Looking Backward: 2009
by NIKAHANG KOWSAR
01 Jan 2010 21:56
Ten years ago, a crocodile drawing sent me directly to the notorious Evin prison in Tehran. It was a cartoon I had drawn in January 2000. The crocodile was depicted as strangling a reporter and shedding "Crocodile" tears, all while feigning his own victimization. We named him "Professor Crocodile," a name that rhymed with the title of a powerful Ayatollah who constantly attacked the press with spurious allegations. Ayatollah "Mesbah Yazdi" (from Yazd) was simply called "Ostad Mesbah" (professor Mesbah); the character in my cartoon was named "Ostad Temsah" (professor Crocodile).
Thousands of clergy students and a number of Ayatollahs in Qom closed their schools and embarked on three days of protests. At the following Friday Prayers, hundreds of thousands of people around the country shouted for my death.
Since that day, many around the country refer to Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi as the "Crocodile."
I have been a long-time admirer of crocodiles. Previously, I was kicked out of state radio for comparing another Ayatollah to crocodiles. As chance would have it, he too was from Yazd.
Now ten years later, I'm witnessing history in the making through my laptop screen. Watching events unfold in Iran on YouTube wasn't something I could have imagined a decade ago. I never thought that by living in the diaspora I could experience the political and social heat there, yet it burns my soul as I live vicariously through the Internet.
Today, in a town near Toronto, as I review my cartoons of 2009 for this year-end feature, I feel lucky to be able to continue drawing cartoons and to connect to audiences I had back home. Thanks to the World Wide Web, I can also reach out to young people just gaining an interest in political and editorial cartoons.
My cartoons last year were mostly reactions to the political events in Iran. It's true that editorial cartoonists are generally opinionated, but sometimes a journalist needs to strive for objectivity. However I must make a confession: I was in tears while drawing a number of them.
The government has legions of supporters who will turn out to vote for Ahmadinejad.
I drew this one after Ahmadinejad claimed to have won with 62.6 percent of the vote. Unbelievable!
Ahmadinejad tried to legitimize the ballot-counting process...
... But for some reason he wasn't willing to submit to a recount.
It's a delicate balancing act, but first you need a leg to stand on.
At least he did have one big fan.
This one is probably my favorite. It's as if I could feel the love between them. I think I was listening to Elton John's "Can you feel the love tonight..." while drawing this cartoon.
Back in September, when Ahmadinejad headed back to New York for a fifth time, he had a hard time finding a hotel. Luckily he had the halo that famously appeared over his head the first time he addressed the General Assembly.
Oo ba ma-st! Perhaps not...
This is Obama at his inauguration. He looked very hopeful, but I had my own doubts... Can he? Could he? Would he? Should he?...
President Obama was soft on Iran.
A Sophisticated Rebellion
Many have called the social network movement in Iran the "Twitter Revolution," but I call it the "YouTube Revolution." Maybe President Obama should watch a few.
Copyright © 2009 Tehran Bureau