A number of these journalists also took to Facebook to organize a vigil in honor of the victims. Participants planned to lay flowers and light candles outside of a building that housed the Association of Iranian Journalists before it was shut down by the Iranian regime following the 2009 protests against disputed presidential elections.
But the vigil was not allowed to go forward, having been met by security forces that blocked the entrance to the area and forced the crowd to disperse. Some journalists reportedly spent as much as an hour attempting to negotiate with those forces, to no avail. But authorities stood by the ban, effectively denying the populous and opportunity to publicly express disgust over Wednesday’s attacks, even though the regime had responded to the news with statements of condemnation.
As was previously noted by Iran News Update, the immediate response to the attacks by the Iranian Foreign Ministry briefly condemned them but then went on to cast equal or greater condemnation upon the victims for having published cartoons and articles that the Foreign Ministry described as “intellectual violence.”
Subsequent official statements coming out of Iran have been similarly weak and ambivalent. Agence-France Presse on Friday reported that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani had criticized acts of violent extremism for contributing to the growth of Islamophobia, but had not mentioned the Charlie Hebdo attacks by name.
Indeed, Iran’s state affiliated Tasnim News Agency covered Rouhani’s generic condemnation of violence and extremism by focusing on the Middle East region. It quoted him as saying, “We are delighted that the region’s Muslim people, from Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Palestine to Pakistan and Afghanistan, are resisting to extremism, violence and terrorism and gain new victories every day.”
This commentary was presumably meant to elicit the conflict between Iran and the Islamic State, and to paint the latter, alone, as an extremist group. But as the international press has made abundantly clear, Iran’s contribution to the fight against IS has focused in large part on funding and directing Shiite militias, many of which are demonstrably guilty of human rights violations of their own, as well as having Islamist ambitions not unlike those of their Sunni opponents.
Nevertheless, Iranian public statements about the Charlie Hebdo attack have also transparently attempted to use them to encourage shifts in Western policies in the Middle East, in order to put them more in line with Iranian goals, especially the preservation of the regime of Bashar al-Assad in war-torn Syria. Iran Focus quoted one conservative Iranian newspaper as saying of Wednesday’s terrorist incident that France is “tasting the bitter medicine of its support for terrorism,” referring to France’s support for the moderate rebel groups fighting the Assad regime.
This leads a blogger at Daily Kos to describe Iran’s condemnation of the Paris terrorist attack as part of a “ridiculous international propaganda agenda.” She also cites the banning of the intended vigil by Iranian journalists as proof that the regime has “no intention of upholding Freedom of Press in Iran, no intention of stopping their brutal public execution policy, no intention of renouncing and stopping their support for international terror, and no intention of allowing Iranians to publically honor those killed by Islamic Terror in France.”