This year the young activist artist Atena Farghadani’s went on trial after she was arrested in Iran for drawing political cartoons of the parliament. In a tradition almost as old as illustration itself, she drew her government as animals (“insulting members of parliament through paintings” and “spreading propaganda against the system,”), and now she’s facing over 12 years in jail.
The greatest sources of information have been the Cartoonists Rights Network International (@CRNetInt on twitter) and Amnesty UK (@AmnestyUK) for following her progress. We gathered over 30k signatures for her appeal, then watched in horror as her attorney was arrested for the “indecency” of publicly shaking her hand. She’s gone on hunger strikes and been put through invasive tests, and we’ve yet to hear any good news about her situation. Search for her name on twitter and you’ll see countless postings as people spread the word of her sentencing and that she’s still in jail. Don’t forget. This woman is in jail for her drawings.
It’s been nearly a year. I drew Atena several months ago to spread the word, but was saddened shortly after to see that the Amnesty UK had taken down the signature page for her petition. What do we do now? She is in the hands of the Iranian government, and just sharing and talking about this case seems to be all we can do. Earlier this year, artist were drawing cartoons for her. #Draw4Atena #FreeAtena
Farghadani’s case is just one of many. Page through the Amnesty’s website and you’ll see countless political activists who are facing similar trials. Start writing letters. Attach yourself to one case and you’ll start to feel the anguish and helplessness of the situation. I don’t know what to do except keep looking, keep updated, keep talking about it. Realize that the ability to draw and write what you feel isn’t always a free right. Throughout time freedom of speech has been given and taken away. But it’s an incredibly powerful tool. Fight for it. Use it well.