A visual artist forced to flee Iran because of his drawings and involvement with the opposition feared an attack on French colleagues and describes freedom of expression as heritage in need of protect
The Iranian cartoonist Kianoush Ramezani was forced into exile because of his work.
A founder of the country’s first independent cartoonists’ association, he fled as the authorities cracked down on dissent after the 2009 presidential election.
A political refugee in France, he got to know several Charlie Hebdo cartoonists.
He says he feared an outrage like Wednesday’s attack might happen and had even tried to warn the editor, Stephane Charbonnier.
“I told him ‘Charb, do you realise you are in danger? Be careful, from what I know about Islamist fundamentalists, they never forget. Be careful.’ But he reassured me, don’t worry, it’s OK, we are in France.”
As for the lessons learned from his experience in Iran, Ramezani adds:
“In my opinion, freedom of expression is our heritage, we need to protect it. Do we need to protect the offices of Charlie Hebdo for example, or all newspapers in the same way as the (French) National Assembly? I think yes, as of today yes we do. It’s expensive, but it’s the price we have to pay.”
Kianoush Ramezani has described cartooning as the art of danger – a tool for addressing tough subjects.
Where there’s no freedom of expression, cartoonists themselves are at risk, he has been quoted as saying – and where the cartoonist is not free to criticise, there can be no secure society.