Wednesday, Apr. 18, 2012

Ali Ferzat

There's something about cartoons. They really get under the skin. Tyrants often don't get the jokes, but their people do. So when the iron fist comes down, it often comes down on cartoonists.

Ali Ferzat, 60, spent years drawing insightful cartoons, mostly staying between the prescribed lines of Syria's state-sanctioned media. But confronted with the regime's increasing brutality, he embraced the democracy movement and turned his lampoons on President Bashar Assad directly. Masked men from the regime soon came for Ferzat. They beat him brutally, making a point of breaking both his hands to stop his cartoons.

Ferzat wasn't intimidated. His hands have healed and are back to cartooning — drawing sharp, vivid pictures and wry observations on his people's plight. In the end, the joke is on the regime. It thought it could silence Ferzat and break his will by breaking his hands. Instead it created a powerful symbol who draws cartoons the whole world is now reading. Talk about a great punch line.

Wuerker is a Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist for Politico