When will Erdoğan win the Omar al-Bashir Human Rights Award?
After having been awarded the distinguished Al-Gaddafi International Prize for Human Rights, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has added a new decoration to his collection, the Statesman of the Year Award for Human Rights in the Turkish Cypriot Statelet.
The news came only a day after Reuters ran an analysis with the headline “Hard times for media in Erdoğan’s Turkey.” On the lighter side, perhaps, “news on Turkey” is these days more suitable to humor magazines than serious publications.
The Turks were still laughing at the revelation a prosecutor had indicted an opposition lawmaker for “attempting to undermine the government by means of political propaganda” when more tragic but entertaining news arrived. A woman in İzmir, for instance, who was badly beaten by the police at a police station – full video available on youtube.com for those who can stand scenes of violence – must now stand trial for up to 6.5 years in prison for “resisting and insulting officials.” Her torturers too must stand trial: The prosecutors demand prison sentences of up to 1.5 years for them. So keep in mind, if you are beaten by the police in the “advanced democracy of Turkey,” do not file a complaint to add insult to your own injury.
If this story is not funny enough, turn your newspaper page and read the account of a local governor who assigned a criminal investigation over illegal possession of a hunting rifle to the capable hands of a mufti, the local religious authority, instead of a prosecutor. What will the man do? Sentence the defendant to eternal flames in hell?
And in the same week, the broadcasting watchdog issued a warning to a television station because a film it had aired contained a scene in which a couple kissed. Next move? Sentencing the TV station to eternal flames and tax fines to the magnitude of millions of dollars perhaps?
Speaking of watchdogs, meanwhile, the IT and communications watchdog’s secure Internet filtering system blocked sites that contained the words “evolution,” “Darwin” and “Richard Hawkins,” if parents selected the child-friendly settings on the filter. While Reporters Without Borders accused the government of “backdoor censorship,” at least the Turkish children are now safe from the harmful effects of porn – and evolution.
But the “most fun of the week award” goes to another indictment. Twenty-eight Turks, 22 of whom were under detention since last Friday, stand trial on terrorism charges. They were imprisoned after they staged an anti-government protest against the death of a retired teacher who suffered a heart attack when police fired pepper spray at a demonstration against Mr. Erdoğan. The defendants have waited in custody for six months to appear in their first court hearing.
Prosecutors said criminal evidence found on the defendants included “weapons” such as umbrellas, bullhorns, banned books and posters of 1970s revolutionaries. The indictment also mentions the criminal roles of “persons like Marx and Engels” and criminal evidence including Che Guevara posters.
One piece of criminal evidence, as the prosecutors unmistakably caught it, is French philosopher Georges Politzer’s “Elementary Principles of Philosophy.” Daily Hürriyet columnist Ertuğrul Özkök recalled his leftist friends were arrested on the same criminal evidence during the military rule in 1971 and 72.
Another columnist, Yavuz Baydar from Today’s Zaman, wrote: “Freedom of expression/media will remain a big headache for Turkey. Fırat Barık, a high-school student, is in jail for writing graffiti. Several other university students are in lengthy detentions, some for over 22 months, for using their right to express opinions and demonstrate. Three of them are under arrest because they protested their jailed friend’s case by cutting their hair and sending it to the prison directorate. In other words, absurdity is on the march again.”
It is amazing humor magazines in Turkey still sell by hundreds of thousands a week. Soon the Turks may discover that reading the newspaper is more fun.