I wanted to write about this because I just learned of it recently. This time an Iranian cartoonist, her name Atena Farghadani. Currently, she is imprisoned for drawing a (very good, might I add) cartoon criticizing a law restricting birth control access and banning vasectomies. For expressing this artistically, she has been jailed and tortured, been on hunger strike and suffered a heart attack. With a trial underway, she may face an additional two years in prison and lashes, according to the Hyperallergic article that goes more in depth:
Also on Amnesty International:
In Atena’s own word’s here’s a translation of her defense statement:
“Before 2009, I used to ask myself: why some people can’t afford their food even if they try so hard, or why some little kids have to do heavy jobs, why some people should be executed by other people, I always asked myself why I’m able to study in university but some people like “Baha’is” are devised from education because of their beliefs, or why my dad always advised me not to talk about politics in university or taxi, specially about the leader! I got lots of my answers in 2009 (elections which ended up cheating and changing the votes and caused millions of people to start protesting against government and an uncertain number of people were murdered in streets or under torture in prisons, lots of people were imprisoned and still are in prison… )
If after 2009 I was present by the graves of 2009’s martyrs or I joined their funeral was because that their murderers were never found and government also insulted and treated them with a disrespectful attitude, I just tried to heal their families, because I felt we’re all members of one family.
If I did anything against execution is because I think that execution is an inhumane and false punishment, doesn’t matter if it’s a drug trafficker’s execution or a political activist. I imagined my family in their families’ position and I felt we’re all one family!
If I objected that why our Baha’i (a religious belief) compatriots don’t have the right to study was because I imagined myself in their position and I felt they’re a member of my family and each person with any nations, beliefs, and thoughts should have the same and equal rights and equality should run in society.
If I drew that cartoon of assembly representatives was because I believe that if someone choose arts as their subject but do not criticize the issues of their society, have betrayed themselves, their superego, and their society.
But about insulting the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and three branches during the interrogation, the IRG officers put lots of pressure on me by repeating this statement that Ms. Farghadani you should be ashamed of God that you sold out your family to your beliefs and you’re not giving up and you’re not telling us your friends’ names! They also repeated this sentence that your mother is in hospital because of you, so because of the pressure I screamed the fact that has been in Iranian people’s hearts for years…
Is it not true that we’re a number of families which belong to a united family named society? Or the slogan that all the humans are parts of a body made from the same soul? Or the quote that whatever you wish for yourself, wish it for others as well!?
Is it my fault that I tried to do what these slogans are saying? After all I have to say that in my inside court, my superego was my judge, and I’m honored and proud.
I kiss every each of my family members’ hands, a mother who taught me pride and resistance, a father who taught me manhood, a sister who taught me toleration, and a brother who taught me curiosity and insistence.
Cartoonists persecuted for their art, I’ve known a few. Only one is an American (but yes, one is.) In other parts of the world, cartooning can be far more dangerous. Cartoons can be reductively simple, or improbably imaginative, but in that way they can have the ability to strike a nerve in the parts of our psyches that speak to us largely in symbols and metaphors. I’m not trying to go all McCloud on you, it’s just my loose theory on why these mini-allegories can be a source of consternation for those who would oppress and suppress. The Cartoonists Rights Network International has a manual for cartoonists who may be facing persecution, you can read or download it here.
And by the way, when a government goes out of their way like this to silence someone who is criticizing them? To me it never fails to prove the point of the critic. Just sayin’.