By Golnaz Esfandiari, RFE/RL
A cartoon by an Iranian illustrator that portrays stereotyped Jews worshipping the New York Stock Exchange has won first prize in the inaugural "International Wall Street Downfall Cartoon Festival."
A prizewinning cartoon by Mahmod Mohammad Tabrizi equates Wall Street with Jerusalem's Western Wall.
The festival was co-sponsored by Iran's semiofficial Fars news agency in an attempt to show solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement and "help people in the United States take their message out to the world."
Entries from around the world -- including Iran, the United States, Russia, China, Serbia, Kazakhstan, and Turkey -- were put on display in Tehran and can beviewed on a Fars webpage dedicated to the event.
At least one, the winning entry by Mahmod Mohammad Tabrizi, was anti-Semitic in nature. It depicts Wall Street, the hub of the U.S. financial world, as Jerusalem's Western Wall, one of the holiest sites of Judaism.
Second prize went to a Ukrainian cartoonist, Oleksiy Kustovsky, whose entry shows the image of a man being struck by falling rocks as two men try to scale bags of American money.
Third prize went to another Iranian artist, Farhad Gharamal, whose cartoon pictures dozens of penniless men with water dripping out of their empty pockets, forming a sea in which Wall Street is drowning.
Judges choosing from a total pool of nearly 1,600 cartoons selected 99 finalists, from which a seven-person panel -- that included four judges from Iran and one each from Poland, Romania, and Turkey -- chose the top 10.
Tehran has cited the Occupy Wall Street protest movement, which hit its peak last autumn, in its war of words with the United States and the West in general.
Police action against protesters gave Iranian officials an opportunity to hit back at U.S. criticism of Iran for human-rights abuses, including the use of force against antigovernment protesters.
Comparison With Arab Uprisings
Hard-liners have compared the movement to the Arab uprisings and said it would ultimately topple capitalism in the United States. And Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in an October speech that, "Ultimately, it will grow so that it will bring down the capitalist system and the West."
Speaking at the closing ceremony of the festival on July 9, Iranian lawmaker and senior Khamenei adviser Gholam Ali Haddad Adel said the Occupy Wall Street movement reveals "the untruthful nature of Washington's propaganda" about freedom, democracy, and human rights.
He said the Occupy Wall Street movement was commendable and shouldn't be stopped.
Haddad Adel also blasted Western media for their coverage of the 2009 mass antigovernment protests in Iran.
"The U.S.-led Western media released untruthful reports about the lack of democracy in Iran, street clashes, violence, and arrests every 15 minutes during the 2009 sedition," he said. "This is what they always do with any country which is not in harmony with them."
He also claimed that Western media were initially reluctant to cover the Occupy Wall Street protests. Only when they were too large to ignore, he said, did they provide limited coverage of the events.
Haddad Adel said that the cartoon festival will immortalize the protests. "As the supreme leader has put it: 'Realities live forever when they are presented in the form of art," Haddad Adel said.
Iranian state media, which ignored the 2009 street protests against the disputed reelection of President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, covered the Occupy Wall Street protests extensively.
State media have not covered the numerous artworks created by artists both inside and outside Iran about the Green opposition movement and the state's crackdown on the protests it led in 2009.
Iran held a cartoon contest on the Holocaust in 2006 in which the first prize was awarded to a Moroccan artist for his illustration depicting Israel's security wall with a picture of the Auschwitz concentration camp on it. The newspaper that co-sponsored the contest said it was testing the West's tolerance.
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