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Iran cartoonists depict queen as ‘pirate’ after British ship seizure

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An exhibition of cartoons has opened in Tehran portraying Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II as a pirate, seen wielding a cutlass and sporting the skull-and-crossbones, after the seizure of an Iranian oil tanker. Historically strained ties between Tehran and London have worsened since British Royal Marines took part in the seizure of Iran’s “Grace 1” oil tanker off the British overseas territory of Gibraltar on 4 July.

That was followed by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps seizing a British-flagged tanker in the Strait of Hormuz on 19 July in what London called a “tit-for-tat” move.

Forty cartoons have now gone on display in the “Pirates of the Queen” exhibition at the Osveh Art and Cultural Centre in Tehran to throw the spotlight on the seizure of “Grace 1,” which was denounced by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as “piracy” by the “vicious British.”

One cartoon shows the queen dressed as a burglar in a black beanie and mask about to be caught in a net while towing away a tanker marked “Iran.” Another has the queen in a pirate costume; including a hat with skull and crossbones, a parrot on her shoulder, hooks for hands and wooden peg legs.

Visitors to the exhibition said they were impressed by the artwork.

“It empowers me” to see these cartoons show “that Britain with all its bluster regarding its military power, can be put in its place and stopped,” said a public sector worker who only gave his name as Rezayi.

“Some of the works were great,” said businessman Hassan Shayi, whose company has links to the government. “I feel proud that with the situation our country is in it is still standing up to global powers. As the leader said, the days of hit-and-run are over. It’s a slap for a slap and fist against fist. When Iran seized the British tanker, I was filled with pride. I was so happy I cannot begin to describe it. It shows Iran’s power, that they can no longer do whatever they like,” Shayi told AFP.

Some of the cartoons take aim at Britain for carrying out the seizure at the request of its ally and Iran’s arch-enemy the United States, as suggested by Spain’s foreign minister. One shows US President Donald Trump patting the head of a fox in an outfit bearing the Union Jack and with the Grace 1 between its teeth. Another has the queen in an inflatable turtle float marked “Royal Navy” which is losing air.

“Our primary purpose of setting up this exhibition was a kind of a reaction to this blatant maritime piracy which was completely illegal,” said curator Masoud Shojaei-Tabatabayi.

The roots of mutual distrust between Tehran and London date back to the 1800s when Iran was trapped in the colonial rivalry between Russia and Britain. Britain never colonised Iran, but it occupied the south of the country in 1942 after ousting Reza Shah Pahlavi. It also backed a CIA-organised coup in 1953 against nationalist Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh after he nationalised the Anglo-Iranian oil company, the forerunner to British Petroleum.

Diplomatic ties between the two countries were severed by London in 2011 after students stormed its Tehran embassy. They were restored in 2014.

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