Early today, Syria’s best-known political cartoonist, Ali Ferzat, was abducted and beaten. His abductors broke both his hands as a warning to stop drawing the satirical political cartoons for which he is best known.
Ferzat recently drew a cartoon comparing Syria’s president, Bashar Assad, to Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi, and relatives believe the cartoon led to the attack. MSNBC ran the Associated Press article with the following quote:
“This is just a warning,” the gunmen told Ferzat, according to a relative who asked that her name not be used for fear of reprisals. “We will break your hands so that you’ll stop drawing.”
The identity of the attackers hasn’t been ascertained, but some sources blamed Syrian security forces for the attack.
Ferzat, so far the most visible victim of the Syrian uprising, was a vocal critic of Assad’s policies, but he also briefly benefited from some of them. From MSNBC:
Ferzat benefited from Assad’s moves to open up society in Syria during a period that came to be known as the Damascus Spring. Shortly after Assad inherited power from his father, he allowed Ferzat to publish the country’s first private newspaper in decades.
The satirical weekly Al-Domari — or The Lamplighter — was an instant hit, with copies of each issue selling out a few hours after hitting the stands. It was soon shut down, however, as Assad began cracking down on dissent after the Damascus Spring quickly lost steam.
The attack on Ferzat is an alarming reminder of just how important it is to protect free speech. During a recent telephone interview with the AP, Ferzat related the following (via MSNBC): “There are two things in this life that cannot be crushed — the will of God and the will of the people.” This statement concisely reaffirms the importance of freedom and free expression around the world.
You can read more about the attack at MSNBC.