by Betsy Gomez
Iranian political cartoonist Mahmoud Shokraye has been sentenced to 25 lashed for his depiction of conservative Member of Parliament Ahmad Lotfi Ashtiani. Ashtiani was among a group of Iranian politicians who had been criticized for interfering with the country’s sports. In his cartoon, Shokraye depicted Ashtiani dressed as a soccer player. Ashtiani sued Shokraye, claiming he was insulted by the cartoon. The resulting sentence of 25 lashes is an unprecedented punishment.
The Guardian covered the story, discussing the fallout for Iranian cartoonists:
[Shokraye’s] sentence has triggered outcry among Iran‘s online community with many calling on cartoonists to draw new caricatures of the MP. Many have expressed their anger on Twitter and Facebook.
Speaking to the Guardian, Nikahang Kowsar, a prominent Iranian cartoonist who fell foul of the Iranian regime after famously caricaturing a prominent cleric like a crocodile in a series of cartoons, said: “This verdict is a direct threat to each and every cartoonist working inside Iran. From now on, if this sentence is not set aside, any public official could sue the cartoonists for portraying him/her in a cartoon.”
Kowsar, a member of the board of Cartoonists Rights Network International, has also participated in the campaign of drawing Ashtiani’s cartoon. “In the past, cartoonists were prohibited from drawing clerics, but from now on, non-clerics have joined the league of the ‘sacred cow’,” he said.
“Right now, a number of Iranian cartoonists have had to leave the country in fear of imprisonment, and the rest have either quit the business, or are censoring themselves to avoid persecution and imprisonment.” Kowsar currently lived in the United States. Another Iranian cartoonist, Mana Neyestani, who was also the victim of state’s aggression towards cartoonists in Iran, has also drawn a cartoon of Ashtiani.
For more on the story, visit The Guardian here.