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Editorial cartoon, explained: For Egypt's Amr Okasha, the pen is mightier than the sword

March 7, 2011 |  6:12 pm

Arab Cartoonist 

Editorial cartoon by Amr Okasha / Al Wafd Opposition Newspaper (Cairo)

In early February, we featured editorial cartoons by Arab cartoonists  weighing in on the unrest in the Middle East. The cartoons were compiled by Joel Pett, who noted that Egypt's Amr Okasha had "exhibited a special defiant courage." Indeed; before the revolution, Okasha would never have illustrated Hosni Mubarak's face in its entirety for fear of punishment.

Monday, Michael Cavna shared Okasha's story on the Washington Post's Comic Riffs blog. Excerpted from Cavna's article, Amid revolution, Arab cartoonists draw attention to their cause:

"There are some images I can't forget my entire life," says Okasha, whose editorial cartoons appear in such Egyptian newspapers as Al-Dostor and Al-Wafd. "In the first days of the revolution, I couldn't go to Tahrir Square because the secret forces and thugs who belonged to the Mubarak regime came every day to the resident districts where I live [randomly firing]. . . . Every day, my neighbors and I had to gather in the street with whatever tools we had -- thick sticks and knives -- and stayed overnight to protect our homes, wives and children."


Okasha channels his opinions and experiences directly into his cartoons. "I'm trying to expose corruption," says Okasha, 39, "or explain . . . what would happen if Egypt's ruling National Party continued to control Egypt."

The most obvious change in his work, however, is his ability not only to render judgment against Mubarak, but to literally render Mubarak.

"Before the revolution, I [only] drew part of Mubarak -- his big nose. When readers saw it, they knew what I meant," says Okasha, who has received death threats over his work. "After the revolution, I am drawing Mubarak completely."

Egyptian political cartoonist Sherif Arafa, 30, says: "It was impossible to criticize Mubarak in a governmental newspaper. The cartoon would never be published, and if it was, the editor in chief can lose his position and the cartoonist could get arrested."


Editorial cartoons: Arab cartoonists weigh in from Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt

--Alexandra Le Tellier

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