Art is stronger than bombs Ali Ferzat during Sakharov Lecture
A message of hope and positivity, an appeal to Europe to take a stronger lead in the Middle East, an indictment of the media, and a belief that art can be stronger than war.
These were the key elements of a powerful message by Syrian cartoonist Ali Ferzat made as he delivered a 'Sakharov Lecture' organised by the European Parliament Office in Valletta.
Ferzat, winner of the European Parliament's Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in 2011, has always used his distinctive cartoons to connect with people and to reflect their concerns and aspirations.
"When I depict an army General I express myself through symbolism. It is not the specific person I'm after but what he represents", he said at a packed University Common Room.
One of his most iconic cartoons depicts Syrian leader Bashar alAssad hitching a lift from Muammar Gaddafi as the latter fled Libya following the uprising in 2011. Some time later Ferzat was badly beaten in public and in no time his pictures in his hospital bed had done the rounds of international media. "They broke my bones, but I broke the barrier of fear", he said as he recounted the ordeal. "They can kill me, but not my ideas and my drawings", Ferzat maintains in a remarkable show of resolve.
Ferzat's artistic works bring together art, politics, and the media. His plight is for the Syrian people not to be left alone and for their calls not to remain unheeded. He had strong words for some of the main political actors involved in, or conspicuously absent from, the conflict. The same can be said for his view of the media, which – he maintains – is often failing to portray the true picture of the Syrian conflict.
Despite the grim reality, Ferzat remains hopeful that Syria will in the end attain the democratic values its people strive for. "Regimes and their leaders come and go but nations remain, and so will Syria".
The event was organised in collaboration with the Department of International Relations within the University of Malta. University Rector Alfred Vella welcomed Mr Ferzat and attended his talk.