Iran: artist gets 12 years for political cartoon

The interminable cartoon wars now move back to Iran, where 28-year-old artist Atena Farghadani has been sentenced to 12 years and nine months in prison. Her crime? A cartoon that depicts members of parliament as animals—seemingly a ruse to avoid specifically identifying them, so as to avoid trouble. According to Amnesty International, she was charged with "spreading propaganda against the system," "insulting members of parliament through paintings," and "gathering and colluding against national security." The offending cartoon depicted parliamentarians as monkeys, cows or goats as they cast votes for proposed laws that would ban some types of birth control and restrict women's access to contraception.

"Atena is being punished for something many of us have been doing in Iran: drawing politicians as animals, without naming them," Iranian-American artist Nikahang Kowsar told the Washington Post. "Of course, I drew a crocodile and made a name that rhymed with the name of powerful Ayatollah, and caused a national security crisis in 2000. What Atena drew was just an innocent take on what the parliamentarians are doing, and based on the Iranian culture, monkeys are considered the followers and imitators, [and] cows are the stupid ones. Many members of the Iranian parliament are just following the leaders without any thoughts."

OK, we are glad to see that this outrageous case made the WaPo. But who else has picked it up? The arts website Hyperallergic. Who else? Fox News and the (loathsome) Breitbart. Where is the American left? Not a peep, as far as we can tell. So the stateside right wing, which is happy to demonize feminists and unorthodox artists here at home, becomes the champion of such in Iran. And the stateside "left," which champions feminists and unorthodox artists here at home, is happy to betray them in Iran.

Can anyone please explain what the hell is up with this?

  1. Iran: imprisoned cartoonist subjected to forced ‘virginity test’

    Amnesty International reports that imprisoned satirical cartoonist Atena Farghadani was forced to undergo a "virginity and pregnancy test," prior to her trial for a new charge of "illegitimate sexual relations"—for shaking hands with her lawyer. In a note written by Farghadani and leaked from prison, she says the judicial authorities took her to a medical center outside the prison on Aug. 12 and forced her to submit to the tests, purportedly with the purpose of investigating the charge against her.

    "It is shocking that on top of imposing a ludicrous charge on Atena Farghadani for the 'crime' of shaking hands with her lawyer, the Iranian authorities have forced her to undergo a 'virginity and pregnancy test'," said Said Boumedouha, deputy director of Amnesty's Middle East program. "In doing so, the Iranian judicial authorities have truly reached an outrageous low, seeking to exploit the stigma attached to sexual and gender-based violence in order to intimidate, punish or harass her." (AI, Oct. 9)