punched with the slogan ‘Women, Life, Freedom,’ while another depicts a mullah being crushed under a heel. Among the very political drawings, the supreme leader is also depicted as Marilyn Monroe, whose dress is lifted by the wind of the headscarves that women have freed themselves from. In another, armed with stones, they pommel him,” Le Monde described some of the works.
Since the beginning of the current wave of protests in mid-September, Charlie Hebdo also published other cartoons of Khamenei, one of which prompted the Islamic Republic’s Foreign Ministry to summon the French chargé d’affaires in Tehran. In the cartoon, Khamenei is depicted with bloody hands and a turban and an outfit with the logo of the clothing manufacturing company Nike and its motto: Just Do It.
The landscape of Iranians’ protests against the regime has never been this openly full of insults and slogans against the country’s ruler. Chanting “Death to the Dictator” and “Death to Khamenei” was still a taboo until very recently even during the protests. But now, making fun of the authorities and even the dead ones – which is extremely frowned upon in Iranian society – has become a common way of protests.
In December, a famous Iranian actor lashed out at Khamenei saying at least try to be a “personable dictator”. He compared Khamenei with other dictators such as Francisco Franco, Mao Zedong, Joseph Stalin and Benito Mussolini, saying he is “mentally ill” just like his “colleagues”.
January 3 marks the death anniversary of the commander of IRGC’s Quds (Qods) Force — a division primarily responsible for extraterritorial military and clandestine operations. He was one of the most revered figures of the Islamic regime and was killed in a drone strike ordered by former President Donald Trump. His body was so mutilated in the explosion that many social media users described him as a “Cutlet” after his death, an Iranian dish resembling hamburgers mixed with potatoes. Despite extravagant ceremonies to honor his memory, Iranians are burning his banners and statues all over the country and even named January 3 as World Cutlet Day.