Iraqi Paper Bombed, Staff Threatened Over Picture of Supreme Leader

By Patrick Goodenough | February 11, 2014 | 4:25 AM EST

Iraqi Shi’ites protest in Baghdad against the publication by an Iraqi newspaper of a picture of Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. (Photo: Fars news agency)

( – On the eve of Tuesday’s 35th anniversary of Iran’s Islamic revolution, the Baghdad offices of an Iraq newspaper were hit by roadside bombs after the paper published a picture of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, which some of his supporters found offensive.

Earlier, hundreds of people protested in a Baghdad square against what they said was an insulting depiction of Khamenei, published in the Al-Sabah Al-Jadid (“New Morning”) newspaper last Thursday as part of a supplement marking the revolution's anniversary.

Iran’s Fars news agency reported that the protesters included Adnan Al-Shahmani, a lawmaker in Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Shi’ite State of Law Coalition, who demanded that the newspaper apologize and that a journalists’ union prevent misuse of the press to “disrespect” Islamic leaders.

Iraqi media reports said some protesters demanded that the paper be shut down.

Iraq’s Shafaq News reported that roadside bombs exploded at the entrance to the Al-Sabah Al-Jadid offices, causing damage to the building. Troops and police secured the area.

The newspaper’s editor, Ismail Zayer, published a front-page apology in the Monday edition, saying the paper had no intention to offend anyone. It had held “intensive contacts” with the Iranian embassy and removed the picture from the site so it would not be misused in any way to “hurt the prestige of Mr. Leader Khamenei.”

In a separate report, the paper said it had been targeted in a campaign of “incitement” by “some extremist religious groups, with inflammatory statements posted on social networking sites, calls for demonstration and encouragement of “acts of blatant aggression against the newspaper and its staff.”

February 11, Bahman 22 in the Persian calendar, marks the anniversary of the 1979 revolution, which saw the Western-backed Shah ousted by fundamentalist supporters of the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomenei, Khamenei’s predecessor.

Political and religious figures have called for a massive turnout at rallies planned across the country “to reaffirm their allegiance to the ideals of the Islamic Revolution and the late Imam Khomeini,” the Mehr news agency reported.

Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow