Saturday, 18 July 2015
25 September 2021
Dialogue of the day

“Our limits of tolerance for Cartoons»

2012 May 12

Ardavan Roozbeh / Radio Koocheh
ardavan@koochehmail.com

Translated by Avideh Motmaen-Far

The hidden message in the sentencing of the cartoonist from Arak was that there is no room for criticizing in Iran and even cartoon drawing could lead to being sentenced to crimes alike alcohol consumption, adultery, and crimes of this kind.

The cartoon that sentenced ”Mahmoud Shokrayeh” to 25 lashes was an image of a representative of the Islamic Council. The image of the person who is supposed to hear the voice of people, answer their objections, and defend their rights. ”Ahmad Lotfi” who was not even people representative in the ninth Council, neither even a second rank politician, had a message. That even a previous representative can bring you to be sentenced and punished for the least of criticism that in every country is totally tolerated.

The problem is that in Iran, criticism is not tolerated in any way by law and it is to the discretion of any judge to incriminate you even to the highest sentence possible.
Once more, we have to talk about the media rights, about the immunity to speak of concerned media and the fact that how good are their trade union rights.This is not the first time that a cartoonist is condemned, but this time, “Mana Neyestani”, Iranian cartoonist, suggested that all the cartoonist draw cartoons of other representatives to support the condemned cartoonist from Arak. A Union objection for their legal rights that in most cases are ignored.
”Mana” asked cartoonists to draw cartoons of Mr. Lotfi. I asked him to talk with Radio Koocheh and explain the purpose that the cartoonists follow.

A few days ago, due to the clash with ”Mahmoud Shokrayeh”, the cartoonist from Arak, ”Mana” invited cartoonists to protest. What was your goal? Why did you ask cartoonist to draw more cartoons of Arak representative ?

It began as a simple thought and when I heard the news I felt I should respond and why not giving a collective response. I believe that rights of cartoonists and caricaturists have been violated. It is not about opening the atmosphere, breaking taboos and enlarging the infrastructure in which we work anymore, it is about preserving whatever is still possible. I felt that keeping quiet means worsening the situation of cartoonists and media in general in Iran which is already a very difficult one. The things that are the most natural work of a caricaturist I believe, that even despite the obstacles of these last three decades in Iran, it has been possible to draw, the cartoon figures of politicians who are not even Clergymen and are not even first rank politicians in this country.

Mr. Lotfi who has been responsible for Mr. Shokrayeh to be lashed 25 times, is not even a representative anymore, he has not been reelected. And in the past ten years the caricature of Tehran’s mayer, Mr. Ahmadinejad and other politicians have been drawn without any problem for the artists.

I believe that there is different standards in this country. We have caricature exhibitions fully supported by the government every two years. A part of this exhibitions is related to famous people or politicians in Iran and all over the world and the best ones win prizes. So why some cartoonist should be praised and some others should be punished? Why all these differences? I wanted to challenge these differences and defend our rights as professionals. So, without exaggerating in anything, I suggested them to do what they are supposed to do and usually do, but for which Mr. Shokrayeh has been punished.

Drawing the representative, Mr. Lotfi’ s face is a gift to him that unfortunately he does not understand, because when a caricaturist draws a face, he gives a part of himself to it and it’s a gift to the subject being drawn. So drawing him will make him get used to see himself not so perfect and ideal and at the same time shows that cartoon is alive in Iran and they cannot deal with us unfairly.

Perhaps this is not the first time that caricaturists are being dealt with in such a way in Iran.  With regards to your experience, are in the country any compiled specific laws on this issue or a judge decides by himself? Is there a definition of how free cartoonists are at the ministry of culture?

There is no specific laws and they are very vague, so the judges should deduct from them and that is the reason why there are duality in the laws, because they are not clear and I am afraid that jugment is based on a personal tastes and they are going to to say now that several times this sentence has been given, why not make it a law and that in my opinion is not a pleasant end.

The horrifying thing is that in the general, some politicians believe that if someone’s caricature was drawn by a cartoonist, it should be an insult to him. I have even seen amongst my audience that when I  undertake a drawing of a person like Mr. Sazagara, Asghar Farhadi or Mr. Khamenehi, they believe that they have been insulted.

For example, partisans of Mr. Sazagara or Mr. Farhadi felt that they have been insulted because I have drawn their caricature and this is a negative cultural thought and I am afraid it can be gradually become to the law has become compiled and find legitimacy.

Given that you know the atmosphere of cartoon and its humor, what is the relationship of the officials with it in Iran? Their level of tolerance? Do you think that their level of tolerance has changed?

It is very difficult for me to answer this question. I saw that Mr. Ahmadinejad showed no problem with his caricature and even has laughed about it. Even Mr. Khatami and Mr. Ghalibaf  has reacted very well with their caricatures. Some other politicians had no problem neither. Although it is an issue among Iranians that see themselves so perfect that any violations of these figures are considered as an offense. And even an offense in our culture is very undefined. So anything can be considered as an offense very easily. While caricature of politicians and officials are very common and accepted in the world, even if it exaggerates the negative physical points because it reminds them of the fact that they are not perfect, they are human with human weaknesses and I think that this is necessary for the politicians not to have illusions about themselves.

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