Offending Turkey’s President Erdoğan

I got an email from an old friend about a month ago suggesting I enter a competition called by the editor of Spectator magazine to find the most obscene limerick about the President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The winning entry, to be “ as filthy and insulting as possible,” would be announced ‘before 23 June’. I picked up a pen and called upon the Muses.

The poetry contest was called by Spectator editor Douglas Murray as a response to Erdogan’s use of lese-majeste in his attempts to prosecute German comedian Jan Böhmermann for his satirical poem recited on live TV (which suggested sexual activity between the President and goats,) saying that it amounted to libel, and Chancellor Angela Merkel’s allowing the prosecution to go ahead.

“The fact such a trial could even be contemplated demonstrates that Germany is becoming little more than a satrapy of Erdogan’s,” said Murray, inviting entrants to take part in the Spectator’s ‘grand Erdogan limerick competition’.

He takes offence very easily, does President Erdogan. In Turkey as many as 1,845 cases have been opened against people accused of insulting him since he came to office in 2014, including celebrities, journalists and even schoolchildren. I, myself, was charged with insulting the man with a collage caricature shown in an anti-war exhibition in Istanbul in 2006 and found guilty in 2010,when he was a mere prime minister, but it seems his ego sensitivity has increased with his power.

I composed my poem quite quickly, (although I found it difficult to find one particular word to rhyme), sent it in for the competition, and forgot about it, until today I learn that the winner (of the thousand pound prize) has been announced – none other than the former Lord Mayor of London, Tory MP Boris Johnson. This was his winning limerick –

“There was a young fellow from Ankara,

Who was a terrific wankerer.

“Till he sowed his wild oats,

With the help of a goat,

But he didn’t even stop to thankera.”

Hmm. Boris Johnson was surprised that his efforts, scrawled during an interview, were officially entered into the competition, but he said Merkel had “numbly decided to kowtow to the demands of Erdoğan, a man who is engaged in a chilling suppression of Turkish freedom of expression”.

In awarding the prize Douglas Murray said: “Certainly there were better poems. For sure there were filthier ones … For myself, I think it a wonderful thing that a British political leader has shown that Britain will not bow before the putative caliph in Ankara.

“Erdoğan may imprison his opponents in Turkey. Chancellor Merkel may imprison Erdoğan’s critics in Germany. But in Britain we still live and breathe free. We need no foreign potentate to tell us what we may think or say. And we need no judge, especially no German judge, to instruct us over what we may find funny.”


This was my entry. (Apologies to Croatians.)






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

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