Syrian cartoonist Ali Ferzat has had his work depicting issues of politics, the economy, and Syrian society published in domestic and foreign publications, and is considered one of the Arab world’s most influential cultural figures. Known for pushing the boundaries of freedom of expression in Syria, Mr. Ferzat was found beaten and bloody by the side of a road in Damascus last year. In the midst of Bashar al-Assad’s efforts to quash dissident voices, Ferzat, whose work was critical of the authoritarian Syrian leader, was beaten by masked gunmen, and left with two broken hands.
“In the end, the joke is on the regime,” said Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist Matt Wuerker, who wrote Ferzat’s entry for TIME. The regime thought it could end Ferzat’s career or intimidate him into stopping his work when they attacked him, said Mr. Wuerker. “Instead it created a powerful symbol who draws cartoons the whole world is now reading. Talk about a great punch line.”