Now is the time for all good cartoonists to come to the visual aid of their fellow colleague in a moment of need.
The news has rippled worldwide this week of the vicious beating of popular Syrian political cartoonist and human-rights activist Ali Ferzat.
On Thursday, the United States assailed the “targeted brutal attack” as part of a larger condemnation of ruler Bashar al-Assad’s violence against those who dare speak out against his government. The State Department’s statement said: “The regime’s thugs focused their attention on Ferzat’s hands, beating them furiously and breaking one of them – a clear message that he should stop drawing.”
The world’s political cartoonists have rendered many a Gaddafi and Assad criticism in recent weeks, but an attack on a single, peaceful cartoonist such as this demands a direct criticism of the unconscionable targeted abduction and beating of Ferzat.
The attack, American political cartoonist Matt Bors tells Comic Riffs, is “a reminder that picking up a pen to draw cartoons is still dangerous in many parts of the world.”
“Hopefully,” continues Bors, who helps run the comics-journalism website Cartoon Movement, “Syrians can succeed in overthrowing their government and replace it with a non-hand-breaking one.”
Update: The American Association of Editorial Cartoonists tells Comic Riffs on Friday evening that it is now officially condemning the attack, and that it urges individuals and governments to do the same.
“As cartoonists, we are outraged at the pointed brutality of the attack on Mr. Ferzat. ... “ the group says in a statement. “Breaking the hands of a cartoonist is more than an attack on one brave individual, it’s an attack on the right of a people to express themselves. It’s an act of a desperate regime foolishly thinking that its violence and efforts to intimidate will keep a cartoonist from criticizing the regime’s repressive behavior.
“Instead, it only sets hundreds of hands to drawing the clear conclusion that those behind the brutal repression have lost all legitimacy.”
Cartoonists Rights Network International also condemned the attack ”in the strongest possible terms.”
Assad had previously allowed Ferzat’s satirical salvos, but the repressive ruler has reportedly attacked opponents amid calls for him to resign, as well as the United States saying he has lost “legitimacy” as a leader. (Fermat’s cartoons are viewable not only on his website, but also on his Facebook page.)
As recently as last year, political cartoonists condemned the “death threats” against “South Park” creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker over their satire involving Muhammad. And historically, cartoonists’ groups have criticized violence against their colleagues.
Now is the time to be vocal in the best, most skilled way that cartoonists know how.
Egyptian cartoonist Sherif Arafa has posted this cartoon.
And then there’s the anonymous faux-”self-portrait” of Ferzat making the rounds, in which the cartoonist, from his hospital bed, offers a single-finger salute to his attackers.
You can see more of Ferzat’s cartoons — with descriptions — in this video:
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