'I want to make a difference'

The story of escaped Afghan cartoonist Hossein Rezaei.

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Some details about Hossein's situation and family have been omitted from this article, for security reasons.

Hossein, based in Kabul, first contacted us in early August. As the Taliban advanced through the country, he was getting worried. He asked us to remove all his cartoons from Cartoon Movement, and deleted all his social media profiles. When the Taliban reached Kabul, and stories were spreading of how the Taliban were taking revenge on people who had worked with the Western world, Hossein began fearing for his life. He has worked with us on several international cartoon projects, drawing about human rights, freedom of expression and the dangers of extremism. If the Taliban found out he was a political cartoonist, working with a European platform, he would be in grave danger.

In addition, Hossein is from the Hazara minority, a group of people with a different religion, language and appearance than the majority of Afghan people. The Taliban has relentlessly persecuted this group, committing several mass murders during their previous reign.

We were able on get him on the evacuation list, because Dutch parliament decided that all people who were in danger because they worked with the Netherlands had the right to be evacuated. The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs funded several of our cartoon projects, projects in which Hossein participated. So we were able to make a legitimate case; we were even more fortunate to get in touch with the crisis team almost immediately, who in turn responded rapidly. After several failed attempts to reach the airport, getting stuck in the thousands of people who crowded the roads to the airport, and losing his phone on on of these journeys, he got a message from the Dutch crisis team. If he could make is way to a specific spot at the airport, he could be evacuated.

As the situation in Kabul deteriorated, Hossein made the choice to try one more time. He took only some spare clothing and his digital tablet (for drawing). He got into a taxi, hoping to make it through the various Taliban checkpoints by pretending to be traveling elsewhere in the city. He was lucky. Even so, a journey that would normally take less than an hour, no took him over 8 hours. He was forced to go most of the way on foot; since he lost his phone, he had to use his drawing tablet to communicate with the crisis team . Both the large device and him talking in English made him stick out like a sore thumb. But he made it.

Now, Hossein is in a refugee camp in the east of the Netherlands, having left his house, car (just bought after years of saving) and his career behind in Kabul. We talked to him last week, asking him about his plans and how we can support him. Hossein still aims to pursue a PHD in archaeology, hoping that his dream to work in Bamiyan will be possible somewhere in the future, to help preserve the history of Afghanistan for future generations. That seems a long way off; on social media, he now sees photos of his former students in the streets of Kabul, dressed as Taliban and carrying guns.

 

Interview RezayeHossein, now safe in the Netherlands, with CM editor Tjeerd Royaards.

In the meantime, he has taken up making cartoons again. 'I need to do something', Hossein says, 'I need to make a difference. We share some of his recent work here, made after his arrival in the Netherlands:

 

242398060_4361369437275008_7781057143901839358_nThe situation of Afghan women under the Taliban rule.

241671251_4329342773811008_5732665188161713280_nJournalists tortured in Kabul.

 

241862051_4342647475813871_9063509716690016090_n Pro-Taliban Afghan women attend lecture at Kabul university.

 

We will continue to support Hossein and his work. If you are interested in supporting him, by publishing his work, or in some other form, please contact us here.

 


Editorial: 20th anniversary of 9/11

For this week's editorial, there was really no other choice than to take a look at how cartoonists visualize the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks. As is often the case, we can identify a couple of categories of cartoons.

The first category is the tribute or memorial cartoon: cartoons that commemorate the tragedy of the attack, the loss of life and the emotional impact on New York City, America and the world.

 

A_sombra.1Cartoon by Vasco Gargalo

 

Wtctowersforgetnever1_pete_kreiner300 Cartoon by Pete Kreiner

 

Andrea Arroyo_September 11_20 yearsCartoon by Arroyo

 

Another perspective shows the consequences of the attacks, especially for the Middle East. Some cartoonists us the iconic image of the smoking twin towers to have something emerge from the smoke (like today's cartoon on our homepage).

 

210906 911 20th anniversaryCartoon by Tjeerd Royaards

 

September_11_and_slamic_geography__mikail__ciftciCartoon by Mikail Çiftçi

 

Other cartoonists play with the shadow cast by the twin towers, turning this into guns, or jet fighters.

