Inside the Middle East
October 17, 2010
Posted: 502 GMT
Iraqi political cartoon (CNN/Mohammed Tawfeeq)
Iraqi political cartoon (CNN/Mohammed Tawfeeq)

When I first met Abdulrahim Yasser, one of Iraq’s most influential and respected caricature artists, he told me why he decided to help organize and participate in an exhibition highlighting some of Iraq’s best political cartoons and cartoonists.

“I’m trying with all my might to encourage a discussion,” said Yasser at the event’s opening at a Baghdad gallery.  “This exhibition is a discussion with others, it’s a discussion with the Republic, a discussion with those paying attention.”

The show is the biggest one of its kind ever to have been put on in Iraq, and many spectators excitedly explained to me why it was so significant.

“This event is important because it talks about Iraq,” explained Ali Adel.  “About things in Iraq and issues facing Iraq.”

Indeed, the artwork lining the walls depicts so much of what Iraq has been grappling with – everything from the futility of politics to the absurdity of war.  Many attendees continued to remind me how a showcase like this wouldn’t have been possible during Saddam Hussein’s rule, that the existence of such an exhibit is a testament to the freedom of expression that they told me now exists in this country.

Sure enough, a quick look around the room had me spotting satirical illustrations of some of Iraq’s most powerful politicians, like former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi and President Jalal Talabani.  But other power brokers were noticeably absent – like Iraqi Prime Minster Nuri Al-Maliki.  Also missing from the lineup of the lampooned?  Iraq’s leading religious figures – glaring omissions that caused some to question just how much freedom the press really has in Iraq.

Spectators view works from Iraq's largest exhibition of political cartoons (CNN/Mohammed Tawfeeq)
Spectators view works from Iraq's largest exhibition of political cartoons (CNN/Mohammed Tawfeeq)

Yasser told me that despite the progress he and his colleagues have made, taboos still exist in his country.  “You aren’t allowed to delve into many issues – not because the constitution doesn’t allow you to do so, but because this country isn’t finished being built and is still not able to protect all these freedoms.”

I found it an interesting twist to the proceedings.  Some of the same artists who used to be afraid they’d be persecuted because Iraq’s government was too strong are now fearful they won’t be protected because the country’s government is too weak.  That’s just the kind of subject matter that would be perfect for one of them to tackle in their next political cartoon.

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Filed under: General •Iraq

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John A   October 18th, 2010 10:38 am ET

Iraq's 30 million population has involuntarily become part of an America TV game show.

Game show series 1 : Find Bin Laden
Game show series 2: Find weapons of mass destruction.

I hear those guys in Hollywood a preparing the script for more shows in the future
Series to come:
"Find Bin Laden in Pakistan",
"Find Bin Laden in Iran"
"Find Bin Ladens friends". The episode with Bin ladens friends is reported to have special guest stars from Venezuela and North Korea.

When Americans are kids they buy "Where's Wally" books. When the get older they watch where's Bin Laden TV shows.

Sad thing is these American TV shows are similar to snuff movies. People are dying everyday for a fantasy political TV show.

Get off the drugs America and get out of Iraq. "Yes you can" remember?

Smith in Oregon   October 19th, 2010 1:22 am ET

The cartoon depicted looks like the everyday life of the Gazan people by the goose stepping Zionist nation of Israel. Perhaps a follow up cartoon of Israeli Armored Bulldozers pouring into a Islamic cemetery during a Muslim burial.

Filipe   October 19th, 2010 10:26 am ET

John A,

There you go again--the self proclaimed non-American.

Do you really think anyone believes you are not an American???

Smith in Oregon   October 19th, 2010 8:44 pm ET

Americans and European's can help regain control over their governments from the Zionists and AIPAC unregistered agents by supporting Deinvestment of Israel laws and legislation to totally cut-off the Billions of funds and support to the tiny nation of Israel PERIOD.

Google Deinvestment of Israel to get copys of your US State petition and emails to send to your State's and European nation's political members.

miriam   October 20th, 2010 12:00 pm ET


Once again you manage to create something anti-Israel from nothing.

Even your reference to an old story is re-invented.

Strange, but I'm sure you had convinced us all that there is no electricity or food in Gaza and that tanks had given way to carpet-bombing.

Surprise, surprise, homes get damaged in war zones and the media is often there to record it.

Or is it all a figment of the imagination of an artist (unless it involves Israel), part of a group who hold political opinions and are able to present them as they please.

It seems that you also belong to this guild of artists, with no restrictions on freedom of expression and invention patents.

John A   October 21st, 2010 8:58 am ET

Miriam says, "Surprise, surprise, homes get damaged in war zones and the media is often there to record it".

Thats funny as Israel always bans free speaking media from entering zones to witness Israels murder.

