We at ADAPP are deeply disappointed and saddened by CRNI’s decision to present the 2010 Award for Courage in Editorial Cartooning to Mana Neyestani’s 2006 cartoon that promotes hatred-propaganda and dehumanizes Azerbaijani-Turks in Iran.

ADAPP has consistently stated that “in Iran, it does not require much courage to insult and humiliate minorities! Millions of minorities in Iran are denied their basic rights and…depicted as inferior by the state-sponsored propaganda. The real act of courage would be demanding the government to provide basic language and cultural rights to the Iranian ethnic minorities...” This so-called “award of courage” comes at a time when Azerbaijanis in Iran are heavily engaged in an anti-racist struggle for restoration of its human rights and dignity.

“Cockroaches are not sexy,” remarked CRNI board member Nikahang Kowsar, who accepted the award for Neyestani. ADAPP agrees, but notes that such allowances have instigated atrocities world over. In February 2006, Hamshahri, an Iranian State-owned newspaper, announced the International Holocaust Cartoon Contest—making a mockery of a horrific episode in our human history. Months later, May 2006, another State-owned newspaper, Iran-Daily, published a cartoon depicting Azerbaijanis as cockroaches—same language used by Rwandan Genocidaires. Finally, in August 2006 the world witnessed a culmination of incendiary actions with the aforementioned Holocaust Contest. ADAPP wants the international community to understand that Neyestani’s “cockroaches” cartoon is an existing literature of racism and hatred serving to reinforce the victimization and marginalization of Azerbaijanis in Iran. It is in the same vein of activities pre-Holocaust and Rwandan genocides that led to millions of deaths. In response to the cartoon, hundreds of thousands of Azerbaijanis peacefully condemned Neyestani’s employer, Islamic Republic News Agency, in street demonstrations. Unfortunately, government response was violent, killing and wounding several, while arresting hundreds. In a weak attempt to quell the growing disapproval of said cartoon, they jailed Neyestani.

Acknowledging respect for freedom of speech, ADAPP questions if CRNI understands the gravity of honoring such a cartoon. ADAPP questions what CRNI—with its supporting organizations, Open Society and UNESCO—is honoring. Kowsar’s remarks are an attempt to downplay a grievous issue plaguing the Iranian society.

In awarding Neyestani this award, CRNI clearly contradicts its goal “that someone with a pen and a piece of paper can level the playing field for disenfranchised or bullied.” This award emboldens hate-literature users to marginalize vulnerable groups as “subhumans.”

Contact Information:
Association for the Defence of Azerbaijani Political Prisoners in Iran (ADAPP)
Fakhteh Zamani
Executive Director
Vancouver, Canada

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