FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Cartoon Capers

by MICHAEL DICKINSON

Instanbul.

When I first came to live in Istanbul nearly twenty years ago there were only two television channels and a couple of radio stations, all state-run. Films were censored, and the Turkish music scene was conventional to say the least, with few pop stars under the age of thirty. People were drably dressed, and there wasn’t much to do at night but go to a smoky dingy bar or coffee house, where the clientele was strictly male.

The changes I’ve witnessed during my time here have been amazing. Now, apart from worldwide programmes beamed in from satellite, there are masses of Turkish channels ranging from excellent to tat; loads of radio stations to choose from, many featuring Turkish rock, rap and hip-hop belted out by energetic young singers who suddenly seemed to appear from nowhere in the nineties; the bustling streets are filled with trendily dressed folk on their way to smart bars, cafes and discos where males and females mix freely.

A remarkably liberal relaxation in philosophy and attitude. But even twenty years ago there were always the hugely popular weekly Turkish comics ‘Limon’, ‘Girgir’, ‘Penguen’ outrageous and anarchic, often black and sick, but always very funny, pitilessly lampooning Turkish behaviour, no holds barred on sex, politics or religion. Armed with a dictionary they were my most enjoyable way of learning the Turkish language and culture. No President or politician escaped satirical scrutiny, the spotlight of derision focused on their foibles and corruption. These comics were a breath of fresh air, a genuine example of freedom of expression.

So I was dismayed to learn last week that the Prime Minister of Turkey, Tayyip Erdogan, who has long championed himself as an advocate of free speech, having been jailed himself in 1999 for reciting a poem deemed ‘anti-state’, has declared war against the cartoonists.

After successfully suing the left wing newspaper ‘Evrensel’ last year for portraying him as a horse being led by one of his advisers, in February this year he sued political cartoonist Musa Kart for depicting him as a cat tangled in a ball of wool in the daily ‘Cumhuriyet’, claiming he found the cartoon “deeply humiliating”. Kart was fined 3500 dollars on charges of ‘assailing Erdogan’s honor’.

A second suit against a smaller newspaper for reprinting the cartoon was thrown out of court.

“People who are under public light are forced to endure criticism in the same way that they endure applause”, said Judge Mithat Ali Kabaali in his ruling. . ‘A prime minister who was forced to serve a long jail term for reciting a poem should show more tolerance to these kinds of criticisms.’

To show solidarity with fellow cartoonist Kart, the weekly satirical magazine ‘Penguen’ devoted its February 24 front cover to drawings of Erdogan with the body of a camel, a frog, a monkey, a snake, a duck and an elephant, under the title “The World of Tayyip”.

The incensed Prime Minister retaliated by filing a new lawsuit against the publishing house, claiming the pictures “attacked his individual rights” and demanding 30000 dollars in compensation for offending him.

“We were not surprised by the news,” said the editor, Selcuk Erdem. “We printed the drawings as a message to say that cartoonists cannot be silenced.”

“This was a test of the sincerity of the prime minister who says he wants Turkey to be a member of the European Union,” Erdem said. “He has shown his true face.”

Turkey’s best-known political cartoonists gathered in Istanbul on Wednesday to protest legal action taken by the prime minister against artists who criticized him through their work.

Members of the Turkish Cartoonists Assn. accuse Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of trying to stifle free expression even as Turkey is preparing to launch talks to win membership in the European Union.

“We cartoonists have long faced pressure from politicians,” Metin Peker, the association’s president, said at a news conference.

“Just as we thought those dark days were over, we have been confronted with this.”

Although Turkey has been my home for the last twenty years I have usually avoided any comment of the political scene here in my own collage work, more inspired by the shenanigans of Bush and Blair and their cronies, but yesterday I decided to break that rule and show defiance to despotism and solidarity with the cartoonists of Turkey by adding to my site of collages this picture of Bush and Erdogan, whom he describes as a ‘personal friend’.