 

NYC2001Cartoon by Ant

 

IMG_0627_0Cartoon by Morad Kotkot

 

It’s interesting to see the difference here between international cartoonists and US cartoonists. Right after the attacks, it was almost impossible for US cartoonists to draw critically about 9/11 and the US response (there’s a chapter devoted to this in Red Lines, a book on censorship we recently reviewed). But even 20 years later, although a collection on The Cagle Post includes a lot of cartoons that question if America’s intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan was successful, there are very few US cartoons that lament the loss of lives (of non-US citizens) due to these military operations. Meanwhile, this cartoon by Dan Murphy draws a rather grim picture.

 

Nine Eleven Math Question

 

Another popular category of cartoons connect the 9/11 attack and the recent withdrawal from Afghanistan.

 

Twenty years from the Twin Towers - Del Rosso Cartoon by Emanuele Del Rosso

 

6C4CC730-A687-4AE8-8988-91684C4F490CCartoon by Dino


Several cartoonists have drawn the gruesome parallel of people jumping from the twin towers to escape the fires with people falling of the US military plane they had clung onto in a desperate attempt to escape Afghanistan.

Sketch1630966334702Cartoon by MATE

 

11sep Cartoon by Mahmoud Rifai

 

CC28C346-5956-4353-8787-BE1E20C629A5Cartoon by Emad Hajjaj

 

Visit our newsroom for even more 9/11 cartoons.

 


Evergreen satire - online event September 15

We want to invite you all to our first official online event of Evergreen Satire on Wednesday September 15 at 4 pm CEST, live from the Beeld & Geluid media museum in The Hague, The Netherlands. It’s free!

 

Register for the event

 

Evergreen satire is a network of institutions across Europe that house historical cartoons or have have expert knowledge in the area of editorial cartoons. In our first event we will bring together several guests to explore how war has been visualized by cartoonists through the years.

 

Banner for website - Evergreen Satire

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September 15 is the International Day of Democracy and September 21 marks the International Day of Peace. We therefore thought it fitting for our first event to explore how cartoonists have drawn about war & peace in the last century. Can we compare cartoonists drawing anti-Nazi cartoons in the 1930s to Syrian cartoonists that protested against the regime with their work? And can we see similarities in cartoons about the Vietnam war and the recent withdrawal from Afghanistan?

Guests will include: Jürgen Kaumkötter, director of the Center for Persecuted Arts in Solingen, Germany; Rob Phillips, Head of Archives and Manuscripts Section and the Welsh Political Archive at the National Library of Wales; and Jop Euwijk, curator News, Current Affairs and Information at the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision. And of course Emanuele Del Rosso and Tjeerd Royaards from Cartoon Movement.

 

Register for the event

 


Editorial: cartoons and cancel culture

Political cartoonists have a problematic relationship with being woke. I decided to make this the topic of this week's editorial, because the 10 finalists of the Cancel Culture and Political Correctness cartoon competition were announced this week.  The competition is organized by Librexpression together with Cartooning for Peace and VoxEurop and asks the question if the legitimate protests against the many social and racial injustices that exist in Western countries today (the comeptition calls this woke culture) is now overshadowed by the rise of cancel culture and online outrage.

You can see the 10 finalist cartoons below (I am honored to have one of mine included), but I also wanted to share some thoughts on the topic, as it relates to cartoonists. I remember getting the invitation to send in my work for this competition, and then pondering for a long time if I had any work that would actually fit the theme. I tend not to draw about woke culture because I am ambivalent about it, and I think my ambivalence is shared by many cartoonists.

On the one hand the term woke originates in the awareness about racial prejudice and discrimination, and later came to include many other forms of social inequality. These are precisely the topics many cartoonists address in their work. Our profession is all about shedding light on (social) inequalities, and mocking those who are responsible for perpetuating these inequalities. Most cartoonists like to see themselves on the side of the oppressed, fighting for social justice with every stroke of their pencil. In short, most cartoonists consider themselves to be woke.

But cartoonists also like to see themselves as champions of freedom of expression. And this is where tension arises. Because being woke has at times (d)evolved into cancel culture, with large groups of people protesting as certain speakers where invited to speak at universities, or going after people with certain opinion on social media, with the purpose of censoring or publicly humiliating these individuals. And cartoonists have not been spared this fate; often using stereotypes as part of our visual language, the way we portray certain groups or ethnicities in our work has sparked numerous incidents in the past few years.

One that comes most readily to mind is a cartoon from 2018 by Mark Knight about Serena Williams. Another example is this cartoon by Antonio  from 2019 that sparked worldwide accusations of antisemitism and caused the New York Times to stop running cartoons altogether. 

