January 21, 2015 MEMRI Daily Brief No. 5941

'Death To Charlie' Protest In Tehran, Encouraged By Regime

January 21, 2015
Iran | MEMRI Daily Brief No. 5941

On January 21, 2015, the Iranian daily Ebtekar reported that two days previously, Iranian President Hassan Rohani's chief of staff, Mohammad Nahovandian, had said about the attack on the office of the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo: "Those who insult the sacred figures of the religions aid violence and terror. Exploiting freedom of speech to insult and incite is an insult to freedom [of speech] and constitutes participation in [the] murder. In order to stop the violence, we must end the incitement."

Also on January 19, 2015, a rally encouraged by the regime was held outside the French Embassy in Tehran to protest against Charlie Hebdo's insult to the Prophet Muhammad. The main speakers at the event included regime officials from the ideological stream, including Majlis member Ahmad Tavakkoli, preacher Ahmad Panahian (brother of Ali-Reza Panahian, an official in the office of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei), and Basij officials.

Protestors at the event demanded that the Iranian government expel the French ambassador and not let him return until the French government officially apologizes for insulting the Prophet. They chanted "Death to France," "Death to Charlie," and "Expel the Ambassador," and also criticized Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif for going to Paris while "France defends the insult to the Prophet"[1] (see MEMRI TV clip Iranians Protest the Charlie Hebdo Cartoons: "Kick Out the French Ambassador", January 19, 2015).

On January 20, 2015, the daily Vatan-e Emrooz, which is associated with ultra-conservative elements in the regime, devoted its front page and editorial to the protest. The main headline read "Death to Charlie" (see image below).[2]

Front page of Vatan-e Emrooz with the headline "Death to Charlie" (Source: Vatan-e Emrooz, Iran, January 20, 2015)

One speaker at the protest, preacher Ahmad Panahian, who is the brother of an official in the office of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, said: "We all know that France, Britain, and other miserable countries have a hand in the black fitna [i.e. the unrest in Iran following the 2009 presidential elections] and in this horrible and despicable game [against the Iranian regime]. We have not and will not forget [France's] crimes from the [1980-1988] Iran-Iraq War – providing fighter jets to Iraq, accepting terrorist anti-revolutionary forces [into its territory], and [the last prime minister of the Shah's era, Shapour] Bakhtiar the traitor. We will not forget the blood of the martyrs killed by your missiles. The Koran teaches us that if the blood of an innocent is spilled, we must all avenge his death... and we will not forget [France's crimes] until we have our revenge.

"When we cry out, we want our cries to reach your bosses, America and Israel, and it will reach them. America – until we witness your death, we will not stop fighting [you] for an instant. We know why you target the Prophet with your hatred... He is a merciful prophet, but not for European and the Zionist governments..."

Ahmad Panahian speaking at the protest (Source:, January 19, 2015)

Majlis member Ahmad Tavakkoli also spoke at the protest, saying: "The foreign minister must not go to Paris while France protects the insult to the Prophet. Extremism – whether in France or in the Middle East – is a Western creation."[3]

Majlis member Ahmad Tavakkoli speaking at the protest (Source:, January 19, 2015)


Poster on regime website calling on the public to attend the protest against Charlie Hebdo and France (Source:, January 19, 2015)




[1] Vatan-e Emrooz (Iran), January 20, 2015.

[2] It should be mentioned that the regime closed down another daily, Mardom-e Emrooz, which is associated with the pragmatic camp, after it featured on its front page a photo of George Clooney declaring "Je Suis Charlie."

[3] Vatan-e Emrooz (Iran), January 20, 2015.

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