NEW YORK – UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova recently sent a letter of complaint to Iranian government officials over their Holocaust cartoon contest scheduled for June, the UN organization confirmed to The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.
The 11th Tehran International Cartoon Biennial, which is sponsored by the municipal authorities in the Iranian capital, will focus on cartoons depicting the Holocaust.
The winner will receive a $50,000 cash prize. The event is expected to draw participants from 50 countries, according to Iran’s semi-official IRNA news agency.
Organizers told IRNA last month that the Cartoon Biennial does not mean to “approve or deny the Holocaust,” but simply to raise the topic.
The complaint from UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, was filed after Israel’s envoy to the organization, Carmel Shama-Hacohen, urged Bokova to condemn the contest.
A UNESCO representative told the Post that the Holocaust cartoon competition is “completely opposed to the spirit of UNESCO and to actual programs and publications that UNESCO has been putting out for decades.”
The representative pointed out that the concern about hate speech and racism has been on the organization’s agenda since its creation.
On the eve of the International Holocaust Remembrance Day, UNESCO also stressed that it recognizes, at the institutional level, the need to educate people about the genocide against the Jewish people, in order to prevent such crimes from being perpetrated again.
Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon also wrote to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon earlier this month demanding he condemn Iran’s cartoon competition.
“Holocaust denial is the most powerful expression of anti-Semitism which legitimizes the murder of six million Jews,” Danon wrote in his letter to Ban. The ambassador also stated that Iran is “evil incarnate.”
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is scheduled to address UNESCO’s staff on International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Wednesday.