Syrian political cartoonist Ali Ferzat won the European Union’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought for his revolutionary positions and cartoons criticizing the decades-long tyranny of the Assad regime against the Syrian people.
In August 2011, the Assad regime’s security forces beat Ferzat badly in Damascus, breaking both his hands as “a warning” and confiscated his drawings. The first recipient of the prestigious award was the legendary activist Nelson Mandela.
“I have the honor to be awarded the European Union’s Sakharov Prize for the Defense of Freedom of Thought and Expression, which has already been awarded to South African leader Nelson Mandela,” Ferzat wrote in comments on his Facebook page.
“This award is the equivalent to the Nobel Prize, especially since South African leader Nelson Mandela has already won it,” Ferzat told local newspaper Inab Baladi.
Ferzat expressed his unwavering support for the Syrian Revolution and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) during a media campaign that activists launched in November 2016 under the title ‘the FSA is our choice.’
“The FSA and free Syria are two names that together constitute a crown resting over spikes of wheat, olives branches, jasmine roses and a moon that shines in a sky studded with the stars of the fallen heroes,” Ferzat said.
Assad’s security forces raided his house in Damascus in 2016 and destroyed many of his drawings.
Ferzat also won the Prince Claus Award for Human Rights Defenders in 2011 along with Syrian rights activist Razan Zaitouna, Asma Mahfouz from Egypt, Ahmed Zubayr Senoussi from Libya, and Mohamed Bouazizi from Tunisia.
In 2017, the Netherlands added a portrait of Ferzat to its school curriculum. A Dutch textbook included a lesson written in Dutch about the biography of Ferzat.
The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought was established by the European Parliament in December 1988 to honor individuals and institutions dedicated to the defense of human rights and freedom of thought. It was named after the Soviet activist and nuclear scientist Andrea Sakharov.
Born in Hama in 1951, Farzat rose to prominence after winning many international and Arab awards. His drawings were published in many Syrian, Arab and international newspapers and magazines. In 2000, he began publishing the satirical newspaper Al-Dumari. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department + Agencies)