Ali Ferzat has been irritating Syria's heavy-handed powers for four decades with his biting political cartoons, evincing a razor-sharp wit and a withering eye for hypocrisy. When President Bashar al-Assad initially took power, Ferzat was allowed to start an officially sanctioned satirical magazine as part of what was supposed to be a new era of openness, but it was swiftly shut down. Emboldened by this year's uprising, Ferzat broke with his past practice of avoiding caricatures of actual people to defiantly portray Assad as a Napoleonic madman with delusions of omnipotence. His response to the regime he has infuriated is simple: "You ask me why I air your dirty laundry, but you don't ask yourself why you soil it in the first place." A cartoon showing the president trying to hitch a ride in Muammar al-Qaddafi's getaway car evidently pushed things too far, and in August Ferzat was seized by security force members who beat him, broke his hands, and left him by the side of the road. The magazine he published his cartoons in has been shut down, though he now reaches a wider audience abroad.
If Ferzat embodies the Syrian uprising's defiant soul, Razan Zaitouneh represents its beating heart. The 34-year-old attorney has been active in Syria's opposition since founding the Human Rights Association of Syria in 2001; and her website, providing up-to-date information on casualties and abuses by security forces, has been an essential resource for journalists locked out of Syria by its bloodthirsty government during this year's uprising. Zaitouneh has been in hiding since security forces accused her of being a foreign agent, and her husband was reportedly arrested and tortured for three months before being released in July. In October, the international advocacy group Reach All Women in War gave Zaitouneh its Anna Politkovskaya Award, named for the murdered Russian journalist in honor of female human rights defenders who put their safety at risk. In accepting it, Zaitouneh said the Syrian people "deserve much more than complicit silence, or timid criticism from those who have failed to refer this regime to the International Criminal Court despite acknowledging its crimes."
Muse: Syrian protesters.
Stimulus or austerity? Stimulus.
America or China? Syria.
Arab Spring or Arab Winter? Democracy in all seasons.
Reading list: Books? No place or time for books in the revolution.
Best idea: One revolution is not enough.
Worst idea: Toppling Assad would lead to civil war.
MOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images; Peter James Field/agencyrush.com