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Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought 2011

Ali Ferzat

 
Ali Ferzat ©BELGA/AFP/R.Haddad   Ali Ferzat expresses himself through cartoons ©BELGA/AFP/R.Haddad

Ali Ferzat's weapon is the pen. A political satirist and leader of the Arab Cartoonists' Association, Ferzat's more than 15,000 caricatures have been ridiculing dictators for decades. A less than favourable portrait of the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein led to the latter calling for Ferzat's death in 1989. His cartoons are banned in Libya and Jordan.


Despite the danger, Ferzat has never ceased to criticise the abuse of power abroad and in his home country of Syria. But when the Arab Spring uprisings began to spread to Syria in March 2011, he became more daring than before. His caricatures ridiculing Bashar al-Assad's rule helped to inspire the revolt.

Quotation

I devote my cartoons to contemporary ideals: freedom, democracy, love, and peace. I pitted them against contemporary evils: injustice, repression, dictatorship, terrorism, environmental degradation, corruption
Ali Ferzat


Unfortunately, the regime didn't share his sense of humour and on 25 August he was reportedly pulled from his vehicle in Umayyad Square in central Damascus by masked gunmen. He was then badly beaten and his hands were broken. Passersby later found him dumped at the side of the airport road and took him to hospital. His briefcase and the drawings in them were allegedly confiscated by the assailants.


Syrian opposition members expressed outrage at his ordeal, and several online activists changed their Facebook profile picture to that of the hospitalised Ferzat in solidarity with the cartoonist.