Iran Press Court Sentences Cartoonist Mahmoud Shokraiyeh to 25 Lashes For Drawing a Caricature of a Member of Parliament
Earlier this week an Iranian Press Court sentenced cartoonist Mahmoud Shokraiyeh (also spelled Mahmud Shokraye) to twenty-five lashes. Mahmoud's local parliamentarian Ahmad Lotfi Ashtiani was offended by a caricature of him that appeared in the newspaper Nameye Amir. Ashtiani sought charges against Mahmoud and Mahmoud's publisher. The publisher was spared the lash. Mahmoud, who has not yet sought an appeal, will soon receive this cruel punishment -- unless a public outcry can be brought to bear.
The cartoon depicts Ahmad Lotfi Ashtiani in a complete football outfit (or, for our American friends, a soccer outfit). With one foot on a football, the depiction of the elected official has a congratulatory letter in one hand and a dark mark on the forehead, indicating a strong conservative Shia Muslim faith.
It is a little baffling as to why Parliamentarian Ashtiani is offended by this cartoon. For starters, there is little exaggeration of the politician's facial or physical features. The cartoon probably refers to the politician's successful efforts to help bring professional football to the city of Arak. While there have been investigations into other politicians' improper actions in attracting clubs, there doesn't appear to be any such suggestion in this cartoon. Perhaps the cartoon is gently poking fun of this politician taking the credit. As for the mark on the caricature of Mr. Ashtiani, it is no darker than the actual mark.
Below is an audio interview of CRNI Board Member Nik Kowsar giving his analysis of what the cartoon means and what this very troubling development means to all Iranian cartoonists. Nik is an Iranian self-exile who had to leave his home and family after he offended another thin-skinned official.
CRNI condemns this cruel verdict. We note that Iranian cartoonists have recently been allowed to caricature politicians, even the President, if not the Supreme Leader of Iran. Regardless, Parliamentarian Ashtiani is a public figure who serves the Iranian people. The Iranian people, including cartoonist Mahmoud Shokraiyeh, have every human and moral right to scrutinize and criticize him. Furthermore, for the sake of good governance, cartoonists should have the legal right to caricature him even much more critically than this tame cartoon. We urge everyone to visit the GoPetition page set up by 2010 CRNI Courage Award recipient Mana Neyestani titled Halt the flogging of the Iranian cartoonist Mahmoud Shokraiyeh, and then sign the petition.
To learn more about this story, click on Iran Steps Up Crackdown On Journalists from The Epoch Times, Iranian Cartoonist Sentenced to 25 Lashings from Daryl Cagle's Cartoon Web Blog, and, Iranian Cartoonist's Conviction Condemned from the Guardian. To see Martin Rowson's much more outspoken caricature of Ahmad Lotfi Ashtiani in the Guardian, click on Martin Rowson on Iranian MP Ahmad Lotfi Ashtiani.