TORONTO — In the winter of 2000, when I first met Nikahang Kowsar, he had just been released from jail in Tehran.
It was, as it often is in Iran, a tumultuous time. The country was in the middle of parliamentary elections and hard-line conservatives were cracking down. Their accomplices in the judiciary were closing reformist newspapers practically every day. Kowsar, one of Iran’s best-known political cartoonists, became a target.
His sketches, published in three widely read newspapers, rattled the ruling theocracy. He was jailed — accused of mocking a powerful hard-line cleric — for a cartoon showing a crocodile shedding tears as his tail strangled a journalist....