Famed Arab cartoonist Ali Ferzat is recovering in the hospital after he was beaten by pro-Assad thugs in Damascus late last week, as part of a brutal crackdown of the Syrian Uprising that has killed over 2,200 people since anti-government protests began five months ago.
According to reports, Ferzat was forced out of his car and beaten in Damascus by four masked men. The regime’s thugs focused their attention on Ferzat’s hands, beating them furiously and breaking two fingers on his left hand – a clear message that he should stop drawing. Farzat’s assailants also broke his right arm and bruised his left eye before dumping him on the side of the road. The American Embassy in Damascus called it “a government-sponsored, targeted, brutal attack.”
“They are afraid of giving symbols to the Syrian uprising,” said Murhaf Jouejati, the Professor of Middle East Studies at George Washington University. “This is reflective of their fear of losing power, which is why they want to take out anybody who can carry large audiences.”
Ferzat’s cartoons have been deeply critical of the harsh suppression of the five-month uprising in Syria. Just last week, he published a cartoon on his website showing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad hitch-hiking a ride out of town with a fleeing Muamar Gadhafi. Many of his cartoons directly criticize President al-Assad, even though caricatures of the president are forbidden in Syria.
While making empty promises about having a dialogue with the Syrian people, the Assad regime continues to carry out brutal attacks against protesters. According to Sebastian Usher, the BBC’s Arab affair’s analyst, Ferzat’s beating is a sign that the Syrian authorities “tolerance for dissent is touching zero.” Just a month ago, Ibrahim al-Qashoush, the composer of a popular anti-regime song, was found dead with his vocal chords removed.
Here’s a video from Al-Jazeera English where you can see pictures of Ferzat, as well as some of his cartoons:
Cartoonists from across the world are coming to the aid of Ferzat, drawing their own cartoons in response to the brutal crackdown. I’ll post them here as we receive them.