Art is stronger than bombs Ali Ferzat dur­ing Sakharov Lec­ture

Malta Independent - - NEWS -

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.

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