In Turkey, Magazine Raided for Mocking Erdoğan

by    /  September 29, 2015  / No comments

Photo via Flickr user: Carmen Alonso Suarez.

Arrests and raids after the cover on the September issue of Nokta showed the President taking a selfie in front of a soldier’s coffin.

Can you visit the website of Nokta, one of Turkey’s leading news magazines?

Not if you are in Turkey. In a recent issue, Nokta criticized Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The cover of the issue showed Erdoğan taking a selfie while, in the background, a group of soldiers carry the coffin of a martyr (a soldier killed by the militant separatist group Kurdistan Workers’ Party [PKK]).

  1. Wor(l)ds in Danger, a column by Tarik Günersel
  2. Life is words in action, literature is action in words.
  3. Humans are about to destroy their spaceship Earth. Some of them are aware of this and they try to change the course of events. Will they succeed? Will more humans be alarmed and do something?
  4. Literature is vital and translators are messengers of world peace.
  5. Though I shall focus on the literary scene in Turkey and its problems regarding freedom of expression, I shall not omit the other parts of our planet. Today local is global and vice versa.
  6. Tarik Günersel
  7. Poet, playwright, actor, and director Tarık Günersel worked at Istanbul City Theater as a dramaturg.
  8. His works include Breaths of Infinity (a mosaic of poems) and My 300th Birthday Speech (short stories). His Becoming consists of his aphorisms and various ideas from world wisdom.
  9. His plays include Billennium, Nero and Agrippina, Sociology of Shit, Threat and Virtually Yours. He has written four libretti for the composer Selman Ada: Ali Baba & 40, Blue Dot, Forbidden Love, and Another Planet. His translations into Turkish include works by Arthur Miller, Samuel Beckett, Vaclav Havel and Savyon Liebrecht. His presentation of World Poetry Day to PEN International in 1997 led to its adoption by UNESCO. As the former president of PEN Turkey Center he was elected to PEN International Board in Tokyo from 2010 to 2012. In 2013 he initiated the Earth Civilization Project with the collaboration of several intellectuals from around the planet.

Why design such a cover? Nokta was reacting to Erdoğan’s mantra that it is a privilege to become a martyr, saying the deceased’s families are happy for their dead. The President’s repeated use of religion for political benefit has created a media backlash.

The police raided Nokta’s offices and detained Mr. Murat Çapan, the editor responsible for legal affairs. The authorities also barred the distribution of that issue of the magazine.

In 2013, the Guardian published a similar design that criticized former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Neither the newspaper nor the artist were taken to court.

In the June 7 general election, the heavily Kurdish political party, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) managed to get about 13 percent of the votes, appealing to anti-Erdoğan citizens with their slogan, “We won’t let you become (executive) president!”

Erdoğan was terribly upset and angry with the election results. So, although he has ordered an attack against ISIS in cooperation with the United States and other Western allies, his main concern instead has been defeating the Kurdish PKK separatists in the November general election. As a result, ISIS keeps organizing and recruiting along the Turkish border with little, if any, resistance from the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government. Kurds today have a voice in Parliament and are counting the days until the snap general election on November 1st to resolve the current hung parliament. If the HDP cannot get above the ten percent vote threshold to earn seats in the Grand National Assembly, then the AKP will likely be able to form a one-party government.

The HDP has invited the PKK to lay down their arms. Over 100 intellectuals signed a declaration expressing support for the HDP in an attempt to prevent the AKP from winning the majority of the seats in parliament. According to the Hürriyet Daily, this led Selçuk Özdağ, a leading AKP spokesperson, to accuse these intellectuals of supporting the PKK, asserting that the HDP is merely the legal extension of the terrorist organization.

The PKK keeps helping Erdoğan with their militant attacks. The use of force continues to delegitimize the HDP, and gives the president reason to use propaganda and silence critics, such as those at Nokta.

Women Defend Selfie Against Fanaticism

Turkey is not the only place where religion, politics, and selfies intersect. Earlier this year, Indonesian Muslim preacher Felix Siauw issued a fatwa against selfies, claiming that taking self-portraits was a sin. Siauw explained, “These days many Muslim women take selfies without shame. Taking a selfie means impressing ourselves, which means pride.”

A group of Indonesian women then declared a social media war on Siauw, who directed most of his anger at women, by launching the hashtag campaign #Selfie4Siauw. Since January, thousands of selfies have been tweeted at the cleric. Interestingly, one of the selfies used in the campaign features Erdoğan and the Indonesian Deputy Parliament Speaker Fahri Hamzah.

I never imagined that taking a selfie could become an issue of Freedom of Expression.

About the Author

Poet, playwright, actor, and director Tarık Günersel worked at Istanbul City Theater as a dramaturg. His works include Breaths of Infinity (a mosaic of poems) and My 300th Birthday Speech (short stories). His Becoming consists of his aphorisms and various ideas from world wisdom. His plays include Billennium, Nero and Agrippina, Sociology of Shit, Threat and Virtually Yours. He has written four libretti for the composer Selman Ada: Ali Baba & 40, Blue Dot, Forbidden Love, and Another Planet. His translations into Turkish include works by Arthur Miller, Samuel Beckett, Vaclav Havel and Savyon Liebrecht. His presentation of World Poetry Day to PEN International in 1997 led to its adoption by UNESCO. As the former president of PEN Turkey Center he was elected to PEN International Board in Tokyo from 2010 to 2012. In 2013 he initiated the Earth Civilization Project with the collaboration of several intellectuals from around the planet.

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