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Cardboard Khomeini is a photoshop meme based on an Iranian state ceremony which sought to recreate Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's 1979 return to Tehran using a cardboard effigy bearing the likeness of the Iranian leader.
On February 1st, 2012, Iran's Army of the Islamic Republic celebrated the 33rd anniversary of its highest-rank cleric and former leader Ayatollah Khomeini's return from exile following the Iranian Revolution in 1979. As part of the ceremony, an oversized cardboard cutout of Khomeini was carried down the stairs of an aircraft and greeted by military salutes and a marching band at Tehran Airport. In addition, the same cardboard figure was prominently seated in other ceremonies throughout the day and photographs of the events were subsequently published by the country's semi-official Mehr news agency.
While Khomeini's cardboard effigy was meant to commemorate the historic significance of his return, the news photographs were immediately mocked by the detractors and critics overseas as a kitsch display of totalitarianism.
On Twitter, various Iranian bloggers overseas were quick to ridicule the "cardboard" ceremony, including the English-language blog Pedestrian:
On the same day, an anonymous Iranian blogger launched the single topic blog Cardboard Khomeini via BlogSpot and a Facebook page to curate the slew of photoshopped images that were uploaded throughout the day. The photoshopped images featuring Khomeini's effigy follow the popular "omnipresent" style inspired by the 1994 drama film Forest Gump, placing the cardboard cutout into a range of historical settings and iconic locations such as the Beatles “Abbey Road” album cover, the 1969 Moon Landing and Ronald Reagan’s 1980 inauguration.
Shortly after the arrival of Khomeini's effigy at the airport, another identical cardboard cutout appeared in southern Tehran to visit Ayatollah Khomeini's former base of operations. Joined by state officials including the education minister, the awkward tea drinking ceremony was also observed by the same news agency.
The photographs published from the event instantly became a target of another photoshop meme that involves filling in cartoon bubbles with imagined conversations between the officials and the cardboard Khomeini.
News Media Coverage
Both the state ceremony and the online parody phenomenon were reported by a number of international news agencies including Radio Free Europe Liberty, CNN, New York Post and International Business Times.
Meanwhile, the Iranian state media and politicians assailed the cardboard ceremony as "distasteful," "damaging," and "regretful," according to reports by Lenz Iran and New York Times Lede blog. PBS's Tehran Bureau blogger Jasmin Ramsey also chimed in with concerns that mocking reaction the images could discredit the sacrifices of other Iranians during the 1979 revolution.
By laughing at these photos, am I disrespecting the sacrifices of people like my parents who risked everything for their dream of self-determination and sovereignty? By asking that question, am I ignoring the suffering of Iranians who are forced to live with a government they don’t want?
 Radio Free Europe Liberty – Iran's 'Cardboard Khomeini' Faces Criticism, Condemnation
 International Business Times – Cardboard Ayatollah / Cutouts of Khomeini's 'Return' from Exile Mocked Online
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