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.”
Excerpt taken from The Guardian:
Syria has made it clear that it would only use deadly chemical or biological weapons if it was attacked by outside forces and flatly rejected a call by the Arab League for President Bashar al-Assad to relinquish power to end the country’s escalating crisis.
Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary general, added his voice to a chorus of alarm over the issue as the Damascus government scored what observers ridiculed as a damaging own goal on Monday by admitting for the first time that it possessed an arsenal of the banned weapons.
“It would be reprehensible if anyone in Syria would use weapons of mass destruction,” Ban told reporters during a visit to Serbia.
Barack Obama said Assad would be held accountable if made the “tragic mistake” of using chemical weapons. “The world is watching,” the American president said.
“Threatening to use chemical weapons is monstrous,” said Germany’s foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle.
Qatar’s prime minister, Hamad bin Jassem Al Thani, urged Assad to take the “courageous” decision to surrender power in order to save Syria, where fierce fighting continues to rage between government troops and rebels. An estimated 17,000-19,000 people have been killed in the last 16 months.
Last week’s bomb attacks in Damascus, which killed four of Assad’s top security advisers, combined with fighting in the capital and Aleppo, have been widely seen as a turning-point for the regime.
In Brussels, European Union foreign ministers voted to tighten sanctions and to require all member states to search aeroplanes and ships suspected of carrying weapons or banned equipment into Syria. The decision added 29 names to a list of more than 170 individuals and companies associated with repression or benefiting from Assad’s regime.
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Cherry Blossom Lake, Sakura, Japan