Ali Farzat: A Pen of Damascus Steel

By Scott C. Davis

Damascus may not be the best base of operations for a political cartoonist.

Last Thursday morning at 4:30 AM (August 25), the renowned Arab caricaturist Ali Farzat (also "Ferzat" or "Firzat"), was leaving his studio after a night’s work. He was apprehended by men with masks who forced him into an SUV, drove him into the desolate land in the direction of the airport, beat him, and threw him from the vehicle. Before ejecting him, they warned him against further criticism of the Syrian regime.

During the last five month’s of protest in Syria, Farzat has been breaking the long-standing convention that banned the depiction of the Syrian president in the press. A recent drawing of Bashar Assad hitching a ride out of town from Muamar Gadhaffi apparently provoked the attack.

Farzat is a leading Arab political cartoonists, the head of the Arab Cartoonists’ Union, an artist widely published in the Arab and European press, and the recipient of the prestigious Prince Claus Award (Holland).

At this moment, Farzat is in the hospital. His attackers mangled his hands and delivered other wounds designed to make it difficult or impossible for him to resume his career.

Most attribute the attack to out of control members of the security services. One Damascus-based political commentator who is sympathetic to the regime nevertheless reflected: "It is clear who is behind the attack. What is ‘sick’ is that the Interior Ministry said that it will ‘investigate’ the attack."

Among other supporters of the regime, however, many hold the view that this attack was a "false flag" operation designed to bring international condemnation on the regime.

Wherever the truth lies, we ask humanitarians within Syria and abroad to restore sanity and dialogue to Syria and to the world . . . as we have oft been encouraged to do by this fearless man with a pen.

– Scott C. Davis is a longtime friend of Ali Farzat who edited and published Farzat’s book of political cartoons: A Pen of Damascus Steel: Political Cartoons of an Arab Master. This book is available direct from the publisher. He contributed this article to Contact him at: and visit:

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