Ferzat, 60, was forced into a Jeep by masked assailants Thursday morning as he left his Damascus studio.
Ferzat had once considered Syrian President Bashar al-Assad a friend.
Now he is the latest dissident to fall victim to the Syrian government’s brutal crackdown on the peaceful, democratic uprising in the country.
A political cartoonist, Ferzat had long been in the government’s good graces. Ferzat has used cartoons to criticize other Middle Eastern countries, and even recalls a time when Assad would visit his exhibits and offer kind words.
According to Ferzat, Assad even told him that none of his work should be censored.
After Assad took over from his father in 2000, Ferzat was allowed to publish an independent, satirical newspaper–the first in Syria in years–during a brief period known as the Damascus Spring.
When that brief period ended and Assad asserted brutal authority, Ferzat had to shutter that paper. He continued having his cartoons published in papers across the country.
One of the most popular artists in Syria, Ferzat’s cartoons’ criticism of the government has grown harsher recently, as he reacted to the military’s killing of unarmed demonstrators.
Ferzat recalls his attackers explaining that this beating was just a “warning.” He says they told him:
“We will break your hands so that you’ll stop drawing,”
Ferzat’s cartoons, many made of simple ink on paper, should remind us of the power–whether writing or in drawing–of the pen. Ferzat’s pen drew such fear out the government that they resorted to beating a defenseless old man, just so he would “stop drawing.”
Associated Press: Syrian gunmen break artists’ hands as ‘warning’