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.