Iranians protest outside French embassy after cartoons

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Dozens of Iranians gathered Sunday outside the French embassy in Tehran protesting against cartoons of the Islamic republic’s supreme leader by French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo.

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The magazine on Wednesday published caricatures of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in support of the months-long protests in Iran, sparked by the death in custody of Mahsa Amini, following her arrest for allegedly violating the country’s strict dress code.

Iran has warned France over the “insulting and indecent” cartoons, which appeared in a special edition to mark the anniversary of the deadly 2015 attack on the magazine’s Paris offices.

Dozens of protesters, most of them religious seminary students, gathered in front of the embassy in the center of the capital Tehran and set fire to French flags, AFP journalists reported.

“France, be ashamed!”, the crowd chanted.

Waving Iranian flags, they held pictures of Khamenei and signs reading “I will sacrifice my life for the leader”, and “Shame on Charlie Hebdo”.

“I came to support my revolution, my leader”, 17-year-old seminary student Karim Heydarpour said.

Similar protests were held in Iran’s holy city of Qom, 128 kilometers (80 miles) south of Tehran, the state broadcaster reported.

Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani on Sunday said that freedom of speech should not be used as a pretext for “insulting” religion.

France “has no right to justify insulting the sanctities of other countries and nations and followers of divine religions under the pretext of freedom of speech”, he said on Twitter.

Paris should observe the “fundamental principles of international relations -- namely mutual respect (and) non-interference in the internal affairs of others”, he said.

On Thursday, Iran said it was closing the Tehran-based French Institute for Research in Iran “as a first step” in response to the cartoons, after summoning Paris ambassador to protest the publication.

Located in the center of Tehran, IFRI had been closed for many years, but was reopened under the 2013-2021 presidency of the moderate president Hassan Rouhani as a sign of warming bilateral relations.

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