Under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey is becoming increasingly Islamist, increasingly oppressive, and increasingly regressive (are those all synonyms)? This once vibrant and largely secular country is now an oligarchy, and it’s forbidden to criticize both Islam and Erdogan. According to the Associated Press, there are nearly 2,000 court cases open in which people have been indicted for insulting the President. Some democracy!
The latest antic of this censorious government, however, is especially vile. Two journalists working for the opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet have each been sentence to two years in prison (actually three, but reduced to two on technical grounds) for illustrating their columns with a Charlie Hebdo cartoon. Here are the courageous writers, Hikmet Cetinkaya (left) and Ceyda Karan (R):
Here’s the familiar cartoon that accompanied their columns:
Because of this cartoon, they were, as the AP reports, “acquitted of “insulting religious values” but convicted on charges of “inciting public hatred”. Yet, as I’ve mentioned a few times before, this cartoon is by no means “Islamophobic”: it has varying interpretations—but one of them is not the demonization of Muslims.
One of the nastier aspects of this case is who brought it before the court (my emphasis):
The state-run Anatolia news agency said the case was brought by a total of 1,280 plaintiffs including Erdogan’s daughters Esra and Sumeyye, his son Bilal and his son-in-law, Energy Minister Berat Albayrak.
The Erdogan family was represented by a lawyer in court, it added.
After the verdict, members of the public who had brought the complaint and were present in court shouted “Allahu Akbar”, Cumhuriyet reported — Arabic for ‘God is greatest’.
If that’s not unseemly entanglement of the government with a supposedly free press, I don’t know what is. Finally, the persecution of this opposition paper is continuing, with two journalists from the same venue on trial for much more serious charges:
Cumhuriyet, which staunchly opposes the Islamic-rooted government of Erdogan, has been regularly targeted by prosecutions as concerns grow over freedom of speech in Turkey.
Its editor-in-chief Can Dundar and Ankara bureau chief Erdem Gul are currently on trial on charges of revealing state secrets and could face multiple life sentences if found guilty.
And here they are:
I am so sad about what’s happening to Turkey. I’ve been there several times and always found the people friendly, hospitable, and secular. It was an open and fairly democratic place, with the Islam kept in its place: the mosque and the home. Now the whole country is going the way of Saudi Arabia, and I fear for my Turkish friends. If journalists can be sent to jail for three years for publishing a cartoon, all bets are off.
h/t: Char Adams