Monday, February 27, 2006

WHO'D BE AN IRAQI CARTOONIST?

An interesting piece in today's Times on the lot of Iraqi satirists - "Raising a laugh in a land where the next one could be your last":
Saddam Hussein’s regime may be gone but, in a nation of extreme opinions, the satirical cartoon business remains a highly dangerous one for those who refuse to be intimidated.

In the space of seconds, and with a few deft wriggles of his pen, Khudiar al-Himiari draws a cartoon of a fortune teller reading the palm of an Iraqi everyman who wears the cheriwiya hat of old Baghdad.

There is no caption. None is needed. The fortune teller weeps.

...

Iraqi cartoonists have been further hit by the recent death from a stroke of Muayad Ne’ma, 54, their doyen.

In Saddam’s time, Mr Ne’ma and his colleagues were skilled in walking a tight line to avoid arrest or execution while commenting on social issues, western policy towards Iraq and, using abstract symbolism, the oppression of the regime.

Saddam’s demise has thrown uncertainty over the boundaries of what is now acceptable in cartoons. Since 2003 Mr Ne’ma had often attacked terrorists through satire — and received numerous death threats as the result.

“These threats imposed a huge strain on him and led to his death,” said Ali al-Mandalawi, a friend and fellow cartoonist who returned to Iraq in 2003 after several years of living in London.

“I warned him many times to back off from targeting former Ba’athists and terrorists. I told him they would kill him. But he just said, ‘It’s our country and we have to fight for it’.”

Mr al-Mandalawi, while working in London for the Saudi-financed Asharq al- Awsatnewspaper, was used to taking on fundamentalists. Responding to one of Mr al-Mandalawi’s cartoons showing daggers spewing from his mouth, Abu Hamza al-Masri, the radical cleric jailed this month for race hate and incitement to murder, once told him that he would go to hell. “I replied that I’d rather be in hell than in paradise with Abu Hamza,” Mr al-Mandalawi said.
Sadly, the Times website doesn't host the cartoons that accompany this story in the print edition - you'll have to look over someone's shoulder on the tube to see them I'm afraid. But, for those needing a toon-fix, this rather similar LA Times article links to a Flash slideshow (at the top right of the page) that contains a couple that were published today, along with several others.

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