Syrian cartoonist Akram Raslan will receive the Cartoonist Rights Network International's 13th annual Award for Courage in Editorial Cartooning in Salt Lake City, UT tomorrow.
But Mr. Raslan will be unable to attend because he is incarcerated in a Syrian prison.
As Mark Twain once said, "against the assault of laughter, nothing can stand." The tyrant might be able to call out an army to quell a rebellion in the streets, but against his own people laughing at him, there’s no defense. The power of the pen is nowhere more powerful than in the hands of a daring cartoonist.
Akram Raslan knew the risks when he started drawing president Bashir al-Assad as a ruthless dictator. Two years ago, another Syrian cartoonist, Ali Ferzat, was kidnapped, driven to the outskirts of Damascus and brutally assaulted because of the growing popularity of his cartoons criticizing Assad. As the goons were finishing their work they broke his fingers, telling him that his broken hands would assure he never drew another cartoon embarrassing the big boss.
When this attack became public, political cartoonists and journalists all over the world responded with an unprecedented flood of anti-Assad cartoons, editorials and newspaper articles. The regime paid a heavy public relations price for the attack on Ferzat. This time, instead of an extrajudicial beating during the dark of night, the regime chose to trump up charges of sedition against the cartoonist. The only evidence against him will be the cartoons he has drawn that embarrass Bashir al-Assad and his minions.