As a political cartoonist forced to leave the country in 2003 after receiving a death threat, I should probably hate the rulers in Iran. Though I am not a big fan, I love them for all of their rich contributions to material for me and my colleagues. Truly, how can I hate the people who have kept my cartooning spirit alive?
Ten years ago, a crocodile drawing sent me directly to the notorious Evin prison in Tehran. It was a cartoon I had drawn in January 2000. The crocodile was depicted as strangling a reporter and shedding “Crocodile” tears, all while feigning his own victimization. We named him “Professor Crocodile,” a name that rhymed with the title of a powerful Ayatollah who constantly attacked the press with spurious allegations. Ayatollah “Mesbah Yazdi” (from Yazd) was simply called “Ostad Mesbah” (professor Mesbah); the character in my cartoon was named “Ostad Temsah” (professor Crocodile).
Thousands of clergy students and a number of Ayatollahs in Qom closed their schools and embarked on three days of protests. At the following Friday Prayers, hundreds of thousands of people around the country shouted for my death.
Since that day, many around the country refer to Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi as the “Crocodile.”
I have been a long-time admirer of crocodiles. Previously, I was kicked out of state radio for comparing another Ayatollah to crocodiles. As chance would have it, he too was from Yazd.
Now ten years later, I’m witnessing history …