When you browse through the news these days, there is no doubt that Syria and Israel are mentioned somewhere. The conflict in Syria which has now escalated into a civil war as ruled by the Red Cross has captured not only a man’s obsession with power but also the strength of the people to defend their rights. One of these brave people include Ali Ferzat, a 60-years old Syrian cartoonist. I want to honor him in this post personally because like him, I am also an artist and believe in the power of art as a vehicle of change.
Ferzat used what he knows best to advance social change: his hand, a pencil or pen and paper. Imagine all the people who saw his cartoon - hundreds and thousands of people who understood the message, who laughed, who began to think differently about the regime. Consequently, Ferzat was attacked (and keep in mind, he was 60 years old!) because he instilled fear in those with powers. Imagine that, being scared of cartoons! Since his recovery, Ferzat has not stopped drawing and gained an international spotlight.
“Syria’s Parliament” by Ali Ferzat
Here is a piece from Times Magazine, honoring him as one of the 100 most influential people in 2012:
“There’s something about cartoons. They really get under the skin. Tyrants often don’t get the jokes, but their people do. So when the iron fist comes down, it often comes down on cartoonists.
Ali Ferzat, 60, spent years drawing insightful cartoons, mostly staying between the prescribed lines of Syria’s state-sanctioned media. But confronted with the regime’s increasing brutality, he embraced the democracy movement and turned his lampoons on President Bashar Assad directly. Masked men from the regime soon came for Ferzat. They beat him brutally, making a point of breaking both his hands to stop his cartoons.
Ferzat wasn’t intimidated. His hands have healed and are back to cartooning — drawing sharp, vivid pictures and wry observations on his people’s plight. In the end, the joke is on the regime. It thought it could silence Ferzat and break his will by breaking his hands. Instead it created a powerful symbol who draws cartoons the whole world is now reading. Talk about a great punch line.”