(Wikipedia) - The cockroach cartoon controversy of Iran weekly magazine arose over a cartoon, published in the Iranian holiday-magazine of Iran-e-jomee (Iran Friday), drawn by the cartoonist Mana Neyestani, an ethnic Iranian Azeri. The cartoon, published in the children's section of the newspaper on May 12, 2006, allegedly insulted the Azerbaijani people by depicting a child speaking in Persian to a cockroach, which was replying in the Azerbaijani language, saying Namana meaning what?. However, Namana is also a slang word used in Persian. In other sections of the cartoon, the cockroach also speaks in Persian.
Contents of the article:
The article which the cartoons accompany is entitled "How to stop the cockroaches from making us into cockroaches?" It is a satirical article in a children's weekly newspaper. The text of the paragraph in image 1 is translated as follows:
-First method: dialogue:
Some people believe that one should not resort to violence as an initial step, because that will just take all the fun out of the process. So we must first try to come to the table like civilized people and have a dialogue with the cockroaches. But the problem is that a cockroach cannot understand human language. And cockroach grammar is so difficult--nobody has yet discovered which of their verbs end in "ing"--that 80% of the cockroaches themselves do not know it and prefer to speak in other languages. When even the cockroaches do not understand their own language, how could you possibly understand it?! This is precisely why negotiations hit a dead-end and the sweet methodology of violence becomes a necessity!
Following the publication of the piece, some Azeri people found it insulting. They objected to the depiction of the cockroach as speaking Azeri and the insinuation that the Azeri-speaking cockroach "cannot understand human language."
The controversy resulted in massive riots throughout Iran in May 2006, most notably in the predominantly Azerbaijani-populated cities of Tabriz, Urmia, Zanjan and Naghadeh and number of smaller towns. The riots were violent in some cases, with protesters damaging public buildings and throwing stones, prompting the reaction of the Iranian police. Amnesty International claims that "hundreds, if not thousands, were arrested and scores reportedly killed by the security forces," while the Iranian authorities say 330 people were arrested during the protests, and four demonstrators were killed.
The Iranian government promptly responded to the events by temporarily shutting down the Iran Newspaper, arresting the cartoonist and the editor-in-chief of the newspaper, Mehrdad Ghasemfar. It further accused "outside forces in playing the nationalistic card".
Possible foreign interference:
Emad Afrough, head of the Majlis Cultural Commission at the time, said that Pan-Turks were involved in creating the tensions. Other members of the Iranian government blamed it on the United States, Israel, and the United Kingdom, suspecting the incitement of ethnic strife in Iran. It was alleged that the United States is conducting covert operations in Iran and is allied with Iran's neighbor, the Republic of Azerbaijan.
Abbas Maleki, a senior research fellow at Harvard University and a former Iran's deputy foreign minister, stated:
I think that when President Bush says all options are on the table, the destabilization of Iran's ethnic provinces is one of them. Don't forget, Mr Mahmudali Chehregani, one of the Pan-Turk leaders agitating for a separatist Azeri agenda, was in Washington last year by invitation of the Defense Department.
Reuel Marc Gerecht, a former CIA operative, had stated in the early 1990s:
Accessible through Turkey and ex-Soviet Azerbaijan, eyed already by nationalists in Baku, more westward-looking than most Iran, and economically going nowhere, Iran's richest agricultural province was an ideal CIA theater.
According to Touraj Atabaki, well-known expert on Iranian Azeri peoples, there might be some truth behind the Iranian government's allegations of a foreign plot, yet the responsibility for the unrest lies first and foremost with the central government.
Cartoonist's apology and excuse:
Later, Mana Neyestani wrote a letter to the head of Tabriz cartoonists and explained that using the Azeri expressions like Namana and Sanana (That is none of your business) in ordinary Persian is very frequent and shows the influence of Azeri Turkic in Persian language and using such expressions did not mean any insult to Azeri people. He also said he has many Azeri friends and had no purpose and no reason to insult them.
The Iran Newspaper continued publications after a while.