Assad’s Cartoonish Crackdown

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In the early morning hours of Aug. 24, masked members of President Bashar al-Assad's security forces pulled Syrian cartoonist Ali Farzat out of his car near Damascus's Umayyad Mosque. He was then beaten, mainly on his hands, and dumped on the road leading to the airport. Pictures of Farzat convalescing in a hospital bed were posted today on Facebook.

Farzat was no ordinary Syrian opposed to the Assad regime -- he is one of the Arab world's finest political cartoonists. During the short-lived moment of political liberalization at the beginning of Assad's reign in 2000, he launched his own satirical newspaper, al-Domari. It was soon shuttered as Syrian authorities returned to their old habits.

But Farzat kept drawing. contributor Robin Yassin-Kassab described his work as "tragicomic; he never minimizes the pain of the contemporary Arab situation even as he laughs at it." That's exactly right: He skewered what he saw as the corrupt Syrian regime, vicious Israel, and pompous, greedy businessmen in equal measure. Here are some of his cartoons, which, now more than ever, deserve a broad readership.

Update: The picture of Farzat above on the left was taken as he recuperated in his hospital bed on Aug. 25. The portrait on the right, which was reportedly sketched on Aug. 27, contains a none too subtle message to the Assad regime.

Photos of Farzat and his cartoons have been taken from his Facebook page. 

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Assad cringes as he turns the calendar from Thursday to Friday, the traditional day of protest.

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The sign says "spontaneous march" -- a jab at regime-organized pro-Assad rallies.

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Compassion outweighs force in Syria.

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Many of the cartoons satirize the Assad regime's promised reforms. Here, a regime supporter assaults an activist while yelling, "Dialogue means dialogue!"

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The frame on the right reads: "Oppression: before lifting the emergency law." Left: "Freedom of speech: after lifting the emergency law."

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A pro-Assad soldier and an official fret over a tiny cut on the soldier's finger, while the population of an entire Syrian city lies massacred behind them.

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A consistent theme of Farzat's work is how the Arab people are impoverished by a corrupt and warlike ruling class. Here, a shoeless soldier dreams of bread while standing guard over an arsenal of bombs.

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Farzat satirizes Israel's capacity for self-destruction by showing an Israeli cutting off his own arm, then begging for handouts.

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A picayune dictator looks at himself in the mirror and sees a giant.

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