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Brothers' political cartoons break taboos

From Rima Maktabi, CNN
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Jordanian cartoonists express themselves
  • Osama Hajjaj says he spent night in jail for a cartoon depicting the Muslim Brotherhood
  • Emad Hajjaj believes he lost his job for his cartoon of Jordan's King Abdullah II
  • Both brothers believe in the power of their political cartoons

Amman, Jordan (CNN) -- Jordanian brothers Emad and Osama Hajjaj are creating waves with their political cartoons.

Emad's are published in newspapers and Osama's on the internet. Both have broken taboos and received threats because of their work.

Emad has covered topics such as the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia, conflict in Libya and even drawn an analogy between Japan's tsunami and the wave of unrest sweeping the Middle East.

He said: "Cartoons are powerful. They are purely visual language, international language. It's the language of laughter."

Gallery: The Hajjaj brothers' cartoons

Emad added: "Our newspapers are full of ugly things -- people killed every day, wars break out every year.

"Sometimes the cartoonist has to show reality. Sometimes I have to shock people, sometimes I have to be blunt, sometimes I have to be straightforward and point out the wrong things -- and this is a dangerous job."

Emad said his work has often led to threats, but he is not put off.

"Many times I get threatening emails and phone calls. At first I was very afraid but by time I got used to it."

He believes his portrayal of Jordan's King Abdullah II caused him to lose his job.

"It was a taboo in Jordan, you cannot draw the king in a cartoon," said Emad. "Of course, I was not saying anything bad about the king, I like him, but the idea of portraying the king was not a good idea for many in Jordan and that is why maybe months after that I lost my job."

Emad said when he later met King Abdullah II, the king actually said he liked the cartoon.

"If I did this cartoon in any of the neighboring countries I might lose my life or be put in a jail for a long time," Emad said. "Maybe I am lucky to just lose my job, so relatively we are in a better condition."

Cartoon has a unique feature as it has the ability to summarize a whole article.
--Osama Hajjaj, cartoonist

Emad's brother Osama says he has been jailed for his work, which is published on the internet.

Osama said: "I had a cartoon in relation to the Muslim Brotherhood which put me and my editor-in-chief that day in jail. I was the first cartoonist to get jailed because of a caricature in Jordan."

He said he now avoids religion and some domestic political issues.

Osama has also been criticized for his portrayals of Egyptian politics.

"When I drew something on Egypt, people attacked me saying it's not our business to intervene in Egypt's issues and we should solve our own country's issues first," he said.

His belief in the power of cartoons, however, is unshaken.

Osama said: "In my opinion cartoon has a unique feature as it has the ability to summarize a whole article. A lot of people do not like to read but can understand the whole point just by looking at the picture."

He added: "My characters represent the position of the youth and illustrates the problems they go through.

"I chose this direction because we lack a good representation of this group. The youth are very important and they are the ones making a change in the Arab world today."