Renowned Syrian political cartoonist Ali Ferzat was found severely beaten early this morning on the Damascus Airport road, apparently by plain clothes government thugs, or shabiha. A picture from the hospital today shows both of his hands appearing to be severely injured. Long critical of the Assad family, Ferzat was nonetheless tolerated and, as the Guardian notes, even respected by Bashar al-Assad at one point. Ferzat told the paper in 2001 about an encounter he had with Bashar the aspiring opthamologist:

Seven years ago an unexpected visitor to one of his exhibitions was Bashar al-Assad, son of the Syrian president, who was then in his late twenties. He looked at the cartoons, which included some banned in Syria, and told Farzat that they should all have been published.

Then Bashar replaced his dead daddy as president, landed a "glamorous, young, and very chic" wife, and now he's killing civilians with tanks, snipers and warships. What a difference some time, a lot of power and an inferiority complex can make.

You can see nice collections of Ferzat's work on his site and here.

[Image of Ferzat on August 11 via AP, today via Facebook]