The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

#Draw4Atena: See how artists support Iranian woman sentenced to 12 years for cartoon


IF ATENA FARGHADANI can convert flattened cups into a makeshift canvas while in prison, about the least that fellow illustrators can do is to offer our own canvasses to protest the absurd injustice that’s kept her in prison in the first place.

That’s why, earlier this week, Comic Riffs launched the #Draw4Atena campaign. It’s not just an act of support; it is also the art of support. Because Atena has just days to appeal her 12-year-plus sentence for lampooning Iranian leadership in cartoon form, and then speaking out about her mistreatment behind the bars of Tehran. And so now is especially the time to be heard, and seen.

[Iranian artist Atena Farghadani, who drew parliament as animals, sentenced to 12-plus years]

Naturally, at least a few cartoonists drew Atena even before Comic Riffs kicked off this campaign. Others have taken up pen and brush in direct response to our Open Call to (Artful) Arms. And some, like “Zen Pencils” creator Gavin AT, were willing to add #Draw4Atena to comics they were working on.

“After reading Atena’s story, I was disgusted and appalled as anyone would be,” the “Zen” artist tells The Post’s Comic Riffs. “At first, I didn’t think to draw a cartoon about it, but after reading her speech and the quote that I eventually used, it really made me want to do something.

“My whole website is, ‘Cartoon quotes from inspirational folks’, and you can’t get more inspirational than Atena.”

And so in Gav AT’s visual response, we see Atena taken away last August by members of the Revolutionary Guard, shortly after she posted on Facebook her illustration of members of parliament as monkeys and cows (mindlessly voting to curb birth control); we then see her jailed at Evin Prison, making art from the materials at hand, as creativity blooms even in captivity, the cell no match for the sense of self.

“I believe that if someone chooses art as their subject,” the comic says, directly quoting Atena, “but do not criticise the issues of their society, they have betrayed themselves, their conscience, and their society.”

Here is an ongoing roundup of cartoons — in support of Atena amid the #Draw4Atena campaign — that criticize the farcically unjust issue at hand:

Two panels from “ZEN PENCILS” (Gavin AT):

DAVID POPE (Canberra Times):

STEVE ARTLEY (ArtleyToons):

TOM TOMORROW (“This Modern World”):