'We Are Not Amnesty International'
June 10, 2015
Thoughts on FECO - by Tjeerd Royaards
FECO or the Federation of Cartoonists Organisations was founded 1983 in by three cartoonists from the Netherlands, Belgium and Great Britain. According to their website, they now have chapters in over 30 countries. The goals of FECO are to provide information on cartoon contests around the world, to safeguard author's rights and freedom of opinion, and to support cartoonists who have been victimized for political or professional reasons (this last goal is listed on the website, although not every board member agrees this should be part of the mission of FECO).
FECO is one of the major players in the field of cartooning. But it is not uncontroversial. One critic is Iranian cartoonist Kianoush Ramezani, who has fled Iran because of his work. He has been living in exile in France since 2010. He is highly critical of FECO's activities in Iran, in particular the fact that FECO cooperates with the Iranian House of Cartoon and the Tabriz Cartoon Association (until quite recently the official representative of FECO in Iran - according to FECO they did not pay their contribution, so they no longer have this role). Ramezani: 'The world knows these two organizations are part of the propaganda of the Islamic State of Iran. They are directly responsible for the exile of numerous Iranian cartoonists, for repression and torture. The world knows all cartooning events are managed by them with an enormous budget of the regime.'
In an open letter to FECO, Ramezani calls upon the organization to stop its cooperation with the Iran House of Cartoon and the Tabriz Cartoon Association. Several board members of FECO have responded this his letter.
French cartoonist Brito mentions the many the talented cartoonists in Iran: 'I consider it our duty not to close doors and windows of the world to cartoonists from Iran. And I think that, perhaps, one of the possible ways to do that is to participate in Iranian contests. Personally, I never participated in any Iranian contest and that I don’t intend to do so, but I defend the right of any cartoonist to do this. If we boycott Iran, why not boycott Russia, China, Cuba, the United States of America or Israel?'
Dutch artist and one of the founders of FECO, Peter Nieuwendijk, writes the following in a personal statement in response to Ramezani's letter: 'We are NOT Amnesty International. We are NOT Cartoonists Rights Network International. We are no politicians, we are no judges, we do not condemn. We are cartoonists. We draw about problems; we make people think and laugh, help them to decide, so they can form their own conclusions.'
Judge and Condemn
As editor of a cartoon platform that also has the mission to stand up for freedom of expression and to support cartoonists in trouble, and as an editorial cartoonist myself, I can't help but agree with some of the points raised by Kianoush Ramezani.
In February, we wrote about the Holocaust Cartoon Competition organized by the House of Cartoon in Iran. We noted that the competition was 'politically motivated, politically funded, and politically controlled by the Iranian government.' This competition is not looking for independent cartoons, but for images that will support the politics of Iran.
Brito raises a fair point when he asks why we should boycott Iran and not other countries. But to me, the delineator is quite clear. Yes, I disagree with many of the policies of the US and Israel, but any competition taking place in these countries will be independent of the state. I can make a hard-hitting caricature of Obama or Netanyahu and send it in for a competition in these countries. I could of course also send a caricature of Rouhani or Khamenei to an Iranian cartoon competition, but I doubt it would be published, let alone selected as prize-winner. US cartoonist Daryl Cagle made a great protest cartoon which he entered into the Holocaust Competition. I doubt we will see it on Irancartoon.com.
Dayl Cagle's cartoon entry for the Holocaust Competition
Brito goes on to note that in some countries censorship can be insidious, less visible than in Iran but no less damaging. Althoug this is undoubtedly true, we have to draw a line somewhere. And I think putting an end to cooperation with openly state-sponsored cartoon institutions of authoritarian regimes is a good place to start.
Ramezani points out that boycotting these two organizations would not mean a total boycott of cartoonists in Iran. He argues that FECO should connect with independent Iranian cartoonists.
To me, the core of cartooning is independence, and its foundation is freedom of expression. In a world where truth is often in the eye of the beholder, these two values should be paramount to cartoonists and the organizations that represent them. Contrary to what Mr. Nieuwendijk believes, I do feel it's our duty to judge and condemn those who threaten our freedom to draw what we want, and those who would use cartoons for propaganda and political purposes. I wholeheartedly agree that we should not lose touch with the cartoonists in Iran, but I do not believe that working with regime-sponsored institutions to that end is a constructive way to do that. We should find a way to connect with independent Iranian cartoonists, however difficult that may be.
I'd be very interested to hear what other cartoonists (and people interested in cartoons) think about this. Feel free to share your point of view in the comment section below.
Update: Just before publication of this post, Daryl Cagle mentioned new developments on his Facebook page. He states Bernard Bouton, secretary-general of FECO (and also a member of the Cartoon Movement community) has resigned from FECO. In recent days, Bouton has been criticized for participating in the Holocaust Competition. According to Cagle, ‘the French cartoonists, the largest part of FECO, are calling for new elections to replace the FECO board and to disassociate FECO from Iran's infamous ‘House of Cartoons’. We will continue to follow the story, and will report any new developments.
