A cartoon by Iranian exiled cartoonist Nikahang Kowsar that pokes fun at Iranian opposition leader Mir Hossein Musavi has been removed from the popular reformist news website Rooz
, which is based outside the country.
The same cartoon has been reposted by the semi-official hard-line Fars news agency, which is said to have ties to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.
The cartoon shows Musavi sitting at his desk 10 years from now and writing his 300th statement.
Kowsar drew the Musavi cartoon after the Iranian opposition leader issued statement No. 18, in which he listed guidelines for the Green Movement. The statement appears to have been generally well-received among Green Movement members, many of whom praise Musavi’s courage
in calling for radical reforms.
Kowsar, is a contributor to Rooz, confirmed the removal of his cartoon, but did not want to comment on the reasons behind the move. Rooz did not respond to RFE/RL’s emails seeking explanation.
The cartoon has led to a lot of debate and controversy among some of the supporters of the Green opposition movement, who say it sends the wrong message by questioning Musavi’s leadership and the nonviolent nature of the opposition’s resistance against the Iranian establishment.
Kowsar responded to the criticism by stating his Facebook page that he believes Musavi’s leadership is “weak.”
One Green Movement activist who did not want to be named told RFE/RL that Kowsar’s cartoon provided the hard-liners with ammunition against the opposition movement. But others have dismissed the criticism and condemn the removal of the cartoon as an act of “censorship.”
The pro-Ahmadinejad Fars news agency
reports that the cartoon has created “an interesting atmosphere” in the “antirevolutionary” camp.
Fars said the cartoon demonstrates the “deep differences” within the opposition, which it referred to as “sedition,” while adding that it shows that the opposition has lost faith in Musavi’s efficiency as a leader.
One Iran-based journalist defended Kowsar, writing on his Facebook page: “Some ask what Kowsar would do if he was at Musavi’s place. Nikahang is a cartoonist, not a politician. When he draws antigovernment cartoons, you all cheer him, but as soon as he draws a cartoon that is critical of the Green Movement, you all get upset. Get rid of the tyranny inside yourself.”
Kowsar was jailed in Iran several years ago for a cartoon that poked fun at hard-line cleric Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi, who is Ahmadinejad’s mentor.
-- Golnaz Esfandiari