Ferzat works in his atelier in Damascus
Beirut - Arabstoday
Nothing dispels fear like laughter. Even the most powerful figures are not immune to satire, and over the last year Syrian cartoonist Ali Ferzat has proved this in his cartoons ridiculing Bashar Assad and his regime.
In honor of Ferzat’s outspoken work, AUB’s Students for a Free Syria, are staging “Drawing the Revolution,” an outdoor exhibition of some cartoons Ferzat has produced since the start of his country’s uprising.
This is the third public event in support of the Syrian people the group has staged in the last two months.
Organizers say that the university prevented them from displaying some of Ferzat’s more controversial cartoons in this exhibition.
These images document recent events in Ferzat’s distinctive style, depicting Assad, his security forces and Syrian citizens in a series of drawings which are at once comic and tragic.
Last month named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time magazine, Ferzat and his work first came to people’s attention in a period when restrained government criticism was tolerated in Syria.
The work has changed in response to events of the past year. In an interview with the BBC last month Ferzat explained that in the past he made sure that officials could not be recognized, despite being based on real people. Since the onset of the Arab Spring, he has abandoned caution, frequently creating recognizable caricatures of Assad and other Syrian officials.
The exhibition includes one such image. Published last summer, it depicts former Libyan ruler Moammar Gadhafi driving an old-fashioned getaway car, while a copiously sweating Assad waits with a poorly packed suitcase, desperate to thumb a lift.
The cartoon is thought to have provoked the security forces’ attack on Ferzat last August, which left him badly beaten with both hands broken.
Ferzat’s most famous cartoon is also on show. It depicts a burly, plainclothes policeman grinning in his sunglasses, reaching out to draw a smile on the bandaged face of a beaten prisoner.
Some of Ferzat’s drawings are more metaphorical, though no less powerful. A strong-looking tree with weak, shallow roots is juxtaposed with a tiny rose whose thick roots snake far down into the soil – representing the Syrian regime and the Syrian people respectively.
Another cartoon is a nod to George Orwell’s dystopian novel “1984,” in which the idea that “two plus two equals five” exemplifies an obviously incorrect state-imposed dogma.
Ferzat’s cartoon depicts a suited bureaucrat dancing with rage as he screams: “1+1=5” into a set of microphones. A ragged man, being dragged away by a policeman with a large cudgel in hand, maintains “1+1=2.”
Alongside the exhibition is a notice board labeled “Messages from the students of the AUB to the Syrian people,” on which students can place words of support which will be uploaded to the organization’s Facebook page.
According to organizer Karim Hassanieh, several professors and the university’s dean have also left messages. “Some pictures say a thousand words,” one note reads. “others, such as these, leave us speechless with respect.”