- The hero of "freedom of speech", boycotted
by the corporate, mainstream media that are irresistible against the astringent
truth: this is the most precise and accurate introduction which I can present
about Carlos Latuff. Born in the suburbs of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, he
is an artist of conscience whose artistic commitment and morality prevented
him from becoming the pawn of imperialism. Carlos Latuff is a world-renowned
cartoonist who has long brought into existence artistic works and cartoons
in which the footsteps of creativity, novelty, intelligence and decency
can be traced noticeably. He has never been given the opportunity to showcase
his matchless cartoons in the New York Times, Guardian, Washington Post,
BBC or CNN; however, the narrow hallways of personal blogs and independent
media outlets which allowed his cartoons to breathe in the atmosphere of
publicity, made him a man of genuineness and reality, known by those who
seek something beyond the outdated, obsolete propaganda of "all options
are on the table".
- Carlos Latuff has drawn numerous cartoons which depict
the pains of oppressed nations around the world; from the Palestinians
being suffocated under the Israeli occupation to the Iranians receiving
the spates of psychological operation co-manufactured by the White House
and Tel Aviv.
- Here is the complete text of my interview with Carlos
Latuff, conducted for Iran's best-selling newspaper Jame-Jam, where we
elaborately discussed his intellectual mission and the prospect of his
- Kourosh Ziabari: Dear Carlos; it seems that you've dedicated
your entire mission to independent, freelance journalism and one can clearly
figure out that you are not usually paid in lieu of what you draw for the
magazines, newspapers and websites since a complete set of your cartoons
and caricatures are available on your website for free. Do you accede to
draw cartoons which are contrary to your ideological mindset should you
be offered remarkable, irresistible payments?
- Carlos Latuff: No way! I will only make artworks according
my own Leftist beliefs. I don't trade ideology for money. I work for Leftist
trade union (workers) press since 1990, that's what I make for living.
Mainstream media would never pay me for making anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist
artworks. But I have what I call of "artistic activism", producing
cartoons and making them available on the Web for free of charge reproduction;
cartoons with a different point of view from the Western mainstream media;
cartoons exposing what Michael Moore would call of "the awful truth".
I already refused payments for my drawings about Palestine. Solidarity
can't be measured by dollars.
- KZ: You've received serious death threats from the Zionist
circles and Israeli groups a number of times. Would you please explain
for us a little about the details of these threats and the consequential
events that followed them? Have you ever thought of putting aside your
professional and artistic mission in order to preserve your safe, tranquil
- CL: In 2006 a website associated to Likud (Likudnik)
published a long article about me, my art, my support to Palestinians and
labeled me as an agent at the service of a supposed "Iranian propaganda
machine", comparing me with Nazi propagandists. The author of the
article argued why Israel didn't take care of me before and urged readers
to take steps against me. Let me be straight, I really don't care about
threats. Along the Palestinian cause I also support human rights organizations
against police brutality in Brazil. This kind of activism alone could put
me in high risk of life. But, as I said, I don't care; I will continue
with my artistic support, 'cause if Zionists worldwide are pissed off about
my cartoons, it's because I'm doing something right. Death can stop me
yes, but not my cartoons. That's why I make them run free around the world
- KZ: You belong to a prosperous country which is the 8th
economic power of the world and the 10th trade partner of the United States.
Brazil also maintains normal ties with Israel and this is something which
many anti-war and anti-imperialism activists dislike. Coming from such
a country, you profoundly grasped the essence of oppressed nations' suffering
and sympathized with them wholeheartedly. How did you rise from Brazil
and came to assist the oppressed nations?
- CL: I grown up in the suburbs of Rio and my parents worked
hard to give me study and a humble but decent life. Being the 8th economic
power makes no difference to the ordinary people in Brazil. We have poverty,
corruption, criminal and police violence, influent and strong landowners
in countryside, people dying of dengue fever and malaria, and a mainstream
media which is always trying to convince public opinion that everything
is ok with capitalism. As someone living in a Third World country I can't
turn a blind eye to this situation here and in other parts of the world.
Last year I was in Palestinian refugee camps in Jordan and Lebanon, places
very similar to Brazilian slums (favelas). It wasn't hard to realize that
the language of poverty is universal, as universal must be the solidarity
with people in need.
- KZ: You've for years cooperated with a number of media
outlets in the Western countries and can precisely estimate the veracity
of the slogan of "freedom of expression" in the countries who
introduce themselves as the harbingers of liberty and tolerance. I clearly
remember the spates of verbal and political attacks on the artists who
had participated in Iran's International Holocaust Cartoon Competition.
Even the then United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan had condemned
the contest and this could simply demonstrate the lopsidedness of "freedom"
which they claim to be the pioneers thereof. What's your idea about that?
Are the western media outlets really free?
- CL: Still today I've been accused of denying Holocaust
because of that artwork for which I won the second place in the Iranian
cartoon contest. It's funny since the cartoon shows a Palestinian elderly
wearing a concentration camp uniform, which not only affirms the existence
of the Nazi Holocaust as well as making a comparison between it and the
suffering of the Palestinians. I believe that this contest had exposed
the Western's double standard. When you ridicule and attack Prophet Muhammad
(PBUH), Islam or Muslims, then this is called "satire", "humor",
"freedom of speech", whatever. Joking about Islam is pretty acceptable.