 

MICHAEL DICKINSON is a writer and artist who works as an English teacher in Istanbul, Turkey. He designed the cover art for two CounterPunch books, Serpents in the Garden and Dime’s Worth of Difference, as well as Grand Theft Pentagon, forthcoming from Common Courage Press. He can be contacted through his website of collage pictures at http://CARNIVAL_OF_CHAOS.TRIPOD.COM

 

 

Michael Dickinson can be contacted at michaelyabanji@gmail.com.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

April 26, 2017
Richard Moser
Empire Abroad, Empire At Home
Stan Cox
For Climate Justice, It’s the 33 Percent Who’ll Have to Pick Up the Tab
Paul Craig Roberts
The Looting Machine Called Capitalism
Lawrence Davidson
The Dilemma for Intelligence Agencies
Christy Rodgers
Remaining Animal
Joseph Natoli
Facts, Opinions, Tweets, Words
Mel Gurtov
No Exit? The NY Times and North Korea
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Women on the Move: Can Three Women and a Truck Quell the Tide of Sexual Violence and Domestic Abuse?
Michael J. Sainato
Trump’s Wikileaks Flip-Flop
Manuel E. Yepe
North Korea’s Antidote to the US
Kim C. Domenico
‘Courting Failure:’ the Key to Resistance is Ending Animacide
Barbara Nimri Aziz
The Legacy of Lynne Stewart, the People’s Lawyer
Andrew Stewart
The People vs. Bernie Sanders
Daniel Warner
“Vive La France, Vive La République” vs. “God Bless America”
April 25, 2017
Russell Mokhiber
It’s Impossible to Support Single-Payer and Defend Obamacare
Nozomi Hayase
Prosecution of Assange is Persecution of Free Speech
Robert Fisk
The Madder Trump Gets, the More Seriously the World Takes Him
Giles Longley-Cook
Trump the Gardener
Bill Quigley
Major Challenges of New Orleans Charter Schools Exposed at NAACP Hearing
Jack Random
Little Fingers and Big Egos
Stanley L. Cohen
Dissent on the Lower East Side: the Post-Political Condition
Stephen Cooper
Conscientious Justice-Loving Alabamians, Speak Up!
Michael J. Sainato
Did the NRA Play a Role in the Forcing the Resignation of Surgeon General?
David Swanson
The F-35 and the Incinerating Ski Slope
Binoy Kampmark
Mike Pence in Oz
Peter Paul Catterall
Green Nationalism? How the Far Right Could Learn to Love the Environment
George Wuerthner
Range Riders: Making Tom Sawyer Proud
Clancy Sigal
It’s the Pits: the Miner’s Blues
Robert K. Tan
Abe is Taking Japan Back to the Bad Old Fascism
April 24, 2017
Mike Whitney
Is Mad Dog Planning to Invade East Syria?    
John Steppling
Puritan Jackals
Robert Hunziker
America’s Tale of Two Cities, Redux
David Jaffe
The Republican Party and the ‘Lunatic Right’
John Davis
No Tomorrow or Fashion-Forward
Patrick Cockburn
Treating Mental Health Patients as Criminals
Jack Dresser
An Accelerating Palestine Rights Movement Faces Uncertain Direction
George Wuerthner
Diet for a Warming Planet
Lawrence Wittner
Why Is There So Little Popular Protest Against Today’s Threats of Nuclear War?
Colin Todhunter
From Earth Day to the Monsanto Tribunal, Capitalism on Trial
Paul Bentley
Teacher’s Out in Front
Franklin Lamb
A Post-Christian Middle East With or Without ISIS?
Kevin Martin
We Just Paid our Taxes — are They Making the U.S. and the World Safer?
Erik Mears
Education Reformers Lowered Teachers’ Salaries, While Promising to Raise Them
Binoy Kampmark
Fleeing the Ratpac: James Packer, Gambling and Hollywood
Weekend Edition
April 21, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Diana Johnstone
The Main Issue in the French Presidential Election: National Sovereignty
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail