Iranian cartoonist’s 25-lash conviction condemned

The picture drawn by Mahmoud Shokraye of Iranian MP Ahmad Lotfi Ashtiani was deemed insulting.

Tehran: Cartoonists have condemned the conviction of an Iranian colleague, who was sentenced to 25 lashes for drawing a caricature picture of a local MP.

The picture drawn by Mahmoud Shokraye of Iranian MP Ahmad Lotfi Ashtiani was deemed insulting after he took offence of the depiction, which led him to be convicted with the brutal punishment.

Shokraye drew the caricature of the parliamentarian in ‘Nameye Amir’, a city newspaper in Arak, the capital of Iran`s central province of Markazi.

In the cartoon, Ashtiani is depicted in a football stadium, dressed as a footballer, with a congratulatory letter in one hand and his foot resting on the ball.

The MP`s forehead has a dark mark, said to be the sign of a pious Shia Muslim, caused by frequent prostration during prayer. However, the cartoon contains little exaggeration as Ashtiani`s forehead has a prayer mark in reality.

Shokraye drew Ashtiani following a widespread criticism in Iranian society of politicians who have been accused of interfering in the country’s sports.

However, the conviction sparked an outrage among fellow cartoonists, who claimed the punishment to be ‘outrageous’.

“The sentence of 25 lashes is outrageous, appalling and barbaric. The surest mark of a healthy society is the degree to which public figures accept the right of everyone else to laugh at them, something which cartoonists and caricaturists have helped enable for centuries,” the Guardian quoted cartoonist Martin Rowson, as saying.

“So, Ashtiani`s response to Mahmoud Shokraye`s cartoon of him is a far greater indictment of him and his character than any cartoon could ever be,” he added.

Rowson, a Guardian cartoonist, even contributed his own new cartoon of Ashtiani in protest of Shokraye’s conviction. Other colleagues also drew new caricatures of the MP in condemnation of the court`s decision.