Charlie Hebdo has defined a new meaning for terrorism and freedom of speech. Speaking with local *Parisians’, the Charlie Hebdo attack in January has changed the face of their city. Military wander the streets carrying their assault rifles, readying for the next attack. The Crimson alert is no laughing matter; the French, along with the rest of the world are worried.
But Charlie Hebdo, a now well-known publication, especially since the attacks, was not the first time where cartoonists were murdered for their satirical take on political and religious life. Over the course of history, many others in the same genre have suffered similar fates. Let’s take a look at a few…
El Eternauta, created in 1957 by a writer named Hector German Oesterheld, and artist Francisco Solano Lopez in Argentina; found themselves in an unsettling scenario years into their career. In the 1976 dictatorship, Oesterheld decided that after 57 years of writing, it was time to make some changes to his original work. El Eternauta was reworked to incorporate a totalitarian future and a protagonist revolutionary leader to rise up against the dictator (aliens). The Argentinian military began searching for Oesterheld who went into hiding and continued to publish. Unfortunately for his four daughters and their husbands, they were picked off by the military and never seen again.
In the comic, the character watches in horror as everyone he knows is executed by the aliens. Eventually, Oesterheld was caught and killed during the dictatorship, but his comic still lives on.
The Guardian referred to Naji Al-Ali as the “nearest thing there is to an Arab public opinion,” and the “voice of dispossessed Palestinians before he was assassinated.” In 1987, one of the most “renowned political cartoonists” was shot dead in London with the case never solved.
Naji Al-Ali made no apologies for his brutal depictions of Arab nations, which made him hated by his government. In fact, he was so popular with the citizens that he needn’t sign his work. Despite the warning that Yasser Arafat publicly gave that he’d “melt [Al-Ali’s] fingers in acid,” Al-Ali continued to make his statements through cartoons, including one in 1987 poking fun at the Palestinian Liberation Organization. Shortly after its publication he was shot in the face and killed.
There are others to name that suffered similar fates. You have a chap by the name of Joe Hill executed in the early 1900s for his satirical cartoons and anti-government songs.
In 1993 a group of Turkish artists suffered for honoring a dead poet who was hanged in the region for his work 4 centuries earlier. Radical Islamists took offence and burned 35 of them alive, along with renowned cartoonist Asaf Kocak.
Palestinian cartoonist Joseph Nasr was kidnapped and disposed of, along with Guerrovi Brahim for doing a similar thing in Algeria (offending the government with cartoon drawings, that is), and more currently in 2012, Akram Rasian of Syria was arrested for offending President Al-Assad.
Overall, to be a cartoonist seems to have an unnaturally high mortality rate, especially when depicting issues close to the heart – freedom of speech.
*Private sources will not be revealed.
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