Flowers of Revolution

Ali Farzat is a Syrian political cartoonist who is well known for his satires of Arab rulers and authorities. Out of the cartoons that we discussed in class, I particularly liked the one of the tree and flower. Cameron and Jordan also talk about this piece in their respective posts here and here.

To me, the cartoon represents the illusion of the Syrian regime’s power. The tree representing the regime looks huge compared to the flower, but its roots are much shorter and appear much more fragile. Although the regime might have the appearance of being mightier than the revolution, it is actually weak and perhaps even dying. The tree, as we can see, is fruitless. In contrast, the roots of the flower representing the revolution is deep and thick, signifying the revolution’s strength and hidden potential. The flower’s deep roots also suggest that the revolution has been growing for a long time. This reminds me of the Egyptian uprising whose “seeds of mobilization” had been sown as far back as the early 2000s via social media. Consequently, “While the uprising in Egypt caught most observers of the Middle East off guard, it did not come out of the blue” (1). The contrast between the flower and tree is also interesting because the flower seems to suggest that the revolution wants to bring peace to the people, whereas the tree’s branches almost look thorny, as if to say that the regime’s rule is violent.

I also found this other cartoon by Farzat representing the “poor man’s dream” being taken away my the regime. Note how invasive the hand appears to be as it snatches the flower from the man’s thoughts. Again, we see the image of a flower, here representing the poor man (i.e. the people’s) hope for peace.

(1) Hirschkind, C. (2011). From the Blogosphere to the Street: The Role of Social Media in the Egyptian Uprising. Retrieved April 9, 2011, from

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3 Responses to Flowers of Revolution

  1. These are both really interesting cartoons. Did these come out after the uprising in Syria began? If so, Farzat really takes a bold move here, stepping away from his characteristic anonymity of faces and situations and putting himself in quite a bit of danger. His message is also a lot clearer here than in his earlier, more ambiguous cartoons, and he finally uses a caption to point to what each piece of his work stands for. I consider this another extremely bold move–previously, the viewer was allowed to decide what represented what, but here Farzat is so concerned with commenting on the growing revolution that he does not allow the reader that type of freedom anymore. The tree representing the ‘system’ or ‘regime’ also seems to reinforce the common theme that the Syria bureaucracy is extremely convoluted as the ugly tree’s branches become more and more twisted as they reach toward the sky. Because the tree results in a tangled mess of ends pointing nowhere and doing nothing particularly productive, Farzat seems to say that attempts to intimidate the people by surveilling and towering over them will be futile as long as the revolution remains firmly rooted.

  2. I think the posts on this cartoon have raised some interesting points – your post, as well as Cameron’s and Jordan’s (thanks for the links!). You note that the tree of the regime is fruitless, which is not something I thought of looking at the image, and I think it’s interesting to consider the future of these two plants in the image. A fruitless, shallow-rooted tree clearly won’t last long, but a single flower is highly vulnerable, as I think Rachel points out in her comment on Jordan’s post. However, this fragility also carries with it a certain strength, since the representation of the revolution in such a way is designed to win sympathy for its cause; the deep-rooted nature of this flower makes it resilient, as others have said. What does it truly mean to represent the revolution as a flower? Is it a flower of peace, like you suggest? Or, in the second drawing, is the man’s dream of a flower really a dream of the revolt?

    Caitlyn’s description of the regime as a tree with twisted branches that go nowhere rings true to me as well. If the tree represents order, or a negative view of the established order, as Cameron suggested in his post, perhaps the regime has become a twisted version of that order. Alternatively, the tree could be the wildness of power and an obstacle to progress, unlike a flower, which can represent new birth. Farzat’s images are particularly interesting given his Facebook audience, as we’ve discussed in class, because people may not read these representations of Syria in the same way as he intends. The captions actually don’t have an impact for me, since I don’t understand the Arabic – is this something that Farzat should change? Or are his cartoons more free/powerful without captions, as Caitlyn suggests?

  3. I too found this particular cartoon interesting, especially because it seems to “compare and contrast” the strengths and weakness of the revolution and the “niZaam”. I think it is especially important that the revolution is depicted as a flower because it perpetuates the notion that these movements are part of an Arab Spring. While this term seems to be a largely Western term, as I have seldom seen it translated as such, this cartoon clearly shows that this idea of revolution as rebirth or renewal of life is definitely recognized by the Arab consciousness as well. I think its problematic to say that this flower represents “peace” because roses all have thorns (if I continue with the metaphor), and we have seen that the Syrian revolution especially has been incredibly bloody on both sides. However, it is definitely a symbol of revival and renewal.

    Furthermore, it is interesting that the government is depicted as having shallow roots. Again, we have seen that the Syrian government especially will not be toppled easily, as is perhaps implied by the top-heavy tree. However, if we view this cartoon as perhaps a message of encouragement, then Farzat must be saying something to the effect that the people are fighting for something that is much more deeply rooted than that for which the government is fighting. Of course will-power must be strongly considered in any conflict, and in this situation the people are fighting for their country, their lives, and their very roots.

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