Ali Ferzat

Sakharov Prize Laureate 2011
ferzat Ali Ferzat is Syria's best-known political satirist and cartoonist, and one of the Arab world's most famous cultural figures. Born in Hama in 1941, he has published more than 15,000 cartoons in Syrian and international newspapers and won awards for satirising dictators like Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi when they ruled Iraq and Libya respectively. His work pushed the boundaries of freedom of expression in Syria, targeting its feared security forces, and as the Arab Spring reached Syria in 2011, becoming more direct in attacking government figures, particularly President Bashar al-Assad. Syrians protesting the regime waved his cartoons in the streets. After he published a cartoon of al-Assad trying to hitchhike with Libyan dictator Muammar Ghaddafi, shown driving a getaway car at great speed, he was attacked in Damascus' Umayyad Square and badly beaten by masked men who deliberately broke his hands as they shouted at him to respect President al-Assad and obey his masters. Rendered unconscious by the beating, he was dragged along the road by the car into which he had been thrown, then pushed out and left on a street as dead.

Ali Ferzat not only recovered the use of hands, but broke the barrier of fear to become one of the regime's most outspoken critics through his words and his art. Unable to attend the Sakharov Prize ceremony in 2011 as he underwent treatment in Kuwait for his injuries, he received the award at the Sakharov Prize Network public debate held at the European Parliament in 2012, where he discussed with the EP President and other Arab Spring Laureates the revolution in Syria and the future of democracy following the Arab awakenings. As a Sakharov Laureate, he addressed the first edition of the Council of Europe's World Democracy Forum in 2012, in which year he was also voted as one of Time Magazine's 100 most influential people in the world. He has won various human rights awards and is the head of the Arab Cartoonists' Association.

In 2014, Ferzat was the keynote speaker for the Sakharov Prize Network at the One World Human Rights Film Festival in Prague, where he met with government representatives, media and NGOs, bringing debate of the Syrian conflict back to the core of the tragedy: amidst the on-going conflict which has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and displaced millions of people are the forgotten human hopes for dignity and freedom.