|Not so funny: Iranian MP Ahmad Lotfi Ashtiani deemed the cartoon insulting|
Cartoonists have condemned the conviction of an Iranian colleague sentenced to 25 lashes for drawing a caricature of an MP that was deemed insulting. Mahmoud Shokraye was put on trial after an Iranian MP, Ahmad Lotfi Ashtiani, took offence to a cartoon he drew of the parliamentarian in Nameye Amir, a newspaper in Arak, capital of Iran’s Markazi province. It was reported that a media law court in Markazi had found Shokraye guilty of insulting the MP, handing down the unprecedented punishment.
In the cartoon, Ashtiani is depicted in a soccer stadium dressed as a soccer player, with a congratulatory letter in one hand and his foot resting on the ball. The MP’s forehead has a dark mark, said to be the sign of a pious Muslim, supposedly caused by frequent prostration during prayer. The cartoon contains little exaggeration and Ashtiani’s forehead has a prayer mark in reality.
Shokraye drew Ashtiani following widespread criticism in Iranian society towards a number of politicians who have been accused of interfering in the country’s sports. His sentence has sparked outcry among cartoonists, with some calling on colleagues to draw caricatures of the MP in condemnation of the court’s decision.
Iran’s online community has expressed anger on social networking websites. “The sentence of 25 lashes is outrageous, appalling and barbaric,” said Martin Rowson, a cartoonist for the London-based Guardian. “The surest mark of a healthy society is the degree to which public figures accept the right of everyone else to laugh at them. So Ashtiani’s response to Mahmoud Shokraye’s cartoon of him is a far greater indictment of him … than any cartoon could ever be.”
Not the first time
In the past, an Iranian actress Marzieh Vafamehr had been sentenced to 90 lashes and a year in jail for working in a film that highlighted the limits imposed on artists in the Islamic republic. Vafamehr was arrested in July, 2011 after appearing in My Tehran for Sale, which came under harsh criticism in conservative circles. The film, produced in collaboration with Australia, tells the story of a young actress in Tehran whose theatre work is banned by the authorities. Golshifteh Farahani, a model, was banished from Iran — because she posed nude in a French magazine. Farahani was contacted by the government, telling her that she was no longer welcome in the country and advising her not to return home.