Miriam, just face the facts, Israels long history of lies has fallen on its face. You just cant spin your way out of the mess Zionists have made any longer.

The game is up for Zionist thugs. Get out of Palestine and end your war like ways.

miriam   October 21st, 2010 1:23 pm ET


"Participating in activities that run counter to age-graded norms for acceptible behaviour" seems to sum you up, that is, from what we know about you on this blog.

De-investment is always found to be counterproductive.

If perhaps you meant investment in Israel, then that might be more productive and people may be delighted with their returns.

miriam   October 23rd, 2010 5:17 pm ET

John A,

Israel's experiences at allowing modern-day, technical savvy, free reporting in 2006 taught her that there is a limit to those freedoms when they result in additional danger and casualties because of the abuse of those freedoms by the reporters.

2008/9 reporting was restricted as a result of those abuses and because of the dangers Hamas presented to reporters and soldiers alike( not to mention its own people) by hiding among civilians.

There was plenty of "free-speaking" media reporting from the battle zone, the very agencies that you get your disinformation from.

John A   October 25th, 2010 11:26 am ET

You forgot the truth again, tut tut..

Israel got burned in the press after the Janin massacre 2002.

So not to gain the well deserved awful PR again, they now stop the press from entering Zionist killing fields.

Thats why Israel troops also felt a need to confiscate all film taken on the Flotilla massacre. Murderers hiding the evidence isn't any thing new. Its just sick when its done on a state level, like in Israel.

miriam   October 26th, 2010 9:39 am ET

John A,

Until it was proven that the press had made it all up, believing the lies fed them by the Palestinians.

The media was given freedom of movement in 2006 and as a result abused that right and aided the enemy.

We've all seen plenty of footage from the Marmara, clearly showing how the commandos were brutally attacked after anti-Israel activists planned the assault with jihadist declarations and hopes to die as shahids.

Of course Turkey is permitted to hide all the evidence concerning the intentions of their government-backed murderous citizens, whereas Israel conducts multiple routine and special inquiries, with international participation and observers.

John A   October 27th, 2010 10:27 pm ET


When you speak of the Marmara, you are talking about the brave Israelis who were attacked with plastic chairs and retaliated by firing bullets into the back of 9 Turkish heads.

Yes we've all seen Israels film of the event, which did not show the before or after. And we all know the Israelis not only confiscated all film taken by the flotilla aid workers, but Israel has also failed to release any of that film.

Probably the Israeli army has never met anything as ferocious as a plastic chair before. They usually spend their time shooting Palestinian kids from behind armored vehicles.

And as for inquiries with international participation, you may recall that French and Scandinavian investigators for the UN found Israel guilty and Turkey innocent. But I guess the UN doesn't know how dangerous plastic chairs can be?

miriam   October 28th, 2010 1:48 pm ET

John A,

We've seen the footage from al-Jazeera and other live-feeds, as well as the non-confiscated records showing clearly the events and statements leading up to the event and the brutal knife attacks on Israeli commandos.

Evidence, not just Israeli but also from honest passengers on the boat, shows that commandos only used live fire after they were shot at.

The only completed UN investigation of the event is that of the discredited UNHRC which included no French or Scandinavians.. They cannot have found Turkey innocent since they were not mandated to investigate the role of Turkey at all!

You are right to question the UN's knowledge.
The states that dominate the body know as little about a plastic chair as they do about international law. They just sit on it, suppress it and throw it about senselessly.

John A   October 31st, 2010 10:44 pm ET


You will never find your weapons of mass destruction.
You will never find Osama Bin Laden
You will never find truth in any of your statements.

Is this just coincidence?

miriam   November 1st, 2010 1:57 pm ET

John A,

Who needs to look for WMDs for proof of their existence? Saddam used them repeatedly.

OBL won't live forever and it's his choice to live invisibly. He's a big, symbolic fish to catch but he's just a drop in the terrorist ocean.

" The truth is incontrovertible, malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is." Winston Churchill.

John A   November 3rd, 2010 7:40 pm ET

Miriam says,"He's a big, symbolic fish to catch but he's just a drop in the terrorist ocean".

We know Israel would love America to fight Muslims until the end of time. Thats why we know Israel has created most of the false propaganda for American consumption.

By the way, the next time OBL appears from no where it will be in Chicago. Rahm Emanuel has already gone to prepare for it, just like Rudy Giuliani did for the twin towers in New York.

miriam   November 11th, 2010 2:42 pm ET

John A,

Israel doesn't fight or support any fight against Muslims.

Israelis, including Jews, Muslims and Christians, want to live in peace and security.

amber   November 17th, 2010 4:27 pm ET

hey wats up i like the first pic its pimpin

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