Arifur Rahman in a March 2016 photo
On 1 March 2017, a man violently broke into the exhibition of cartoonist Arifur Rahman "Arif". He unhung and took away four of the twenty-five works on display, as reported by Human Rights Service on 24 March.
The exhibition was related to newly arrived asylum seekers in the Norwegian town of Drøbak.
The man, who behaved in a threatening manner, said the drawings were blasphemous. The cartoonist believes that two other people, who were at the entrance of the room, were related to the attacker.
Two of the stolen drawings have already been recovered.
One of the stolen drawings. Source: Amta
Silencing the attack
According to the cartoonist, none of the organisers of the event tried to arrest the person and he alleges that city officials tried to hush up the event.
Furthermore, the municipality tried to persuade the cartoonist not to report the theft on the grounds that the incident could affect other asylum seeker cases and could also alter "the public's perception of all new refugees arriving in the municipality". It also notes that the municipality tried to get the local media to hush up the news of the attack.
Arifur stated who no longer feels safe in Drøbak.
Arifur Rahman(Twitter- Web) is a Bangladeshi cartoonist exiled in Norway. He works as a freelance cartoonist for Norwegian newspapers and studies 3D and Animation. He has received several national awards, is the founder and editor of tOOns MaG, and creator of Cartoonists Shop,among other things.
The cartoonist has been living in Norway since 2010 as a guest of ICORN (International Cities of Refuge Network), an independent organisation that offers refuge to writers and artists at risk.
Persecuted, imprisoned and tortured for cartoons in 2007
Arifur cartoon for which he was tried and imprisoned (twice). Source: Author's website
Arifur Rahman recounts the events that led to his flight from Bangladesh.
In September 2007, this strip was published in a newspaper. Inthe strip, a boy says that he calls a cat Mohammad.
Because of this drawing, there was a big demonstration against me and my cartoon. I lost my job and was arrested. Islamic fundamentalists considered that I had insulted their prophet, but that was not my intention. I am from a Muslim family and I never meant to offend anyone.
They demanded that I be hanged. A fatwa was also issued, I was called a murtad (apostate), and in Islam someone so branded can be killed.
They thought I was supporting the Danish cartoonist who had drawn Mohammad in 2005. So I was arrested and tortured.
At the police station, some policemen told me that they were going to hang me. In detention, I couldn't contact my family. In prison, the fundamentalists attacked me several times. They tortured me and I suffered serious injuries to my right ear.
Muslim fundamentalists threw human excrement in my face. Inside the prison they tried to kill me several times. I consider myself lucky to be alive. At that time, my cousin tried to contact lawyers, but he could not find any lawyer willing to represent me. I was turned down by everyone.
Three months later a lawyer called Sara Hossain came to see me in prison. She said she would represent me in court to get me released. She appealed for me in the high court, and even in the Supreme Court. She finally got me released. That happened on 20 March 2008.
I was in jail for 6 months and 2 days. I was released, but not completely. I still received many death threats from Islamic fundamentalists. Even some attacks. All the newspapers decided they were not going to publish my cartoons anymore, so I worked anonymously in an animation studio. I also worked as a book illustrator.
In 2009 another court convicted me for the same drawing and I was imprisoned for another 2 months and had to pay a fine.
In 2009 I also found my name on an Islamic Sharia website. There was a list of 24 wanted people, including Salman Rushdie, and I was on that list. I felt that Bangladesh was no longer a safe place for me, I could be killed by Muslim extremists at any time. I could not stay in Bangladesh.
On 1 December 2010, I arrived in Norway. I travelled as a guest cartoonist to Drøbak by ICORN. I was happy to arrive in Norway and to be able to continue drawing and expressing my opinion freely.
Cartoon by Arif