توفیق Tofigh Newspaper
Iran’s Premier Humor Publication for Nearly 50 Years
“Truth is bitter, so we say it sweetly”.
This was the motto of Tofigh, a weekly satirical publication in Iran, which, despite its popularity, faced repeated suppression throughout its long run. First published in 1922 as a literary periodical, it took the humorous route years later after incorporating cartoons into the content.
In 1939, founder Hossein Tofigh was arrested and jailed by the regime of Reza Shah for the views reflected in his paper. Shortly after his release, he passed away from an illness that he developed in prison. The newspaper pressed on, however, with his son, Mohammad Ali Tofigh, who replaced him as chief editor.
The abdication of Reza Shah in 1941 brought about significantly more freedom, allowing Tofigh to fully embrace the domain of political satire and social criticism. Still, during the next decade, Tofigh was suspended over ten times by the government and on several occasions, its editor was imprisoned.
During Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh’s premiership, Tofigh supported the Oil Nationalization Law and Mossadegh’s foreign policy, but at times was critical of some aspects of his government’s domestic agenda. Although the Shah did not go unspared, Tofigh remained reverential to the monarch overall.
This cautious approach was abandoned, however, at the time of the 28 Mordad (1953 coup), and the infuriated young Shah lashed out in response. The paper’s editor was exiled to Khark Island, and both his house and Tofigh’s office were attacked by pro-Shah mobs, ransacked and set ablaze.
Tofigh rose from the ashes once again in March 1958, but this time under the direction of Hassan, Abbas and Hossein Tofigh, the three nephews of the original founder. However, in 1971 it was permanently shut down by the Shah’s then Prime Minister, Amir-Abbas Hoveyda, whom they had regularly caricatured.
Throughout its half century of existence, Tofigh came closest to reflecting the hopes and aspirations of the people, particularly the lower and middle classes of society. Mossadegh, who thought very highly of it, was a subscriber during his final years in Ahmadabad. In the face of numerous obstacles, Tofigh zealously preserved its independence and earned the honor of being the most trusted paper in Iran.
The rivalry between Ayatollah Seyed Abolghasem Kashani, the powerful Muslim cleric, and Premier Mohammad Mossadegh was a recurring subject on their covers. On their January 15, 1953 cover (left), Mossadegh and Kashani bump heads before an array of onlookers. “Let it go, Asdollah!” [Kashani], reads the caption. Pictured in the crowd are former Mossadegh supporters who turned on him: Mozaffar Baghai, Abdol-Hassan Haerizadeh, Shams Ghanatabadi and Hossein Makki, in addition to Mossadegh loyalists like Ali Shayegan, Kazem Hassibi, and Abdollah Moazzami.
Referencing a popular song, Tofigh’s January 29th cover (right) depicts Mossadegh attempting to reconcile with Kashani, dancing and snapping to a tune the old mullah refuses to swing to.
Hassan Tofigh, who drew all these covers, often wrapped Mossadegh in a checkered blanket, apparently implying that he had perhaps just crawled out of bed.
Tofigh’s March 5, 1953 cover referenced the eventful day known as No’he Esfand (February 28, 1953). On that day, the Shah and Soraya were planning to travel abroad. The rumor spread that Mossadegh was causing the Shah to leave the country (although it was actually the Shah’s idea). That morning, Ayatollah Kashani summoned a large crowd to demonstrate in front of the palace in support of the Shah and to prevent him from leaving. Mob leader Shaban Jafari later said that Kashani had told him that “If the Shah goes, so goes our turbans”. Later that day, the angry mob demonstrated in front of Mossadegh’s residence, attacking the house violently. Luckily, Mossadegh managed to escape.
The cover illustration shows a tearful Ayatollah Kashani, conservative Islamic Majles deputy Shams Ghanatabadi and a retired anti-Mossadegh officer begging the Shah not to leave. Standing in the background is a peasant representing the nation, telling Kashani to let the Shah go!
Tofigh’s April 9, 1953 cover illustrated another common theme: the ongoing power struggle between Dr. Mossadegh and young Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.
Referencing an Iranian adage, it depicts the Shah as a cat hungry for power (represented by a heaping dish of food), as Mossadegh mockingly assumes the cat posture saying, “You start and I say meow!!”
As Ayatollah Kashani spies through a window, the nation, represented by the bearded peasant on the left, is pondering where this will all end...
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