France is facing fresh rage from Tehran after Charlie Hebdo published images depicting Iran's Supreme Leader in cartoons considered vulgar by Tehran.
Iranian officials are furious after the French satirical weekly magazine Charlie Hebdo published offensive caricatures of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Tehran announced on Thursday that it was shutting down a French research institute in the capital in protest of the publication of the cartoons.
"The ministry is ending the activities of the French Institute for Research in Iran as a first step," the Iranian foreign ministry said in a statement, a day after Tehran had warned Paris of consequences and summoned the French ambassador.
Charlie Hebdo is known in France for its low-brow humour and offensive cartoons, which have previously depicted dead child migrants, virus victims, neo-Nazis, popes, Jewish leaders and other public figures.
Seen as a beacon of free speech by fans and needlessly offensive and provocative by detractors, the magazine has courted controversy for years.
Charlie Hebdo has a long history of publishing cartoons mocking Islamists, which critics say are deeply insulting to Muslims. These cartoons have made it a target for several attacks over the years.
The deadliest of those attacks took place in January 2015, when two French-born al-Qaeda extremists opened fire on Charlie Hebdo’s Paris offices, killing 12 cartoonists and sparking a global outpouring of support.
“A show of support for Iranians”
Charlie Hebdo’s latest issue, a special edition marking 8 years since the 2015 attack, featured the winners of a cartoon contest asking readers to send in their most offensive caricatures of Khamenei, who has been at the head of Iran’s leadership since 1989.
Some of the cartoons depicted Khamenei and other Iranian clerics in vulgar sexual contexts, while others were explicitly violent, commenting on Iranian authorities’ brutal crackdown on protesters in recent months.
One of the finalists showed an Iranian cleric drowning in blood and reaching for a noose.
Charlie Hebdo’s director Laurent Sourisseau wrote in an editorial that the cartoons are “a way to show our support for Iranian men and women who risk their lives to defend their freedom against the theocracy that has oppressed them since 1979”.
Iran has been facing nationwide protests for nearly four months after the death in September of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman who was arrested by Iran’s “morality police” for allegedly violating the country’s strict Islamic dress code.
Protesters have called for Iran’s ruling clerics to step down, in one of the biggest challenges to the government since the 1979 Islamic Revolution brought them to power.
Iran promised an “effective and decisive response” to the Charlie Hebdo cartoons.
"France has no right to insult the sanctities of other Muslim countries and nations under the pretext of freedom of expression," foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani said.