Humor’s 21st type

Humor’s 21st type

Elementary literature will usually tell you that there are 20 different types of humor. The 21st is called the Crescent and the Star.

Slightly more than a year ago, a bee-eater caused alarm in a Turkish village when it was found dead in a field with a metal ring around its leg stamped “Israel.” Villagers called the police after intelligently deciding that its nostrils were unusually large and may have carried a microchip fitted by Israeli intelligence for spying (See “The world’s silliest spy network, this column, May 23, 2012). Mossad seems to have added a new species to its better known spies – rats, vultures and bee-eaters – it sends to Muslim countries.

Recently, Turkish authorities detained (detained!) a kestrel on suspicion that it was spying for Israel.

This spy, too, was quite self-revealing as the metal ring on its leg carried the words “Tel Avivunia Israel.” The local governor, who must also be an expert counter-espionage agent, decided to send the bird to a university hospital to check for the surveillance equipment hidden in its body.

The kestrel escaped police interrogation as no spying gadgets were found inside its body. The spy’s name on the hospital’s X-ray sheet read: Israeli spy. The lucky agent was released after it successfully masqueraded as an NGO official doing academic work in the Turkish skies, although it may have been blacklisted by Turkish immigration officers. I suspect Mossad’s next move could be to send Turkey pink elephants and blue dragons with stamps on their bodies that read “Israeli spy.”

But Turkey does not face the threat of foreign spies only. According to one estimate, there are about 38 million terrorists in Turkey who must be put in jail for life. According to the Justice and Development Party’s deputy chairman, Mehmet Ali Şahin (former “justice” minister and parliamentary speaker), millions of protestors who have been demonstrating against the government since May 31 should be given life sentences under Article 312 of the Turkish Penal Code (which states that “anyone trying to destroy the Turkish government or to prevent it from partially or fully performing its duties shall be punished by aggravated life imprisonment”).

Mr. Şahin’s reasoning accords perfectly well with a country that has the habit of detaining birds: Anyone who does not support the government is in fact dissenting, and dissent prevents the government from performing its duties. Verdict: Life! The opposition members of Parliament are terrorists, too, since they openly engage in activity to topple the government.

There is another dangerous man Turkish authorities have smartly detected and kept out of Turkey. Name: Dimitros Vounatsos. Profession: Mayor of the Greek island of Lesvos. When he was a member of the Greek Parliament back in 1992, Mr. Vounatsos was part of a delegation that visited the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party’s (PKK) leader, Abdullah Öcalan, in Lebanon. Mr. Vounatsos said in an interview with Hürriyet that he has not since been allowed into Turkey although “he very much would love to [come].”

Is it not humor’s 21st type that an army of Turkish politicians, officials and journalists do meet with Mr. Öcalan and the current leaders of his PKK as often as someone visits the neighborhood grocery but are not prevented from visiting Turkey while the unlucky Mr. Vounatsos is a “security risk” to a nation of 76 million just because he once met with the PKK leader?

That, too, is normal in the Crescent and Star: Banning a visit by a foreign mayor because he once met with Mr. Öcalan while almost everyone these days meets the jailed terrorist accords well with a country that has the habit of detaining spy birds and where a prominent government politician asks for life imprisonment for peaceful protestors.

And when that is “Turkish normalcy,” who could question EU Minister Egemen Bağış for labeling a letter published in The Times as “a crime against humanity” as if he wanted to prove the validity of the contents of the letter? The signatories of the letter, mostly celebrities and intellectuals with global fame, would have to serve life sentences if they resided in EU-candidate Turkey.

No doubt, there are 20 different types of humor – and Turkey.