Robin Yassin-Kassab

Art is Greater than Filth

with one comment

Ali Farzat, the Arab world’s greatest cartoonist – in fact one of the very best and bravest creative voices in the Arab world – was bundled into a van by Syrian regime filth last night. Some hours later he was found bleeding at the side of the airport road. First reports suggest that his hands have been broken.

I’ve often used Ali’s cartoons to illustrate online pieces. His work has been the perfect choice – its tone is tragicomic; he never minimises the pain of the contemporary Arab situation even as he laughs at it. His pen, and his blessed hand, draw the catastrophes of dictatorship and occupation, of misogyny and class oppression, of bureaucracy, hypocrisy and ignorance. Ali is a valuable friend of the Palestinian people: I hope those fools who still believe the Syrian thug regime is a ‘resistance regime’ will note this well.

I discovered Ali Ferzat when I lived in Damascus in the late 1990s. His work was published in state newspapers. He seemed to be one of the rare few – poet Muhammad al-Maghut and actor Yasser al-Azmeh were others – who were permitted to transgress the state’s taboos. When Bashaar inherited power in 2000, Ali was granted permission to start up his own satirical newspaper, ad-Domari (‘the Lamplighter’). A couple of years later the initiative fizzled out under the pressure of mounting censorship and intimidation. The episode was symptomatic of the deceptions of Bashaar’s early years.

A few months ago the body of Ibrahim al-Qashoush, a native of Hama who wrote a popular anti-regime song, was found in the Orontes river. Ibrahim’s vocal chords had been ripped from his throat. Now the shabeeha regime has broken Ali’s hands. But it won’t break the creativity or the will of the Syrian people.

Written by Robin Yassin-Kassab

August 25, 2011 at 12:36 pm

Posted in Syria

Tagged with ,

One Response

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  1. All dictators are convinced of the notion that they can rule forever through their secret police, intimidation and torture. When Pinochet crushed the hands of Victor Jara – the Chilean revolutionary guitarist – he thought that he had ended the sound of dissents in Chile. But gradually the struggle intensified and Chile produced more revolutionaries like Victor Jara. Today in Syria, Bashar al-Assad is walking on the same path – notably in a hurry. They might be able to break Ali Farzat’s hands, but Ali, through his political cartoons, has already prepared thousands upon thousands of strong hands that will indeed be instrumental in changing the course of history.

    As an artist, I do admire political cartoonists who reflect the message of peace and justice. Political cartoons are a very effective form of art today. They can instantly relay a strong message to millions. Sometimes to a tyrant, the light lines and shapes of a political cartoon can be more damaging than numerous heavy and sophisticated military vehicles and tanks. The late Naji Al-Ali and Ali Farzat are loved by people because they draw the images of what the people are actually thinking – a rare talent.


    Massoud Nayeri

    August 25, 2011 at 5:56 pm

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