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I have a parallel blog in French at http://anniebannie.net

Date

August 25, 2011

Art is Greater than Filth

P U L S E

“Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.”

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 bureacracy, 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 ‘reistance 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.

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Ali Farzat: the dreams of Syria

This most gifted of cartoonist, `Ali Farzat, was kidnapped by armed goons (Shabbihah) of the Syrian regime and severely beaten.  What do you call a lousy regime that is terrified of a talented cartoonist?  I have written extensively on this blog about this brilliant cartoonist.  I recommended a book published in the US containing some of his work.  I always credit Lisa Wedeen of the University of Chicago for introducing me to his work back in 1993.  He has a unique style and gifts.  During the short-lived, “Damascus Spring”, he produced a publication “Dumari”.  It did not last.  I still possess some of its issues.  Farzat has a website where some of work is displayed but it is now blocked.  This is Farzat in his hospital bed.  I woke up to the news and was most distressed.  The Ba`th Party in its history produced no talents and gifts: so I understand why they want to smash gifts and arts and talents.  This is a crucial moment for wavering progressive: a stance against the repressive regime is now badly needed.  No argument can be made in support of the regime.  And despite is verbal trickery, it does not fight Israel either.  It hides under the feet of Hizbullah hoping to reap the rewards of their fighting skills against Israel.  This is a regime that smashes hopes and dreams.  `Ali Farzat?  One of the best talents in Syria and the region?  Armed goons of the regime dare to damage his precious hands??  Which side are you on?  Ali Farzat or Bashshar Al-Asad?

Ali Ferzat

[youtube http://youtu.be/i5Mko4Yzmls?]

Ali Ferzat, Syria’s most loved cartoonist was beaten by mukhabarat and thrown out of a car. His most recent cartoon was of Qaddafi stopping in his Jeed to pick up Bashar al-Assad, who was hitching a ride. The cartoon and Ali’s site is no longer available on the internet….

Two opposing views of Syria’s economy. One claims Syria can tough out the economic hit for quite a bit longer. The other, by Carnegie, says no. Master Card in Syria is down. More top Syrians are sanctioned by the EU. Gulf Sands, the oil company partly owned by Rami Makhlouf is hit with more troubles and the West is chiseling away at the Syrian economy.

Gulf countries, in an apparent reversal of position, seem to be distancing themselves from the US effort to strangle Assad’s regime. Saudi arrested anti-Assad demonstrators and Qatar has backed away from its anti-Syria diplomacy as its leader heads for a visit to Iran.

Syria’s Opposition woes are cataloged by Reuters. Here is a photo of Ali Ferzat.

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