"My white shirt was completely, totally, red from the blood," he said.
He thought he surely would bleed to death there. Cars wouldn't stop, perhaps afraid to pick up a person targeted by the regime or by police. But then the first of three miracles happened: A truck's tire burst, forcing it to stop exactly in front of Ferzat.
"This is like something out of a freakin' movie," Amir Ahmad Nasr, a blogger-author friend who was translating the conversation from Arabic, said to me.
Ferzat threw himself into the bed of the pickup and begged the three men who drove it to take him back to the city. They agreed to drop him at the gates of Damascus, but wouldn't take him further -- definitely not to a hospital -- for fear of being targeted themselves. Still bleeding and barely able to see because of the beatings to his head, Ferzat wandered up to a house and asked its guard for help.
Then the second miracle: The guard agreed to give him a ride to a nearby clinic, where (here's the third) doctors recognized the cartoonist and were sympathetic to his cause.
They treated him at his house to avoid detection. But there was always the worry: his hands. Would he draw again?
"My hands became stuck like this," he told me, tensing up his digits into a wooden, claw-like shape. "The doctors told me I needed to get treatment overseas."
Fate, again, would intervene. Using a newspaper contact in Kuwait, Ferzat arranged to leave Syria and seek treatment in a hospital there. After six months of surgery and physical therapy, he was able to put pen to paper.
The first cartoon he created after the attack was not diluted by fear. He drew al-Assad and Russia's Vladimir Putin walking side by side, their legs intertwined to make the shape of a Nazi swastika.
Ferzat is still living in exile. But the revolution needs him. It needs his art. He's seen images of protesters and rebels carrying printouts of his drawings. So he contributes art from outside the country.
The outcome of the war in Syria is anything but sure. But talk to Ferzat and his optimism will rub off on you. He's convinced he will live and draw in Syria again -- that people in his country, a cradle of civilization that invented one of the world's first alphabets, are no longer afraid and eventually will triumph over the regime that would crush their spirits and their art.
After hearing his story, I'm hard-pressed not to believe him.
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