مع الفنان السوري علي فرزات
المقابلة: حسان عبدالله
حزب البعث يمثل رجلاً عجوزاً و
هرماً جداً. هل تصدق أن أياً من
الوعود التي أطلقها حزب البعث
لم تحقق ؟ عليهم أن يعرفوا أن
هناك أحزاب وطنية أخرى موجودة
لديها الحق في أن تكون جزءاً من
النظام. أنا لست عضواً في أي من
الأحزاب, و لكن من حق جميع
الأحزاب أن تشارك في صنع
'I Don't Compromise'
shut down Ali Farzat's magazine in 2003. Now the BBC is
producing animated versions of his political cartoons
for broadcast in Arab countries.
3:42 p.m. ET June 29, 2007
29, 2007 - Ali Farzat, Syria's best-known political
cartoonist, began publishing Al-Doumari, the country's
first independent satirical weekly in 2001. Although
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had initially
encouraged Farzat's efforts, he soon soured on the
experiment. The magazine's call for sweeping political
reforms, its attacks on corruption and—most of
all—Farzat's stinging cartoons infuriated the Baathist
leadership. In 2003, the government shut the magazine
down. Since then, Farzat has kept fighting to bring it
back to life, and he has continued to publish his
cartoons in the Kuwaiti daily newspaper Al-Watan. The
BBC is now working on a project to bring his characters
to life in animated cartoons that are to air in several
Arab countries. Recently, NEWSWEEK-in-Arabic's Hassan
Abdallah talked with Farzat in Damascus, where he lives.
Abdallah: Bashar al-Assad used to come visit you at home
before he became president, and he's responsible for [at
first] legalizing the publishing of your drawings. Why
this change of heart?
Farzat: Before he became president, he used to attend my
exhibits and a friendship developed as a result. But
there are those who thought that Al-Doumari had crossed
the line in exposing corruption and putting into doubt
the reputation of some institutions and individuals. We
used to cover important issues dealing with reform and
the things holding it back, and we sent an open letter
to the president asking him to institute needed reforms.
They viewed that as a threat to their control. They
wanted me to follow the official line, they offered all
sorts of incentives, and then they threatened. Finally,
they shut down the paper. People in Syria remember that
Al-Doumari preferred telling the truth, even if that led
to its demise, over lying to the people and staying
alive. There are Baathists who consider Syria their
property and they behave as if they are first-class
citizens, better than the rest. Syria has become the
property of a group of monopolists.
powerful is the Baath Party in Syria now?
Baath Party resembles a very old man, old and decrepit.
Can you believe that none of the promises made by the
Baath Party ever were fulfilled? They have to know that
there are other national parties, which have the right
to be part of the regime. I am not a member of any
party, but all parties should have a part in formulating
and making decisions.
you threatened with arrest at any time?
been questioned by the security agencies that deal with
political affairs, and I've been sued by the Syrian
minister of Defense because of one of my drawings.
What's funny is that it's the same cartoon that caused
me problems with Saddam Hussein in 1989, and I went
through the same ordeal when I drew a cartoon published
in an Egyptian magazine depicting Libyan President
Muammar Kaddafi. The then-editor of the magazine told me
that Kaddafi had barred the magazine in Libya because of
my drawings. When I draw a dictator, a hundred dictators
think that I'm criticizing and making fun of them.
Similarly, the corrupt feel targeted when I draw
cartoons depicting corruption. Many Syrian government
institutions used to complain about my work even though
my cartoons dealt with "wrongdoing" without
mentioning names or providing descriptions.
this adversity to criticism specific to you, or is it a
Syrian policy in general?
generalized of course. [It] extends to many fields:
literature, science, medicine and art. They want people
to be subservient just like the members of the Syrian
People's Assembly, who get elected based on the needs of
the regime. They don't care if you're a world-renowned
celebrity, or if you're the winner of international
awards. What's important to them is your willingness to
compromise in favor of the regime. I'm on the people's
side and I don't compromise, that's why they barred me
you a political dissident?
belittling my importance as an artist. An artist and
creator is more important than a politician. They know
the importance an artist has, which is why their
response is harsh when you refuse to accept their
misdeeds. I hate conformity, and a true artist must
rebel against all this. I don't represent a political
party, but I represent the people's conscience.
the future of the Syrian regime?
they don't recognize the dangers and if they continue to
deprive other national parties of true and effective
participation, I foresee a monumental crisis. The regime
is in need of total reform and change. Free elections
are a must, as is the formation of national parties and
the peaceful sharing of power. Not one member of the
current People's Assembly truly represents the people.
