Can this be the same country that hosted a competition for cartoons that questioned the Holocaust?
Well, yes, it can.
And believe it or not, it is possible to criticize ISIS -- the barbaric group also known as ISIL and the Islamic State that is aiming to create a caliphate in the Middle East -- without actually making sense. Some of the cartoons submitted as part of the contest, for example, depict ISIS as a puppet whose strings are pulled by none other than the United States and Israel.
The contest called for cartoons showing "crimes committed by the Islamic State." The winners will be selected on Sunday.
Cartoons submitted from around the world
More than 1,000 drawings from around the world were submitted from places as far-flung as Italy, the UK, Peru and Australia, according to Press TV, an Iranian channel. And 270 were chosen for the competition.
"ISIL tries to associate itself with Islam but in essence has no idea about Islam," Massoud Shojael Tabataii, a graphic artist who is a member of the jury, told Press TV.
Some of the cartoons submitted show ISIS destroying historical artifacts, as the group has done in places like Mosul, in northern Iraq. Others depict the group's attack on a pencil, the tool of cartoonists, as futile. And one drawing showed members of ISIS leaving their hearts and brains at the door.
Exhibition may go to Iraq, Syria
So, how to make sense of a country that calls itself "The Islamic Republic" holding a competition to see who can heap the most ridicule on a group that calls itself "the Islamic State"?
For one thing, Iran is predominately Shiite and ISIS is aggressively Sunni, so the two lie on opposite sides of the theological fault line that divides the Middle East.
And anyone who depicts ISIS as the tool of the United States and Israelis is OK by the Iranians.
Organizers said the exhibition may be taken to Iraq and Syria, two countries where ISIS has seized control of significant amounts of territory.
While many cartoonists were pleased to participate, some of them were apparently a little spooked, as well, and traveled under false names.
Also, if they have cartoons on other topics, the cartoonists might have been well advised to leave them at home. Iran is listed by the Committee to Protect Journalists as one of the 10 most censored countries
and one of the 10 biggest jailers of journalists