Two similar cartoon images, alike feelings, same reaction, and yet different construes

Navab Karimi

University of Kentucky

On the anniversary of South Azerbaijani Turks’ uprising against persian racism and apartheid.

The 22nd of May is of paramount importance in contemporary history of South Azerbaijani Turks’ national awakening movement in iran. Thirteen years ago during that day the Turks (Mostly Azerbaijanis) protested against a caricature that was published in “iran” gubernatorial newspaper. In this insulting article and its cartoon, a cockroach speaks in Azerbaijani Turkish language and subconsciously the author humiliates all Turks living in iran.

The article had recommended how to deal with these cockroaches (implicitly the Turks) and to banish them from iran. The prime reason for such shameless assertion is that the persian (or Fars) ethnicity and minority have an unlimited egotistic and narcissistic manner (emanated from their delusion and chimera of having a very brilliant history in a very distant time) so that they assume that they are indigenous natives of iran (!) and iran belongs only to them and the other nations, specifically Turks are solely the guests who occupied their land. How paradoxical is that, to be very conceited and proud of your ancient “amazing” history and yet your land had always been occupied by so many foreign invaders such as Turks, Mongols, Greeks, and Arabs!

Accordingly, in a following week after publishing that paper, on 22 May a minimally organized but widely spread protestation took place through the all Turks settled regions from Azerbaijani to other Turkish spoken provinces. The peaceful demonstration was oppressed by the persian forces. More than 100 people were killed and hundreds of people were injured and imprisoned. Obviously, this demonstration was not just a reaction to that offending cartoon, which would be an exceedingly simplified reaction and interpretation, it was indeed a very righteous and virtuous reaction to more than 90 years of systematic discrimination against Turks in iran and their economic, political, and cultural dissatisfactions against persian ethnocentricity and dominance. The government and persian elites said that this is merely a childish cartoon and the protestors are driven by the foreign countries [1]. Fair enough! Good job!

Almost one year after this cartoon’s publication date, in 4 September 2007 a very well-known American cartoonist Michael Patrick Ramirez (, published a cartoon in the Columbus Dispatch illustrating iran as a sewer (with the label word of “extremism”), with abhorrent cockroaches are coming out from and disseminating over Iraq, Afghanistan, and other countries of the Middle East [2]. Once the cartoon was published, iranians (specifically persian minority group) outraged and opposed against this offending cartoon due to having experienced a very disgusting humiliation feeling. They even compared this with the cultural properties and literature of both Jews in pre-Holocaust Germany and Rwandan Tutsis before the 1994 genocide [3]. This negative feeling is exactly similar to the feeling that is intentionally and systematically being foisted upon Turks in iran in order to make them to be assimilated to persian authoritative legitimizing identity.

Specifically nowadays, the people all around the world know and concede that who the real cockroaches are spreading in the region especially in Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Bahrain, Iraq, and other countries.

The national awakening movement is a perpetual on-going national struggle among the Turks whose population is more than 40 percent [4] in iran. Their volition of shaping their own destiny is being objected by the controlling authorities, however, as the history and social science indicate, they will eventually find their own path and will create a propitious and auspicious future.

[1]. Safizadeh, F. (2013). The Dynamics of Ethnic Identity in Iranian Azerbaijan. Journal of Pedagogy, Pluralism, and Practice: 5 (1), pp. 55-68.

[2]. Steuter E, ‎ Wills, D. (2009). At War with Metaphor: Media, Propaganda, and Racism in the War on Terror. Lexington Books. Estover Road, Plymouth PL6 7PY, United Kingdom.

[3]. Memarian, O. (2007). Cockroach Cartoon Crossed the Line, Iranians Say.…/media-us-cockroach-cartoon-crosse…/


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