Magazine article New Internationalist

Southern Exposure Special

Magazine article New Internationalist

Southern Exposure Special

Article excerpt

WE'RE GOING TO BREAK THE BARRIER OF FEAR!' This was my stated purpose when I established my website a year and a half ago, after the Syrian government closed my critical satirical newspaper Al Domari (The Lamplighter) in 2003. 'We're going to break the barrier of fear that lasted for half a century, during which we were subjected to arrests, suppression and killing.' I decided finally to portray the characters that are ruling us directly - doing so was a taboo for so long. Not only was it taboo, it was almost suicidal to contemplate it, because the ruling Baath Party considered the president on a par with God.

In the past I used symbolism in my cartoons whenever I wanted to represent the president, the security services or the ruling élites; it was my way of evading censorship and getting published.

Today, when I see protests across Syria I feel proud, and I feel prouder when I see my cartoons held by the protesters to mock all the officials. I'm glad to see that the chronic fear we suffered for so long has been broken and we are taking our first steps towards freedom and democracy. When a work of art represents the dreams, hopes and aspirations of the people, then the public will adopt it as their own and defend the artist whenever he is the victim of repression. When I was attacked by regime thugs in one of the most important places in Damascus, Omayween Square, they broke my fingers because I had criticized and satirized the Baathist regime and its president. 'We're breaking your hands and your fingers so you will never dare to portray the president and your masters again/ 1 could hear them shouting as they hit me. …

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