- In 2011, the humor magazine Harakiri was forced to shut down after being slapped with a 150,000 Turkish Lira fine by the Prime Ministry’s Council for Protecting Minors, for being a “harmful influence on the morality of minors.” Harakiri had released its first issue in May 2011, but the board quickly declared that three drawings in the first issue were “inappropriate” and banned the sale of the magazine to underage minors, in addition to levying the fine. The board found that Harakiri “directed Turkish people to laziness and adventurism” and “encouraged adultery.”
- In the same year, what this columnist coined “the official Turkish humor machine” invented a profession unknown to the rest of the world when a court indictment labeled the translator of William Burrough’s “The Soft Machine” as a “porn translator.” That happened when the book’s Turkish publisher and the “porn translator” had to stand trial on charges of obscenity.
- “The author identified the book with an undisciplined, anti-social, sex-addicted character who does not respect any system of values … The novel contains unrealistic interpretations that were neither personal nor objective by giving examples from the lifestyles of historical and mythological figures … From a criminological viewpoint, the book develops attitudes that were permissive to crime by concentrating on the banal, vulgar and weak attributes of humanity.” This literary review was written by the Council for Protecting Minors for “The Soft Machine,” first published half a century ago.
- The prosecution of “The Soft Machine” was the second in a row against the same publisher, which faced the same charges after it published Guillaume Apollonaire’s “The Exploits of a Young Don Juan” in 2010.
- And anyone who was “shocked” about the probe into “The Soft Machine” better refresh their memories and try to recall what happened in November 2010, when conservative Turkish writers uninvited Nobel
laureate V.S. Naipaul from a gathering of the European Writers Parliament in Istanbul because they believed his work had “insulted Islam.”
- In July 2010, Kemal Duran, a 37-year-old geophysics engineer, ran toward Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s election bus and shouted, “Esteemed prime minister, freedom!” The prime minister was there to promote democratic freedoms, but the unlucky Mr. Duran was arrested and spent 24 days in jail before he was released. Mr. Duran said his act was a solo protest in favor of broader freedoms. He recalled that one of the questions a judge asked him was, “Why are you still a bachelor [at this age]?”
- And last year, something “absolutely normal” happened at the closing ceremonies for the 2012 London Olympic Games, although, strangely, there were still some people who thought that that normalcy was not, in fact, normalcy. The normalcy was how a Turkish presenter for the state broadcaster TRT translated (well, rather avoided translating parts of) a song that was part of the ceremonies. The Turkish presenter had merely omitted part of John Lennon’s lyrics that called for “no religion” during the broadcasting of the 30th Olympic Games’ closing ceremonies. The iconic song “Imagine” was included in the ceremonies and was translated into Turkish by the TRT presenter as it played in the background. The lyrics of the song that called for people to imagine a world with no countries and no reason to kill or die for were correctly translated by the presenter, but the TRT man preferred to just skip the part where Lennon sang “no religion.”
- And on April 15, 2013 we were shocked when world-renowned Turkish pianist Fazıl Say was sentenced to a suspended, 10-month prison sentence for tweeting and retweeting words that conservative Muslims (and “independent” judges) thought insulted Muslims and their faith.
Once again, we were shocked. Uh, ah, so very badly shocked!