As the world processes the devastating mass shooting Wednesday in the Paris offices of the satirical paper Charlie Hebdo, cartoonists around the world are making sense of the death of their colleagues in France. The code of the political cartoonist is universally held from Sudan to San Diego: at its core, a commitment to clever, useful, and often unwelcome expression.
Nowhere is this tenet more important and difficult to uphold than in countries where regimes and dictators rely on a fearful media. Below, we’ve rounded up some of the most powerful pen-wielders of the Arab world, whose comics support the mission of Charlie more than any hashtag can.
1. Khalid Albaih
Born into a political Sudanese family, Albaih took to cartooning early: his first creation as a child was Supernamusa, a superhero mosquito set on eradicating malaria. During the Arab Spring, his more mature drawings — spread on the internet via Facebook (and now Instagram) — became icons of the revolutionary movement, pasted on walls from Egypt to Lebanon. Albaih’s diverse concerns are still tightly wound around the concept of revolution; among his most popular works is a silhouette of Hosni Mubarak captioned with a double entendre about the longtime Egyptian leader’s intractability, and an homage to the Tunisian worker whose suicide set off a wave of uprisings in 2011. In the first comic below, he unravels the statistic linking former torture victims with terrorism.
2. Stavro Jabra
Known popularly by his first name, the veteran Lebanese artist Stavro Jabra calls himself a “super revolutionary.” His inspiration comes from the news, and revolves primarily around the shifts in his beloved home country. For years, he has published regularly in the Lebanese papers and on the evening television news — in Arabic, English and French. When news of the massacre in the Charlie Hebdo offices broke this week, he was quick to air his respect for his slain colleagues, with an image of a shot pencil stamped with the French phrase for “freedom of the press.”
If there is a rock star cartoonist of the Arab world, it’s Mohamed Qandeel. The 27-year-old Egyptian polymath better known as Andeel has already built a career impressive for someone twice his age. At various points, he’s been a stand-up comedian, a cartoonist at the progressive weekly, the Egypt Independent, a writer of sitcoms, and a podcaster. His target is always “the strongest man in the country,” as he told Guernica in a recent profile, a focus his employers at Egypt Independent didn’t always support. He eventually left the paper so as to make work without…