Iranian artist and activist Atena Farghadani, currently imprisoned for a cartoon she drew depicting members of the country’s Parliament as apes and bovines, has been named as the 2015 winner of Cartoonists Rights Network International’s Courage in Cartooning award. CRNI Executive Director Robert Russell will present the award to Farghadani in absentia at the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists’ annual convention next month in Columbus, Ohio.
In May, Farghadani was sentenced to 12 years and 9 months in prison for “insulting members of parliament through paintings” and “insulting the Iranian supreme leader.” She was first arrested last August for her cartoon mocking members of Parliament as they debated a bill to ban voluntary sterilization procedures such as vasectomies and tubal ligations in an effort to reverse Iran’s falling birthrate. But even before her arrest, she was already well-known to the government for her fearless advocacy on behalf of political prisoners, Baha’i minorities, and the families of protesters killed after the country’s presidential election in 2009.
Furthermore, in June Farghadani and her defense lawyer Mohammad Moghimi were both charged with adultery for shaking each other’s hands, which is technically illegal between unrelated members of the opposite sex but rarely prosecuted. Moghimi was detained for three days before being released on bail. If convicted on the “illicit relations” charges, Farghadani and Moghimi both could be sentenced to up to 99 lashes.
In a statement today on the website of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, Moghimi said that Farghadani is now exhibiting symptoms of an unspecified lymphatic disease in prison and requires specialized medical care. She reportedly already suffered a heart attack in January as a result of her hunger strike in protest of prison conditions and abuse from guards. Hopefully the well-deserved Courage in Cartooning award will help to raise the international profile of her urgent plight and further pressure Iranian authorities to overturn the draconian conviction and sentence on appeal.
Contributing Editor Maren Williams is a reference librarian who enjoys free speech and rescue dogs.