Ali Farzat and the Syrian Regime

Ali Farzat’s cartoons are characteristically printed without captions. This feature allows him to critique authoritarian regimes more generally, but it also allows the reader to interpret for his- or her-self where the cartoon takes place and, I believe, leads to a more lasting personal connection to what is being expressed—everything becomes more reminiscent of situations the readers themselves have been involved in. This combination of room for interpretation surrounding the author’s core message and the anonymity of faces (no specific leaders are pointed to in this series of cartoons) likely allowed Farzat to escape the most dangerous levels of backlash from government officials when his earlier works were published.

Figures 17 and 18 emphasize the cartoonist’s ability to alter the abilities and functions of the human body. By drawing a character with a tape recorder for a head, Farzat simultaneously decreases the figure’s humanity and suggests that he is merely a tool used by the flawed regime to spy on its own citizens. The fact that the two men on the right side of the panel are hunched over and maintaining eye contact suggests that they could be arguing about something important, hence explaining the bureaucrat’s keen interest in discerning the topic of their conversation. In Figure 17, this time the citizen is dehumanized as an airport security officer goes beyond checking the passenger’s bags and attempts to read his thoughts and true intentions. He’s reduced to nothing more than a potential threat to the authority of the regime in this specific cartoon.

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