Society

Zaher Rezai: dead after eight kilometres of illegal immigration

Article published on March 11, 2010
Article published on March 11, 2010
In December 2008, the 13-year-old died under the wheels of a lorry after trying to evade Italian immigration officials. A year on, artist Gianluca Constantini's cartoon strip tells the story

Zaher Rezai, a young Afghan, fled Mazar i Sharif (Afghanistan's fourth largest city - ed) after the civil massacre in 1998. He worked as a welder in Iran before continuing his travels towards Italy, passing through Turkey then the Adriatic sea by boat, from Patras to Venice, before clinging to the underside of a lorry to avoid immigration officials.

©Gianluca Costantini

After several kilometres the lorry came to a stop at red light. When it moved off again, Zaher fell off and was crushed under the wheels. This was on 10 December 2008. According to his papers, Zaher was thirteen years old, although medical examination indicated him to be closer to eighteen. This young boy’s story remains close in our minds thanks to a collection of poems and drawings he carried with him, translated into Italian by Hamed Mohamad Karim and Francesca Grisot.

©Gianluca Costantini

'All forms of media, from photography to television, are ultimately either somewhat false or falsifiable,' says cartoonist Gianluca Costantini. 'This is why I believe cartoons to be the best way of telling the truth.' Internationally renowned, with several books behind him, Gianluca takes great interest in the world of European underground cartoons. He is conscious of the difficulty that artists face when dealing with pan-European current affairs, such as the subject of immigration, for example: 'the European Union is still a very abstract concept in people’s lives, it’s not tangible. It’s easy to talk about Germany or France, but it is more difficult to pull it together and talk of Europe as a whole. Maybe all we need is just to find the right story and the right approach.'

©Gianluca Costantini