Satire at its best is the genre of the oppressed because it reverses power relations by ridiculing & mocking the oppressors. But a twisted form of satire in political cartoons is often used as a weapon of racism & misogyny. In US history, cartooning is filled with racism–all the way up to Pickaninny cartoons which were ubiquitous until the civil rights movement. Pickaninny cartoons portrayed Black infants hanging with one arm from a twig over a crocodile pit. It never tired of such malignancy. It doesn’t get creepier or more racist & hateful than that. Cartoons are still up to their eyeballs in the sexist portrayal of women.
As Daumier & so many other political cartoonists have shown, caricature is a powerful weapon against injustice & tyranny. Kashmiri cartoonists like Mir Suhail & others use it to skewer the violence of the occupation. Hopefully more young artists around the world will take up political cartooning & turn it into a weapon for the oppressed.
Bangladeshi prime minister Sheikh Hasina was grandstanding again when she told an audience in Washington, DC, “If necessary, we will eat one meal a day to feed the Rohingya.” She & the several millionaires & billionaires making a killing off Bangladeshi sweatshop workers & child labor won’t have to miss a single lavish meal served on gold plates. Instead of empty promises, they can do what they should be doing & mobilize all military & civilian resources to facilitate humanitarian assistance to refugees. They can demand the UN & other nations participate in a massive emergency aid program including providing asylum & they can denounce the Burmese military for genocide in no uncertain terms. When they’re finished with that, they can make a public apology for their vicious, hair-brained proposal to deport thousands of Rohingya refugees to an uninhabitable island subject to monsoons & flooding.
(Photo of Shiekh Hasina from Dhaka Tribune)
A young Rohingya family crossing the border into Bangladesh: there is no possible explanation other than genocide for the forced exodus of 500,000 people, overwhelmingly women & children, carrying their elderly & infants, often injured & sick, deeply traumatized by witnessing genocide & fleeing death squads, arriving only to face an uncertain future & the squalor of refugee camps in Bangladesh.
Stand with the Rohingya against genocide & for human, democratic, civil, & refugee rights.
(Photo tweeted by Maung Zarni)
Anyone following Rohingya activists & Burmese dissidents on Twitter knows there is an army of Burmese nationalist cartoonists who besiege posts about the genocide & refugee crisis with racist caricatures of the Rohingya. Racism & caricature as low level & rancid as it gets. When Malala Yousafzai fearlessly called out Suu Kyi on the genocide, one Burmese cartoonist portrayed Yousafzai with poop for brains, a gruesome reference to her being shot in the head by the Taliban. Since there is no possible cogent defense of genocide, Burmese cartoonists seem to be playing a role way beyond their intellectual & artistic level, drawing from the cesspool where all such social hatred ferments. This is no form of satire, any more than Charlie Hebdo crap is; it’s just racism in all its putridity. Sarcasm which skewers the oppressed & supports tyranny is properly called propaganda, not satire.
This ugly-assed thing titled “Crocodile Tears” represents Rohingya refugees as crocodiles fleeing from animals they mutilated on shore toward a western journalist. The crocodile is saying “I had to flee my motherland” into the microphone. That’s a lowbrow attempt to discredit the testimony of refugees about the horrors they fled from in Arakan state & to suggest they are the genocidaires.
The cartoonist is a 58-year-old man-child whose pen name is Aw Pi Kyeh. He said, “We draw cartoons with a spirit that loves the country.” What he means is that their cartoons are intended to justify genocide & support a fascist regime.
As Burmese dissident in exile Maung Zarni once said, the strength of the junta is in widening the circle of enemies to the Rohingya people. We cannot let the lies & treacheries of that reactionary circle drown the voices of the Rohingya. Stand with them against genocide.
(This thing posted only for illustrative purposes.)
The best rebuttal to denials of genocide by Suu Kyi & the generals is the Rohingya refugees themselves. This is 10-year-old Osman who injured his hand on razor wire trying to get away from gunfire.
Stand with the Rohingya in their struggle against genocide & for human, democratic, civil, & refugee rights.
(Photo by Shafiur Rahman who is making a documentary about the Rohingya struggle.)
The Burmese junta has proposed to take back the now 500,000 Rohingya refugees who fled military & nationalist death squads. Last month, Suu Kyi made a similar proposal to take back “verified” refugees, which of course means all Rohingya are excluded according to Burmese citizenship laws. This is nothing but a grandstanding gesture because unless repatriation is preceded by the immediate complete withdrawal of all Burmese military forces & unless Buddhist nationalist death squads are rounded up & prosecuted, it would be nothing but a death trap for Rohingya refugees to return. They’re still burning Rohingya villages down, still hunting men, women, & children down & executing them or burning them alive. Any repatriation program would require the Burmese junta allow thousands of human rights monitors & reporters into Arakan state to make sure such a program was not in fact a death trap to finish off those Rohingya able to flee to safety.
This is a Rohingya family crossing a creek of the Naf river into Bangladesh after days of a harrowing journey trying to elude death squads. Suu Kyi & the Burmese generals insult intelligence by suggesting that refugees turn around & trust they will be safe in villages torched to the ground where many of their family, friends & neighbors were burned to death or executed in the most gruesome ways & when the army has mined the border so they cannot return without being blown up.
Stand with the Rohingya people in their struggle against genocide & to return to their homeland with full human, democratic, civil, & refugee rights. That will require taking down the junta & Suu Kyi.
(Photo by Bernat Armangue/AP)