The political cartooning community was shaken today by news of Syrian cartoonist Ali Ferzat’s beating by pro-Assad thugs. They broke his hands to stop him from drawing cartoons critical of the President.
This horrifying incident reminds me of an exchange I had earlier this summer when meeting with political cartoonists from the Middle East and North Africa through a State Department program. Naturally, a prominent topic of discussion was the freedom of speech we American cartoonists enjoy. I was on crutches thanks to a skiing accident (I’m mobile now, thank you), and I made a dumb joke, obviously tongue-in-cheek, about how the Obama administration didn’t like one of the cartoons I drew. “Ah, so you are like an Arab cartoonist!” one of the visitors joked back. The whole room laughed, maybe a little too hard. Gotta admire the bravery of the Ali Ferzats of the world.