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June 14, 2013

Political Cartoons Help Iranians View Election With Sense of Humor

by Jeff Seldin

As Iranians headed to the polls Friday in an election tightly controlled by the regime, one of the few spots of campaign cheer has come from political cartoonists. That's one of the ways some Iranians are trying to put the election into perspective.

For many Iranians, the presidential campaign played out on television - one candidate after another explaining their positions on the issues.
 
While it didn't make for compelling viewing, it did provide plenty of fodder for Iranian cartoonists. In one cartoon, the patient is telling his eye doctor the whole election process is one big blur.
 
Another one pokes fun at presidential hopeful Mohsen Rezaei, showing his evolution and that of his supporters, from conservatives to hippies.
 
Exiled Iranian cartoonist Nikahang Kowsar said there is a huge appetite for such humor, but pointed out that the cartoonists often are walking a very fine line.

"We have a saying in Iran. We say, 'You have freedom of speech. You don't have freedom after speech.' So if you say something, you have to pay for it afterwards," said Kowsar.
 
Still, repressing Iranians' sometimes caustic sense of humor is no easy feat. Atlantic Council Senior Fellow Barbara Slavin said a sense of sarcasm runs deep. “The Iranians like to joke that they often have to choose between bad and worse, and this year people are joking they’re choosing between worse and even more worse.”
 
Iranians, like voters the world over, are tired of empty promises and hoping for a better choice next time.