We the Syrian people are now mature, yet we are still
fed, given drink and clothed by the Baath Party as the
party sees fit, as if we were children.
without commentary requires a broad view of the world.
Why do you insist on this specific style?
hope we're not underestimating the Arab reader by
assuming he's not well informed. I draw without
commentary because I want to leave the reader the
intellectual space to enjoy the work, deducing and
grasping the idea that I wove into the cartoon. The
reader might forget the words, but he will never forget
an image that drew his attention and made an impression
upon his visual memory.
think that by using this approach you are avoiding
censorship and scrutiny by the security apparatus.
the beginning, it was a form of avoidance. The regime in
Syria is very brutal, and its security agencies very
oppressive. Yet I "specify" the target when
the need arises. For example, I drew a cartoon clearly
identifying the Syrian Baath Party. I include written
commentary when the event is exceptional and in need of
identification. Symbolism then becomes damaging. But, in
some instances, a symbol can be more eloquent. For
example, I drew a cartoon depicting the prevalence of
torture in Arab countries. It showed a torturer
inflicting great pain on a jailed prisoner, tearing him
apart with whips and saws, yet, at the same time
watching a romantic television program that made him cry
profusely. I think that symbolism in this case is more
eloquent than naming a specific regime and this strikes
the oppressors at their core.
you ever draw a cartoon of the late Syrian president
Hafez al-Assad or his son Bashar?
Syria, drawing the president is forbidden, be it to
criticize or to compliment. This tradition is stronger
than any law. Yet no enforcer can limit my imagination.
I have drawings depicting all Syrian officials, but
nobody will publish them.
this why you started using codes and symbols?
the beginning there was a real need for that; it was a
necessity. Taboos abound, starting with the president,
and ending with the party or the government officials.
To avoid trouble and reach the people, I started using
specific characters with clearly identifiable traits.
The character with torn clothes, hunger-stricken, with a
long beard, is the miserable Arab citizen. As for the
Arab official; he's the one wearing sunglasses, gold
jewelry, fancy clothes, smoking a cigar, with a heavy
build. The intelligence agent is the one with a gun
dangling from his clothes and whose eyes dart every
which way. This is the formula that I came up with to
trick the censors.
is a project which aims to transform the characters that
you draw for the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Watan into
project is supervised by the BBC with the participation
of five Arab countries. Its goal is to transform the
characters into animated cartoons dealing with
humanitarian and social subjects, which will be
broadcast on Arab satellite stations. This is an
excellent artistic step; I will be able to see my
characters moving and yelling to their hearts' content.
It's worth noting that most of the print-media readers
are now captives of television.
you think that Arab political cartoons wield more
influence than Arab opposition parties?
Cartoons have a larger reach than opposition parties.
This medium builds bridges of sympathy between you and
the masses, providing you with a measure of immunity,
and empowering you with the courage necessary to
struggle on. No one is without fear. We need the support
of the people. Here in Syria people talk about how I was
able to use symbolism to go beyond the constraints put
on the media. And I formed a relationship built on
credibility, which made the people trust me even though
I worked for official media outlets that have no
credibility. Then the regime closed down my magazine and
used their official newspapers to slander me, which
added more credibility to my cartoons.
one of your cartoons is your greatest work?
portrait of "The General" which, ever since it
was put on exhibit in Paris, every Arab dictator thinks
is a depiction of him. Although, rather than portraying
a specific individual, I portrayed their oppressive
behavior, which made every single one of them a target
for my pen. I fired the "enforcer" that once
controlled my thoughts.
لهذه المقالات لا يعني أنها
تعبر عن وجهة نظر المركز كلياً
من حق الزائر الكريم أن ينقل وأن ينشر كل ما يعجبه من موقعنا . معزواً إلينا ، أو غير معزو .ـ