Creating Satire in Iran Is No Laughing Matter

It's actually a dangerous line of work that has landed satirists poking fun at Iranian leaders in jail and forced others to flee.

In Iran, creating satire, even in the form of cartoons, is a dangerous line of work. In recent years, making fun of the country’s politicians has landed many satirists in jail, and pushed others to either flee abroad or to publish their jokes on social networks under pseudonyms.

Our first Observer is Mana Neyestani, a famous Iranian cartoonist. He fled the country after the 2009 elections, first residing in Malaysia before moving to France two years ago. He has kept drawing, and recently published cartoons in several French newspapers, including Le Monde and Libération.

"In the 1990s, a new generation of cartoonists was born in Iran. There was an increase in the number of newspapers when Mohammad Khatami came to power [Editor’s Note: more licenses were given out and there was greater freedom of expression.] This allowed many satirists and cartoonists to publish their work and make a name for themselves. But in 1999, there was a mass closure of newspapers [after Ayatollah Ali Khamenei pushed for a crackdown]. Cartoonists quickly starting coming under pressure. When cartoonist Nikahang Kowsar was arrested for portraying hardline cleric Mullah Mesbah as an alligator [which was a play on his name], this marked the start of a bleak new era."

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