Iranians protest outside France embassy in Tehran after Khamenei cartoons
Dozens of Iranians gathered on Sunday outside the French embassy in Tehran protesting against cartoons of the Islamic Republic's supreme leader by French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo.
The magazine on Wednesday published caricatures of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in support of the protests in Iran, sparked by the 16 September death in custody of Mahsa Amini, following her arrest for allegedly violating the country's strict dress code.
Iran has warned France over the "insulting and indecent" cartoons, which appeared in a special edition to mark the anniversary of the deadly 2015 attack on the magazine's Paris offices.
Dozens of demonstrators, most of them religious seminary students, gathered in front of the embassy in the centre of the capital Tehran and set fire to French flags, AFP journalists reported.
"France, be ashamed!", the crowd chanted.
Waving Iranian flags, they held pictures of Khamenei and signs reading, "I will sacrifice my life for the leader", and "Shame on Charlie Hebdo".
"I came to support my revolution, my leader", 17-year-old seminary student Karim Heydarpour said.
Similar pro-government rallies were held in Iran's holy city of Qom, 80 miles (130 kilometres) south of Tehran, the state broadcaster reported.
Iranian authorities brand the months-long protests in the country as "riots" and accuse foreign countries and opposition groups of stoking the unrest.
On Sunday evening, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi condemned the publication of the cartoons, state news agency IRNA reported.
"Resorting to insult and offence under the pretext of freedom is a clear evidence of the absurdity of the logic of those who insult, and their disappointment at the non-fruition of the conspiracy of chaos and insecurity in the country," Raisi said.
Earlier in the day, Iran's foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani said freedom of speech should not be used as a pretext for "insulting" religion.
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France "has no right to justify insulting the sanctities of other countries and nations and followers of divine religions under the pretext of freedom of speech", he said on Twitter.
Paris should observe the "fundamental principles of international relations – namely mutual respect [and] non-interference in the internal affairs of others", he said.
On Thursday, Iran said it was closing the Tehran-based French Institute for Research in Iran (IFRI) "as a first step" in response to the cartoons, after summoning Paris's ambassador to protest the publication.
Located in the centre of Tehran, IFRI had been closed for many years, but was reopened under the 2013–2021 presidency of the moderate president Hassan Rouhani as a sign of warming bilateral relations.