• News
  • Apr 26, 2024

Iranian Cartoonist and Political Dissident Arrested Again

Portrait of ATENA FARGHADANI by Persion-Georg’s-Church via Wikimedia.

Iranian artist and cartoonist Atena Farghadani was violently arrested by intelligence officers of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps on April 12, 2024, while hanging one of her caricatures of political figures on a wall in Pasteur Street near the presidential palace in Tehran.

According to Farghadani’s lawyer, Mohammad Moghimi, Farghadani sustained visible facial injuries. In protest against the violent assault, she refused to post bail and was sent to Qarchak prison, which refused to accept her due to her injuries. She was then transferred to the notorious Evin Prison, where she was previously held in during her past periods of detention.

Farghadani was first arrested in August 2014 for posting on social media a drawing that depicted Iranian parliamentarians as animals, in protest of a bill to limit access to birth control. She was given a sentence of 12 years and nine months for insulting the politicians and violating national security laws. She recounted how while in prison, she experienced torture and maltreatment, including virginity and pregnancy test for shaking hands with her lawyer, to which she responded with hunger strikes. After an Iranian appeals court reduced her sentence to 18 months, she was freed on May 3, 2016.

She has expressed no intention to leave the country and has remained politically and artistically active after the release. Most recently, Farghadani was arrested in June 2023 after publishing a satirical cartoon of people with animal faces on her Instagram account; she was subsequently released on bail.

Her initial arrest had gained global attention and support. The US-based human rights group Cartoonists Rights Network International and American cartoonist Michael Cavna launched the hashtag #Draw4Atena in The Washington Post in 2015 to support her appeal. In recognition of her art and activism, she received the Cartoonists Rights Network International’s Courage in Editorial Cartooning Award in 2015 and Václav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent from the New York City-based Human Rights Foundation in 2016.

On April 22, human rights organizations PEN America, Cartooning for Peace, Cartoonists Rights, and the Freedom Cartoonists Foundation jointly issued a statement to express outrage over the treatment of Farghadani by Iranian authorities and to call on the authorities to permanently cease campaigns against artists like Farghadani. Meanwhile, the charges and sentences she faces this time remains unknown.

Xinyi Ye is an editorial intern at ArtAsiaPacific.

Subscribe to ArtAsiaPacific’s free weekly newsletter with all the latest news, reviews, and perspectives, directly to your inbox each Monday.