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Iranian cartoonists bite back at Trump's 'Arabian Gulf' comment

Marc Joudier
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An Iranian man looks at an illustration during the "Persian Gulf Forever" cartoon exhibition in Tehran on October 18, 2017

Even the fish were laughing at Donald Trump in the cartoon exhibition in Tehran where satirists gave a biting response to the US president, who infuriated Iranians by calling the Gulf "Arabian" rather than "Persian".

If there was one thing ordinary Iranians really hated in Trump's aggressive speech against their country last Friday, it was the reference to the "Arabian Gulf", which went against even the United States' usual name for the waterway.

It took just three days for the Hozeh Honari ("Cultural Centre") in Tehran to put on an exhibition of cartoons ripping into the US president under the title "Persian Gulf Forever".

One cartoon showed a baby Trump with an Arab offering him a lolly and teaching him to repeat the phrase "Arabian Gulf".

Another showed an Arab feeding big gold coins into a mechanical Trump as he delivered his speech -- a reference to the widespread belief in Iran that the US president has been bought by Saudi petrodollars.

"Iranians have a big sense of humour and they have shown it millions of times on social media in their reactions to this speech and the issue of the Persian Gulf," said organiser Massoud Shojai Tabatabai, who heads Iran's House of Cartoonists.

"We decided to quickly put something on. In two days, the artists had submitted their work and we have 55 pieces on display."

The Hozeh Honari, which is supported by the government, is also hosting an exhibition attacking the leaders of Myanmar for what they call the ongoing "genocide" against Rohingya Muslims.

Among the other artworks in the building in downtown Tehran are busts of famous Iranian artists and intellectuals, as well as a sculpture of a person destroying the star of David with an axe.

"Even in American films with Tom Cruise, they talk about the 'Persian Gulf'," said one admiring onlooker at the exhibition on Wednesday, Arghavan Tajalimanesh.

"When Mr Trump dares to call it the Arabian Gulf, it is the responsibility of all Iranians and artists to respond," she added.

Joined by telephone from her home in Isfahan, one of the cartoonists, Mahnaz Yazdani, didn't say if she was paid for her work.

"I just wanted to show Trump's ignorance... that he's paid by Saudi Arabia to say these things," the 37-year-old told AFP.

She would like the US president to see her drawings, but with Iranians already hit by Trump's travel ban, she said that would spell the end to any holidays in the United States -- "for me, my ancestors or any of my descendants," she added, laughing.