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Looking Backward: 2009

by NIKAHANG KOWSAR

01 Jan 2010 21:5613 Comments
temsaah.jpgAs a political cartoonist forced to leave the country in 2003 after receiving a death threat, I should probably hate the rulers in Iran. Though I am not a big fan, I love them for all of their rich contributions to material for me and my colleagues. Truly, how can I hate the people who have kept my cartooning spirit alive?

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.

2009

The Election

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The government has legions of supporters who will turn out to vote for Ahmadinejad.

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I drew this one after Ahmadinejad claimed to have won with 62.6 percent of the vote. Unbelievable!

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Ahmadinejad tried to legitimize the ballot-counting process...

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... But for some reason he wasn't willing to submit to a recount.

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It's a delicate balancing act, but first you need a leg to stand on.

At least he did have one big fan.

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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.

Stateside...

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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...

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This is Obama at his inauguration. He looked very hopeful, but I had my own doubts... Can he? Could he? Would he? Should he?...

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President Obama was soft on Iran.

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Too soft...

A Sophisticated Rebellion

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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

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13 Comments

Beautiful drawing technique. Sharp mind and wit. Same class or higher than Steve Bell of the Guardian.

Are you published anywhere in the US? Websites? Papers?

A link would be great.

Peace

nassim / January 2, 2010 7:09 PM

fogholade bud! ba ejaze man in safe ro baraye dustam Fwd kardam albate ba zekre daghighe manba.
ba tashakor :)

مینو / January 2, 2010 9:08 PM

Superb stuff. Too smart and hilarious for words! Thanks for making us laugh to death.

mahasti / January 2, 2010 10:04 PM

It's really fun to see these political cartoon in English as I can't read Farsi. A real wake up call that Iranians have unique personal perceptions and are all not parts of monolithic mobs who move in unison and chant slogans.

Richard / January 2, 2010 11:03 PM

Asking Obama, or any other foreign power, to save Iran asks us to relive the failures of the past. Obama's constituents are in the US, not Iran; American interests are an Iran that lacks nuclear bombs and supplies oil reliably. Why should Obama look beyond that and try to (possibly) benefit Iran at his own constituents' (at least near term) loss? He's the President of the US, not the Messiah.

Thankfully, this is an Iranian revolution, the only kind with staying power and a chance at long term success.

PG / January 3, 2010 8:11 AM

Nikahang has great cartoons ... please post more!

Amir / January 3, 2010 9:28 AM

reposting to my FB

Heather G / January 3, 2010 9:31 AM

You're the best

Green guy / January 3, 2010 3:39 PM

I love your satirical depictions of Ahmadinejad, but I kinda felt that you were a little harsh on Obama. Not that you were trying to insult him or anything like that.

Nathan Racher / January 4, 2010 12:29 AM

great work

rami tayebi / January 4, 2010 7:51 PM

Yeah, YouTube, Twitter, citizen journalism... long gone are the days of proof reading and editing...

Phallus Dei / January 5, 2010 7:32 AM

Much conveyed in few words.

Jan / February 7, 2010 12:27 AM

it is veeeeeeeeery nice

thank you & good jab

mojtaba azadi / July 13, 2010 10:06 PM