Artist behind powerful, heartbreaking cartoon about the E. Java bombings speaks out about its inspiration

A cartoon by Iskandar Salim (Komik Faktap) about the E. Java suicide bombs on May 13-14. Photo: Facebook
A cartoon by Iskandar Salim (Komik Faktap) about the E. Java suicide bombs on May 13-14. Photo: Facebook

Perhaps the most troubling aspect of the bombings in Surabaya and Sidoarjo, East Java on  Sunday and Monday is that, for the first time in Indonesia, the terrorists’ own children — one reportedly as young as 8 — came on their suicide bomb runs.

But Iskandar Salim, the artist behind the hugely popular Indonesian online comic strip Komik Faktap, refused to place any blame on the terrorists’ children. Instead, he chose to highlight their innocence in this extremely powerful and heartbreaking cartoon he posted online yesterday, which has quickly gone viral:


Speaking to Coconuts, Iskandar explained that the cartoon depicts two kids playing on swings in heaven. The girl on the left represents the terrorists’ children — most of whom died in the suicide bomb blasts — while the boy on the right represents the children who were killed in the bombings (two brothers, aged 9 and 11, reportedly died in the Santa Maria Church bombing in Surabaya).

“[The theme here is] ‘innocence’. Kids aged 8-9 don’t understand anything, in my opinion,” Iskandar told Coconuts.

“Many condemned [the terrorists’ kids] and they generalized. Kids can only trust and follow their parents. I believe, if God is merciful, then even [the terrorists’] kids are now in a better place.”

That “better place”, the cartoon shows, is up in heaven where there is no prejudice and hatred among religions; the girl is playing with the boy even though her parents’ bomb killed him.

“Don’t all religions teach peace and love? It’s just that people distort this in accordance to their agendas,” Iskandar said.

Jakarta-based Iskandar Salim started creating Komik Faktap strips in 2015, mainly to give his own, often satirical, take on political and social issues in Indonesia, many of which are admittedly “Faktap” (phonetically translates to “fucked up” in English). His cartoons have also been praised for promoting progressive and rational thinking in a time when hoaxes and fake news stories are running rampant on Indonesian social media.

As of Monday evening, at least 28 people, including the bombers, were killed and 57 were wounded across the five explosion sites in Surabaya and Sidoarjo.

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