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Less than a year after Danish cartoonists ignited protests across the Muslim world with their depictions of Muhammad, another group from that country has risked offending Iran’s president by calling him a “swine” in a hidden message included an advertisement that got past censors and editors at the Tehran Times.
Surrend, a Danish art group that targets world leaders, successfully submitted an advertisement to the newspaper that, at first glance, expressed support for President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The half-page ad, submitted under the name of “Danes for World Peace,” features a picture of Ahmadinejad and a series of statements sympathetic to his regime: “Support his fight against Bush,” “Iran has the right to produce nuclear energy,” and “Evil U.S. military stay home.” Surrend’s members told the editors they wanted to express their solidarity with Iran and make amends for the publication of cartoons of Muhammad published in their own country, reported the German daily, Der Spiegel.
But what the advertising editors at Tehran Times missed was that the first letter of each phrase formed an acrostic that, top to bottom, spelled “S-W-I-N-E.”
On it’s website, Surrend describes itself as a “street-art group” that was started in the winter of 2006 “during the funeral of Serbian war criminal Slobodan Milosevic.”
“The idea behind Surrend is to make fun of the world’s powerful men,” the group proclaims, through the use of “stickers, ads and posters with ironic texts as its expression medium.”
Despite listing only two members – Jan Egesborg and Pia Bertelsen – Surrend plans projects that will require “20 different travels,” having already targeted authoritarian leaders with their pranks in Serbia, Belarus, Turkey, Poland, Sri Lanka, Faroe Islands and, now, Iran.
Ahmadinejad was selected, they said, “because we don’t think he’s very liberal or sensitive.”
“We think he represents an extreme ideology,” Egesborg, who teaches at the Danish School of Fine Art, told Reuters. “We did it to cause a reaction. There is a young population there which wants more liberalization. Hopefully they will be inspired.”
Ahmadinejad’s hold on power was weakened in this month’s local elections when his allies were defeated by both moderate conservatives and reformists. In Tehran, where Ahmadinejad held the position of mayor before becoming president, his supporters won only three of 15 council positions. Nationwide, pro-Ahmadinejad forces took just 20 percent of local council seats. In many cities, no candidates he supported won.