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A Brave Cartoonist is Murdered by the Syrian Regime

I am saddened to write that Cartoonists Rights Network reports that Syrian cartoonist Akram Raslan has been executed by the Syrian regime after a sham trial.

StJustAkram A Brave Cartoonist is Murdered by the Syrian Regime cartoons

Click on the photo to see a larger view. That’s me sitting on the stage at the lower right. Such sad news for the cartooning community.

Just last week, at the Humor Salon in St Just, I joined a nice assembly and demonstration by world cartoonists in support of Akram – at the time we all thought Akram was imprisoned, but he had already been murdered. Akram’s crime was to make people laugh at the Syrian dictator, Bashar Assad in his cartoons.

Truly tragic news.  From the Cartoonists Rights Network report:

 A Brave Cartoonist is Murdered by the Syrian Regime cartoons     We’ve learned that on July 26, Akram Raslan and other prisoners of conscience including journalists, artists, singers and other intellectuals were secretly put on trial with no witnesses, no defense attorneys, no appeal, and no hope for justice.  From unconfirmed and sketchy reports we learned that they were all condemned to life imprisonment.
     Somehow, along the way to prison young 28-year-old Akram Raslan (and possibly others) was peeled off,  taken out and executed. He is reported to be in a mass grave somewhere near Damascus. Our reliable but for obvious reasons anonymous sources further allege that the murder of Akram and other condemned prisoners was carried out by Mohammad Nassif Kheir Bek, currently the Deputy Vice President for Security Affairs in Syria.  He has already been sanctioned by the European Union for the use of violence against protesters and the Syrian civil war.
     Akram Raslan was the winner of the Cartoonists Rights Network International, Award for Courage in Editorial Cartooning for 2013.  Past award winners have hailed from Malaysia, South Africa, Turkey, Palestine, Iran, and India,  including last year’s winner, Ali Ferzat, also from Syria.
     Here in the United States we are experts in the knowledge that editorial cartooning is a dying art.  In other areas of the world, however, it is an art that people die for.
     CRNI has been monitoring and assisting political cartoonists in trouble for the last 20 years.  They are often victims of failing regimes stamping out criticism, drug cartels squashing investigations, corporate interest protecting money and political manipulation, and religious zealots stamping out thinking.
     About nine months ago young Akram Raslan was abducted from the offices of his newspaper and “disappeared” into the Syrian dictator Bashir al-Assad’s prisons for the next six months.  Readers might remember the case of Syrian cartoonist Ali Ferzat who in 2011 had his hands broken by the Syrian regime’s thugs. As they finished the job they told Ali that his broken hands would prevent him from disrespecting their master through his cartoons.  Ali Ferzat was lucky.  He survived the beating and eventually found safe haven in another Middle Eastern country.   His revenge was to live to draw again.
     The hue and cry over this attack that grew from the world’s journalists and cartoonists must have made an impression on Bashir al-Assad. This time, a beating wasn’t enough. This time he decided to “disappear” the cartoonist permanently.
Here are a couple of Akram Raslan cartoons that likely angered his murderers, from the Cartoonists Movement site …
AkramRaslanToonAssadOrBurnTheCountry A Brave Cartoonist is Murdered by the Syrian Regime cartoons
 A Brave Cartoonist is Murdered by the Syrian Regime cartoons
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My Interview with Syrian cartoonist Ali Ferzat

While in Frace for this year’s Cartooning for Peace meeting, I had the honor of sitting down and chatting with Syrian cartoonist Ali Ferzat. Ferzat was beaten and had both of his hands broken by government thugs in Damascus last August, as part of a brutal crackdown of the Syrian Uprising. The beating came as the subject of his cartoons changed from general ridicule of Syria’s much-maligned political system to specific caricatures of President Bashar Assad and his inner circle.

Ferzat has since recovered, and is now living in exile in Kuwait.  I spoke to him about the attack and his outlook on cartooning in countries with oppressive regimes, including Syria. It’s also worth noting that he seems to be no fan of President Obama…

Here are a handful of Ferzat’s cartoons. To view more, check out his Arab-language Web site or visit his Facebook page.