In a world where cartoonists and other artists are often on the front line of social change, they unfortunately also sometimes pay a price with harassment, jail time or worse. Even so, the case of Iranian artist Atena Farghadani is still one of the most outrageous. Last year she was sentenced to 12 years in jail for drawing a cartoon that depicted Iranian politicians as goats and monkeys. The cartoon was posted on her Facebook age to protest of a law that restricted access to voluntary sterilization and birth control for both men and women in Iran.
For the cartoon, Farghadani was twice arrested, and eventually sentenced to 12 years in prison, and underwent a “virginity test” , being abused in prison and being given the additional charge of “illegitimate sexual relationship short of adultery” and “indecent conduct” merely for shaking her attorney’s hand. Cartoonists Rights Network International has taken up Farghdani’s cause, with a #draw4atena hashtag to organize other cartoonists’ efforts to bring attention to her plight.
Today, some good news. CNRI is reporting that Farghadani will be freed in May, with her sentence being reduced to 18 months.
Artist/Activist Atena Farghadani has had her 12-year, nine-month prison sentence reduced, CRNI Deputy-Director Nik Kowsar has learned. Appeal Court No. 54 of the Province of Tehran has reduced the artist’s sentence to 18 months — which, by her lawyer’s calculation, means Atena Farghadani should be out of prison sometime in May.
“The 9 month sentence of insulting the President, Members of Parliament and the guards of ward 2-A of Evin prison has changed to a monetary fine (not yet determined). The 18 months prison for ‘propaganda against the regime’ has been confirmed by the appellate court.
“I have not been able to talk to Atena’s father yet, but I thanked her lawyer, Mohammad Moghimi, on CRNI’s behalf for his great work and devotion.”
18 months in jail for a simple satirical drawing is still an insanely harsh fine, but international outcry against the even harsher sentence may have helped get her jail time reduced.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.