Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Insulting Sultan Erdogan

"The line between criticism, insult and defamation is very thin. The moment politicians decide which is which can mean the end of freedom of expression."
Donald Tusk, president, EU Council
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

President-for-life of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan views himself as unassailable, that the same kind of respect be given him as a demi-god that he feels he resembles; at the very least a caliph whose power is unquestionable. He has altered the Turkey that was to become a Turkey that he wills it to be. He has built a palace palatial enough to represent the official abode of his eminence, the president.

He brooks no dissent, and above all, anyone who manoeuvres to take the limelight from him can anticipate being removed from power which is precisely what has occurred with presumptuous prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who thought himself entitled to act in a manner befitting his status.

Erdogan is in a permanent state of high dudgeon, responding to all those who presume to question his motives, let alone who dare to find fault with his directives. He is the scourge of the traditional Turkish military, of the police, of the judiciary, of the opposition, and above all of the journalists who write of matters inflammatory to the president's opinion of himself.

He is a committed litigator, having sued almost two thousand (1,845 to be more precise) people for libel. Reporters at a news conference were recently warned they will be sued should they insult him.

This is a man who was once viewed as a reasonable politician a reform-minded man planning to upgrade the country's economy and modernize its laws. He was amenable at one point to Turkey's emerging better relations with its Kurdish minority. He no longer has any interest in implementing reforms recommended by the European Union, and he has latterly demonstrated his contempt and hatred for the autonomous-seeking Kurds, showing no scruples against bombing Kurdish enclaves, citizens of Turkey.

Should any think of insulting the president they can be assured of four years in prison, if Erdogan has his way, and he generally does. A German satirist wrote and read out on TV and radio a garishly rude poem dedicated to Mr. Erdogan, a poem which generated controversy in Germany which, according to Der Spiegel "normally doesn't spend much time thinking about satire and art and the freedoms associated with them."

But Mr. Erdogan has insisted that Germany arrest German satirist Jan Boehmermann, who has just become a footnote in historical relations between Turkey and Germany. This is a Germany inundated with Muslim refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya and Eritrea, anxious to have the flow stopped and looking to Turkey to take steps to do just that. Giving Mr. Erdogan the opening he has long sought to have compensatory demands of  his own considered by an otherwise-distant EU.

A Dutch-Turkish columnist in the Netherlands was arrested by Turkish police; his crime: offensive tweeting while on holiday in Turkey. Police awakened her, interrogated her, kept her overnight and she was forbidden the leave the country until such time as two of her tweets had been fully investigated and either clear or charge her with insulting Sultan Erdogan.

Ebru Umar had criticized the Turkish consulate in Rotterdam for demanding that Turks in the Netherlands report anyone who insulted Erdogan.

And in Geneva the Turkish consul demanded that the city intervene to remove a picture at a photography exhibit that showcased Berkin Elvan, the 15-year-old who wandered into an anti-government protest and was killed by a tear-gas canister fired by police. His death in 2014 inspired demonstrations across Turkey. The caption on the picture that so offends the Turkish consul reads: "My name is Berkin Elvan. The police killed me on the orders of the Turkish prime minister".

Erdogan demands removal of 'offensive' Geneva photo Photo: DIHA

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