Ali Ferzat

Syrian political cartoonist persecuted for his satirical caricatures

Middle East and North Africa
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 aliferzat

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 EuropeanParliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. Since producing his first professional drawing at the age of 14, Ferzat has continued to expose corruption, hypocrisy, and repression through his cartoons. His first drawings were showcased in the Al-Ayyam newspaper before being banned by the ruling party in Syria. However, he continued to produce drawings for other daily newspapers,such as Al-Thawra and Tishreen. In 1980, Ferzat received international recognition when he won first place at the Intergraphic International Festival in Germany. His work subsequently appeared in the French newspaper Le Monde. In 1989, he received a death threat from Saddam Hussein, and was banned from traveling to Iraq, Jordan, and Libya, after one of his exhibitions in Paris included cartoons critical of Hussein and other dictators in the region. Ferzat ran his own independent periodical for two years—Al-Dormari—before government censorship forced him to cease production. As the Syrian uprising began in 2011, Ferzat became increasingly critical of the regime and protesters began using Ferzat’s caricatures as symbols on posters and placards. Ferzat’s use of political satire to expose abuses and corruption has made him a prominent cultural figure in the Arab world. He has won the Prince Claus Award and the Gebran Tueni Award for his work. In 2012, TIME included Ferzat in its list of the world’s 100 most influential people.

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