Ali Ferzat, cartoonist, beaten and hands broken for drawing cartoons
“This is just a warning…We will break your hands so that you’ll stop drawing,” the masked man said.
This is what happens in Syria when you draw cartoons that disagree with or ridicule President Bashar al-Assad. Government security forces kidnap you, beat you nearly to death and mangle your hands to prevent you from drawing again.
On Thursday, 60 year old Ali Ferzat, considered to be the Arab world’s greatest political cartoonist, was left for dead on the side of the road after Syrian police abducted and maimed him to “teach him a lesson” about drawing cartoons that criticize the government.
As a fellow human being and vehement advocate of free speech this really raises my ire. As a cartoonist, this incident has a special sting. Generally speaking, cartooning is dismissed as stupid doodles for children or “silly” pictures whose only purpose is a cheap laugh. Ferzat’s severe beating by Syrian security forces underscores the real impact and importance of cartooning and how these so-called silly pictures can drive a point home like no other medium on earth. One drawing, like Ferzat’s recent cartoon of Assad, can be life threatening.
Fellow cartoonists and comic artists, I propose we all draw and publish Bashar al-Assad cartoons in support of Ali Ferzat and to show Syria’s leaders that beating Ferzat, attempting to cripple him and destroy his livelihood won’t stop Assad’s bad press but will in fact make it exponentially worse. That attempting to silence artists and journalists through violence and intimidation will only damage the government’s already bleak reputation and will solve nothing.
There is a Facebook page (in Arabic) collecting voices of support for Ali Ferzat if you are so inclined.
As of this writing, Ferzat’s web site is disabled with a message that translates to: “Sorry site is closed due to the huge number of hits on the site working on the problem and we will come back as soon as possible” Maybe that’s true – that it is overwhelmed with traffic – and maybe it isn’t. Time will tell, I’m sure.
Update: Ferzat’s web site is back up.
Udpate 2: The Comics Reporter has a very thorough roundup of the news and developments surrounding Ferzat’s attack.
Update 3: Ferzat (allegedly) drew this in response to the incident: