Monday, May 13, 2013

Cartoonist Ali Ferzat -- Andy Carvin Interview

The Oslo Freedom Forum is under way, a global symposium of journalists, activists and world leaders assembled to report and discuss world freedom. Go to the website to learn more. 

Andy Carvin of NPR is at Freedom Forum and interviewed Syrian cartoonist Ali Ferzat. He sent a preview of his report via Twitter. 

ALI FERZAT is a Syrian political cartoonist known for his satirical caricatures. More than 15,000 of his cartoons have been published in Arab-language and international newspapers. When the Syrian uprising began in 2011, Ferzat’s cartoons became increasingly critical of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and the brutality of the regime’s crackdown. In August 2011, masked gunmen assaulted Ferzat and broke both of his hands and his fingers, a clear message of intimidation and retaliation for his work. Ferzat recovered from the attack and continues to produce political cartoons. He is the head of the Arab Cartoonists’ Association. In 2011, Ferzat was awarded the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.

I just interviewed Syrian cartoonist Ali Ferzat. Will have to transcribe it but here are a few highlights.
Ferzat is extremely frustrated with western media focused on jihadis in Syria. They make up a minority of those fighting, he says.
Ferzat doesn't believe a post-Assad Syria would be dominated by fundamentalists.
Ferzat compared Jihadi militants to the KKK in America: violent and fervent in their beliefs, but still an extreme minority.
Ferzat's hands have recovered well since they were broken by govt thugs. He waved his fingers in the air, gave me a firm handshake.
I asked Ferzat if he's still hopeful for Syria. You have to be, he said. Revolutions can take generations to fully succeed.
Ferzat lamented Assad's support for Al Qaeda during Iraq war, Israel's support of Assad & America's of Israel. "Political theatre."
Ferzat rejectes intl intervention in Syria, but supports a NFZ that would guarantee the safety of civilian refugees.
I asked Ferzat how he can believe pen is mightier than sword despite 70k dead in Syria. Because we've lost our fear, he said.
Ferzat said 70k dead in Syria doesn't even account for 10s of Ks killed during regime's history. So many dead.
Ferzat says he's proudest of cartoons he did at start of revolution mocking Assad, his intel services and the entire Syrian regime.
Ferzat is now based in Kuwait; he had to flee not long after his hands were broken. He's sure he'll be able to return eventually.

Political Cartoonist Whose Work Skewered Assad Is Brutally Beaten in Syria
By Nada Bakri
Published: August 25, 2011

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Masked gunmen severely beat Syria’s best-known political cartoonist on Thursday, breaking his hand and leaving him to bleed on the side of a road in Damascus, activists said. 
The attack came days after the artist, Ali Farzat, published a cartoon showing President Bashar al-Assadhitching a ride out of town with Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi of Libya, who was toppled from power this week. 
Also Thursday, Syrian security forces carried out military operations against anti government activists in several areas across the country, killing nine people, activists and residents said. 
Since the start of the Syrian uprising in March, Mr. Farzat, whose cartoons are renowned through the Arab world, has aimed his pen at Mr. Assad and his crackdown on protesters.
Activists said that Mr. Farzat was seized at 4:30 a.m. in Umayyad Square in Old Damascus, as he was heading home from his studio. They said he was beaten severely and thrown out of a car along the airport road, where passers-by found him. 
A friend of Mr. Farzat’s said that two fingers of his left hand were broken, his right arm fractured and his left eye bruised. 
Another friend, Ayad Sharbaji, visited him in the hospital and relayed his description of what happened. “They told him as they were burning his beard, ‘We’ll see what you will draw from now on,’ ” Mr. Sharbaji said. “ ‘How dare you disobey your masters?’ ” 
The attackers also stole drawings and other personal belongings, activists and friends said. The American Embassy in Damascus called it “a government-sponsored, targeted, brutal attack.” 
“What happened to Ali Farzat today scared us,” said an activist from Homs, who wished to be identified only by her first name, Sally. “But it’s only a proof of how desperate the regime is. It shows how frightened they are and proves that they are losing control.”

Jenan Moussa is there, too.
Looks like Farzat is something of a rock star.

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