FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Cartoon Capers

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

 

 

More articles by:

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

January 16, 2019
Patrick Bond
Jim Yong Kim’s Mixed Messages to the World Bank and the World
John Grant
Joe Biden, Crime Fighter from Hell
Alvaro Huerta
Brief History Notes on Mexican Immigration to the U.S.
Kenneth Surin
A Great Speaker of the UK’s House of Commons
Elizabeth Henderson
Why Sustainable Agriculture Should Support a Green New Deal
Binoy Kampmark
Trump, Bolton and the Syrian Confusion
Jeff Mackler
Trump’s Syria Exit Tweet Provokes Washington Panic
Barbara Nimri Aziz
How Long Can Nepal Blame Others for Its Woes?
Cesar Chelala
Violence Against Women: A Pandemic No Longer Hidden
Kim C. Domenico
To Make a Vineyard of the Curse: Fate, Fatalism and Freedom
Dave Lindorff
Criminalizing BDS Trashes Free Speech & Association
Thomas Knapp
Now More Than Ever, It’s Clear the FBI Must Go
Binoy Kampmark
Dances of Disinformation: The Partisan Politics of the Integrity Initiative
Edward Curtin
A Gentrified Little Town Goes to Pot
January 15, 2019
Patrick Cockburn
Refugees Are in the English Channel Because of Western Interventions in the Middle East
Howard Lisnoff
The Faux Political System by the Numbers
Lawrence Davidson
Amos Oz and the Real Israel
John W. Whitehead
Beware the Emergency State
John Laforge
Loudmouths against Nuclear Lawlessness
Myles Hoenig
Labor in the Age of Trump
Jeff Cohen
Mainstream Media Bias on 2020 Democratic Race Already in High Gear
Dean Baker
Will Paying for Kidneys Reduce the Transplant Wait List?
George Ochenski
Trump’s Wall and the Montana Senate’s Theater of the Absurd
Binoy Kampmark
Dances of Disinformation: the Partisan Politics of the Integrity Initiative
Glenn Sacks
On the Picket Lines: Los Angeles Teachers Go On Strike for First Time in 30 Years
Jonah Raskin
Love in a Cold War Climate
Andrew Stewart
The Green New Deal Must be Centered on African American and Indigenous Workers to Differentiate Itself From the Democratic Party
January 14, 2019
Kenn Orphan
The Tears of Justin Trudeau
Julia Stein
California Needs a 10-Year Green New Deal
Dean Baker
Declining Birth Rates: Is the US in Danger of Running Out of People?
Robert Fisk
The US Media has Lost One of Its Sanest Voices on Military Matters
Vijay Prashad
5.5 Million Women Build Their Wall
Nicky Reid
Lessons From Rojava
Ted Rall
Here is the Progressive Agenda
Robert Koehler
A Green Future is One Without War
Gary Leupp
The Chickens Come Home to Roost….in Northern Syria
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers’ Strike: “The Country Is Watching”
Sam Gordon
Who Are Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionists?
Weekend Edition
January 11, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Richard Moser
Neoliberalism: Free Market Fundamentalism or Corporate Power?
Paul Street
Bordering on Fascism: Scholars Reflect on Dangerous Times
Joseph Majerle III – Matthew Stevenson
Who or What Brought Down Dag Hammarskjöld?
Jeffrey St. Clair - Joshua Frank
How Tre Arrow Became America’s Most Wanted Environmental “Terrorist”
Andrew Levine
Dealbreakers: The Democrats, Trump and His Wall
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Que Syria, Syria
Dave Lindorff
A Potentially Tectonic Event Shakes up the Mumia Abu-Jamal Case
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail