Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Ali Farzat

Ali Farzat is a Syrian political cartoonist. 

To those who follow Syrian politics, that might seem like a contradiction in terms. As a rule, the Syrian dictators of the last forty years haven't taken kindly to dissent. Ali is a big enough man that he did it anyway.

When Bashar al-Assad first came to power in Syria in 2000, Ali was allowed to open an independent, satirical newspaper. However, Ali's work is such that even this small enterprise was deemed too dangerous for Assad to countenance, and in 2003, his newspaper was shut down.

"Mauritania: Leaders of military coup pledge of hold early elections"

My thrice-weekly bus ride through Damascus used to take me right past his gallery, near the Seven Seas' Square. I always wanted to visit it. When the revolution broke out, I lost my nerve. I didn't want to give Syrian intelligence any excuse to deport me.

Ali Farzat did not suffer from this same fear, and as the revolution intensified, he started drawing cartoons like this one, which illustrates President Assad's decree "lifting" Syria's emergency law.

But here's the one that really got him into trouble.

Last Thursday, masked gunmen grabbed him off the street, threw him into a jeep, and viciously beat him, breaking both his hands before dumping him on the side of the road outside Damascus.

Is the pen stronger than the machine gun?  We'll find out soon enough.

Here's to Ali's health, and to good old-fashioned disrespect.  God bless him.

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