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Revered cartoonist arrested in Syria

Syrian artist Youssef Abdelke stands in front of one of his works at his atelier in Damascus, 23 September 2010
Syrian artist Youssef Abdelke stands in front of one of his works at his atelier in Damascus, 23 September 2010

REUTERS/Khaled al-Hariri

On 26 July 2013 the Cartoonists Rights Network International (CRNI) was informed that another Syrian cartoonist, Youssef Abdelke, was arrested on Thursday, 18 July 2013 along with two other friends at a security barrier outside the coastal city of Tartous, Syria. He is one of the most revered and respected of all the senior cartoonists in Syria. While the regime has been imprisoning intellectuals such as writers, artists, cartoonists, even musicians and singers, the arrest of Abdelke marks a new low for the Bashar al-Assad regime. Recent attacks on cartoonists include Ali Ferzat who was beaten and had his hands broken in 2011, and the case of cartoonist Akram Raslan who remains incommunicado and under arrest. Raslan was given CRNI's award for courage in editorial cartooning on 29 June 2013.

Abdelke was one of the original 100 signatories of a document called Principles of the Revolution in 2011. The document called for the removal of Pres. Bashar al-Assad and his senior ministers along with the establishment of an interim government under the supervision of the United Nations. Like other artists and intellectuals imprisoned by the Bashar al-Assad regime, Abdelke is afforded no contact with his family and is denied access to legal representation. It is not clear what the specific charges against him might be.

Youssouf Abdelke/Facebook

Abdelke's friends and family along with intellectuals and artists around the world have joined a Facebook campaign calling for his release. The Facebook page contains letters of support, news postings and a petition which already has more than 1,500 signatures.

Abdelke was born in 1951 and has a degree from the faculty of fine arts in Damascus. He has a Doctorate degree from a university in France. He lived in self exile in Paris for nearly two decades before deciding to return to Syria in 2005. He comes from a prominent dissident family, his father having been interred by the Syrian authorities in the 1960s and 1970s. Abdelke is a member of the Syrian Communist Labor Party and was also incarcerated from 1978 to 1980.

You can read more about his arrest at VOA and view his online gallery on Facebook.


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