The point here is not to argue whether these cartoons crossed a line or not, but the way that online public outrage makes any meaningful discussion impossible. Yes, cartoonist have a responsibility and definitely should be called out when they unfairly portray ethnic or other groups in their cartoons. But they are also human, and make mistakes. In both these cases (and many others), an online mob screamed for blood, the polite people calling for the cartoonists to be fired and never hired again, the not-so-polite ones calling for a lot worse. I could even argue that this mindless public outrage made the NYT editors so afraid it caused them to make their decision not to print any more cartoons, ever.

Cancel culture makes the life of cartoonists more difficult, because we continually have to be weary of not accidentally insulting people or groups of people. In the two cartoon examples above, I am pretty sure the cartoonists did not intend to cause the controversy that they did. I do have to poutn out that this caution is not wholly a bad thing, because it forces us to think about how we draw women, migrants, ethnic minorities etc. But when the consequence is total public humiliation when you get it wrong, it might be time to consider if things haven't gone a bit too far.

What's arguably even worse, it that cancel culture and social media outrage is making editors afraid of satire, reducing the number of paid spaces political cartoonist have to publish their work, or watering down the cartoons that are published. Both not good for the profession.

So it might a good time for cartoonists to explore the issue. An exhibition of 56 cartoons will be  on display from 20 September to 31 December in an exhibition in the cloister of the Monastery San Benedetto in Conversano in Italy. And as promised, here below the 10 finalist cartoons (which are presented in random order).

Tjeerd Royaards
Cartoon Movement editor

 

Izabela Kowalska-Wieczorek - Poland

07-Izabela Kowalska-Wieczorek_ Polonia-'Immersi nella pattumiera della storia'

 

Toso Borkovic - Serbia
07-Izabela Kowalska-Wieczorek_ Polonia-'Immersi nella pattumiera della storia'

Yoemnis DelToro - Mexico


07-Izabela Kowalska-Wieczorek_ Polonia-'Immersi nella pattumiera della storia'

 

Niels Bo Bojesen - Denmark


07-Izabela Kowalska-Wieczorek_ Polonia-'Immersi nella pattumiera della storia'

Marco De Angelis - Italy


07-Izabela Kowalska-Wieczorek_ Polonia-'Immersi nella pattumiera della storia'

 

Walter Leoni - Italy
07-Izabela Kowalska-Wieczorek_ Polonia-'Immersi nella pattumiera della storia'

Elena Ospina - Colombia
07-Izabela Kowalska-Wieczorek_ Polonia-'Immersi nella pattumiera della storia'

Lido Contemori-Italy
07-Izabela Kowalska-Wieczorek_ Polonia-'Immersi nella pattumiera della storia'

 

Tom Janssen - The Netherlands


07-Izabela Kowalska-Wieczorek_ Polonia-'Immersi nella pattumiera della storia'

 

Tjeerd Royaards - The Netherlands


07-Izabela Kowalska-Wieczorek_ Polonia-'Immersi nella pattumiera della storia'


Editorial: Cartooning the future

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Over the years, we have done numerous educational projects. Editorial cartoons work well in the classroom, because they teach students to think about what's going on in the world, about thinking critically and about the power of visual communication.

In this week's editorial, I wanted to share some cartoons from the project Cartooning the future in Lithuania that is hosted on our sister website The Next Movement. Cartooning the future challenges students from different schools throughout Lithuania to think about human rights issues, and to come up with their own cartoon ideas on the subject.

The best student sketches are then turned into professional cartoons by our global team of cartoonists.

Here is an idea by Austėja from Merkinė Vincas Krėvė gymnasium: 'My sketch portrays people who are pushing alcohol bottles off the cliff. When they push the bottles away they stay in a bright, beautiful world.'

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And the resulting cartoon by Marin Chren from Slovakia, with a slightly different take on the idea:

Alco

 

Love is Love, by Kamila from Merkinė Vincas Krėvė gymnasium.

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This idea was picked up by Zach from the Philippines.

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Here's a sketch by Kęstutis from Merkinė Vincas Krėvė gymnasium.

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And the cartoon by Amorim from Brazil.

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Be sure to check out the project page on the TNM website. Not only can you find many more ideas that were turned into cartoons, the website developer added some nice features to navigate the project and compare the sketches to the cartoons.

Tjeerd Royaards
Cartoon Movement editor