Islamophobia is popular in the US and Europe, specially after September
11. However the same freedom you have for making cartoons about Islam and
its Prophet you won't have while dealing with Holocaust and Israel. If
you dare draw Israeli soldiers killing Palestinians (isn't a fact?), you
will be automatically labeled as anti-Semitic. While Muhammad cartoons
were wide spread in Europe, Holocaust cartoons weren't not reproduced in
any European newspaper.
- KZ: Your stance towards Iran's nuclear program (Iran
intends to meet its energy, electricity needs through nuclear reactors)
and Israel's nuclear program (Israel possess up to 200 nuclear warheads,
according to the Federation of American Scientists) is delicately accurate
and specific, indicating your extensive acquaintance with the regional
equations and developments. Iran is being lethally pressured to halt its
civilian nuclear program and Israel has been unconditionally safeguarded
by Washington to keep up with its military atomic program. What's your
take on this?
- CL: In fact all this turmoil about Iranian nuclear program
has more to do with the fear of US, Europe and Israel of having a country
in Middle East with nuclear capability. It will change the geopolitics
in the region, since no Arab country was ever allowed by US of having anything
nuclear. Only Israel can have not only nuclear plants but also nukes, immune
to inspections and international law. If Iran will
- develop nuclear capabilities for civilian or military
use, it doesn't matter. The point is, if US, Europe and Israel are so concerned
about threats to peace, why don't they start proposing sanctions against
Pakistan and India, since both countries have a nuclear arms race since
long time? Because both countries are allies of Washington? Why not a single
word about the Israeli nuclear program? Why Mordecai Vanunu is prevented
to speak about it?
- KZ: Most of your critics accuse you of arising anti-Semitic
sentiments by drawing cartoons which condemn the State of Israel and its
leaders for the atrocities and felonies they commit. Is this the case that
you're opposed to Jews as the followers of a divine religion, or do you
simply go up against the expansionist Zionists who commit crimes against
humanity and massacre the defenseless people of Palestine?
- CL: I'm not a religious man, and none of my cartoons
deal with Judaism. You won't find any of my artworks attacking the Jewish.
My issue with Israel and their supporters is only about politics, imperialism.
Even not being Muslim, I do support Muslims against Islamophobia, since
I can't agree with prejudice against religion. Of course anything that
may be slightly perceived as criticism towards Israel will be associated
with hatred towards Jews. This old trick is applied to anyone who dares
speak against Israeli apartheid. But everyday more activists understand
this misuse of anti-Semitism and keep the struggle regardless of the false
allegations and smear campaigns from Zionists.
- KZ: Have the global mainstream media outlets (the New
York Times, Washington Post, Guardian, Los Angeles Times, BBC, Reuters,
Associated Press and so forth) which universally rule the public opinions
ever published your cartoons? Why don't such media outlets which assert
to be the pioneers of freedom of expression accept allowing the publication
of disparate viewpoints which are contrary to their focal approach?
- CL: Reuters made a video interview with me last year
about my art and views. I had some of my cartoons shown on Al Jazeera and
George Galloway show at Press TV, but this is an exception. Usually only
Arab media outlets are interested in my opinions. Western mainstream media
isn't interested in giving space to a Leftist artist who supports people's
struggle in Palestine, Iraq and elsewhere. But in a way or another, I find
a place to make my opinions visible. Internet is my best ally. You see,
even not being a famous artist promoted by mainstream media, you and your
newspaper know about me and my cartoons. Internet has broken the obstacles
imposed by corporate media. And I won't make concessions for mere 15 minutes
of fame; will keep fidelity with my principles.
- KZ: The subjugated people of Palestine and other countries
which have been subject to the brutality of imperialism throughout the
history will be encouraged and hopeful when they find conscientious artists
like you sympathizing with them. Have you ever felt the courage and valor
you present to the people of Palestine with your artistic endeavors?
- CL: I'm very suspicious for talking about the Palestinians.
I have never seen such a brave and courageous people like them. I started
making cartoons about Palestinians since my trip to West Bank in 1999 and
since then my sympathy for their cause only grow up. After my recent visit
to Jordan and Lebanon, invited by Al Hannouneh Society for Popular Culture,
I realized that my relation with Palestinians is not only political. I
have pure love for that people.
- KZ: Please tell us about your latest activities. How
was the experience of winning a prize in the Iran-based International Holocaust
Cartoon Competition? Do you like to come to Iran once again and touch the
pains and difficulties of the Iranian people in person?
- CL: Usually I don't participate in contests, since I'm
not interested in the prizes and stuff. The purpose of my art is supporting
social movements, rather than feeding my own ego. But I saw the Holocaust
cartoon competition as a timely opportunity for making visual comment about
Palestinian suffering. In that occasion, I was invited by my good friend
Massoud Tabatabai to attend the prize award ceremony in Teheran but unfortunately
I wasn't able to travel. But of course if I had another chance, I would
be more than glad to visit Iran.