I agree with Tjeerd that this is not the right place to sponsor cartoonists who obviously have to work in line with the government policies. One could say that joining the enemy to start a change from within is the way forward. But in this case you are to much of a tool for repression to keep the Iranian people ignorant.
Posted by: Maarten Wolterink | June 10, 2015 at 01:03 PM
Of course, FECO is NOT Amnesty International.
FECO is just a bunch of worthless cartoonists looking for free bed, food&drink and some cash as well.
Posted by: Christo Komarnitski | June 11, 2015 at 08:39 AM
I want to send you the FECO-France reaction. Please, send me an e-mail address.
Ballouhey FECO-France Vice president
Posted by: Ballouhey | June 19, 2015 at 08:56 AM
Dear Ballouhey, you can send the reaction of FECO-France to email@example.com
Posted by: Cartoon Movement | June 19, 2015 at 09:06 AM
The majority of french cartoonist's (see list below) who have participated to the second "Holocaust cartoon contest" organised by Irancartoon.com are members of extrême right wing movements and violent antisemic and racist movements.
Some of this so called french "cartoonist" particularly Jack Exily,Julien Schutz, Krapo Kibave,Pablo Utiel,Zeon are
regularly drawing for the French Racists an Holocaust deniers movement of Alain Soral and "comic artist" Dieudonne called " Égalité et Reconciliation" and " Reconciliation Nationale"
Of course this Gang of "French cartoonist" are revisionists of the Shoah and also fervent supporters of the Iranian Regime and Syrian Bachar Al Assad dictator.
MARG BAR DIKTATORS MARG BAR IRAN CARTOON
Solidarity whit Atena Farghadani and all political prisonners in Iran
Posted by: Soliranparis | June 20, 2015 at 01:07 PM
This is the FECO-France press release dated June 9, 2015
French cartoonists have been savagely wounded in their own flesh by barbarians.
FECO-France is firmly against any demonstration organised by ennemies of freedom of expression and democracy, specially those that are against the emotions following the dramatic attempts of January 2015 thus targetting the Holocaust.
The International Bureau of FECO made an unconcievable and spectacular U-turn in public opinion. Therefore the treasurer decided to dissociate himself from the organisation and quit.
FECO-France which is the most important section of FECO, allows itself to sentence Feco International bureau.
FECO-France is calling for a democratic consulting, requiring today's bureau team to quickly organise a general consultation aiming real and truthworthy elections.
With the agreement of the FECO-France bureau.
Président Vice président
Just an hour after this text had been published, Bernard Bouton, the International Feco General Director, resigned.
We were compelled to cut loose from Bernard Bouton’s choice. The 2015 holocaust contest initiated by the House of Cartoon of Iran (which he entered ), by targeting the holocaust, was directly aimed at politically countering the popular demonstrations that followed the terrorist attacks in January and the Charlie Hebdo cover that the survivors published. It was very much alike the 2006 holocaust contest against the Danish caricatures as Aude Massiot, also, puts it in Liberation.fr.
For the French cartoonists it is unacceptable, we have suffered too much from the loss of the best ones among us.
I can’t understand why Brito and Bouton do not partake of these notions yet when all the other cartoonists do. They have all been traumatized. In all the last cartoon events I have attended, I have seen cartoonists with lumps in their throats averting their tearful eyes from the pictures of our heroes. The house of Cartoon is an organisation which is dependent on the Iranian state power, they organise contests to counter the enemies of their theocratic government and these enemies, that they want to destroy, are The Charlie Cartoonists, the Jews, Democracy, Freedom of Expression… and Daech. Nobody will blame them when they target Daech except that Daech are Sunnites and therefore their enemies. I have made lots of cartoons against Daech and Boko Haram, they were published in “Jeune Afrique” and I am proud of it, they can be seen everywhere in Africa but never, ever, I would have thought of sending them to those evil ayatollahs.
Iran which sends Atena Farghadani into jail for 12 years because of a harmless cartoon : politicians with animal heads just as we can see thousands examples of them in the world press, Iran which compels our fellow cartoonists Kianoush Ramenazi, Mana Neyestani and Shahrokh Heidari to political exile in France, Iran is by no means a serious interlocutor.
The Iranian government has a right to organise lousy rotten contests but YOU have a right not to sign in, especially if you happen to be a representative of cartoonists from all around the world.
To show his disagreement with the international direction, Jean-Marie Bertin resigned as a General Treasurer. Bernard Bouton tried to justify his behaviour in a very awkward way then he stubbornly persisted and he eventually had to resign.
Peter Niewendijk, the general Secretary, was very angry after Bernard Bouton at the beginning and then he defended him, we are waiting for his decision at the moment.
We urgently need appoint a new general director in the most democratic and clearest way so as to start anew clean and free from any suspicion.
Posted by: Ballouhey | June 25, 2015 at 10:24 AM
The vast majority of French Cartoonists are against participation to this contest. Please, publish the FECO-France reaction I send you.
Ballouhey FECO-France Vice-Pres
Posted by: Ballouhey | June 25, 2015 at 05:14 PM