ATbar Cartoons, Dissent, and Human Rights in Iran
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Cartoons, Dissent, and Human Rights in Iran

20/01/2015 | by Tanter, Raymond (Prof.)  

Former Director of U.S. Central Intelligence R. James Woolsey in the Jerusalem Post in September 2003 states that between three and four Millennia ago something happened in the Sinai among a tribe of Jewish refugees from Egyptian oppression that helped to introduce the world to the concept of the rule of law—the idea that the law is not the impulse of but rather has its source above those who govern. Rule of law reinforces other values like free speech, press, religion, and assembly as core elements of a democratic society.

First published in Foreign Policy

Cruel anti-Semitic attacks are “never solely about Jews,” Ruth Wisse wrote in the Wall Street Journal last week. Jews are the most vulnerable targets at hand to destroy the narrative of democracy that despots disdain—free speech, press, and religion. Such images are particular irritants to Islamists because they are threatened by freedom. And as noted student of Islam, Daniel Pipes argued in the National Review, “Images, not words, most disturb Islamists.”

Now controversy abounds worldwide and in America about whether to support free speech of the cartoonists of the weekly magazine Charlie Hebdo, which was attacked by gunmen earlier this month. Their rights should be supported because the satirical drawings reflect freedom from oppression: Gérard Biard, chief editor of Charlie Hebdotold Meet the Press that cartoon parodies of religious figures safeguard freedom of religion, because they “declare that God must not be a political or public figure, but instead must be a private one.”

Despite protests and debate, many quietly laugh at despotic rulers of the directly affected areas, making despots’ lack of legitimacy apparent and erode their assumed right to rule. Cartoons and comedy are frowned upon by al Qaeda’s Ayman al-Zawahiri and his affiliate in Yemen, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) leader Nasser al Wuhayshi; the Islamic State’s Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, self-proclaimed “Caliph” of a new caliphate on Iraqi and Syrian territory; and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, “Supreme Leader” of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The latter prevails as if he had a right to rule from God and increasingly enforces his diktats by a brutal morality police force, said Shirin Ebadi, an Iranian who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003 and was punished by the regime for her defense of human rights in Iran.

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