The insanity around Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his insanely thin skin
is getting worse. As we've discussed, Erdogan has been going crazy suing anyone in Turkey
who he claims insults him (over 1800 cases in just 18 months). And he's tried to take things internationally as well. Even when visiting the US, his team tried to silence the press
. And then he whined
about a song on a German TV station mocking him. That resulted in a German comic writing some more direct insults, and Erdogan somehow discovering a nearly forgotten German law that allows for criminal cases
against anyone who insults a foreign leader.
People are completely up in arms over the fact that German Chancellor Angela Merkel made the political choice and gave in to Erdogan's request
, allowing the comedian, Jan Bohmermann, to face charges that could land him in jail. Merkel, the pundits claimed, "needed" to do this because she needs Erdogan's support in dealing with the refugee crisis going on right now. The one bone she threw to critics was that the law in question should be changed -- a process that is moving forward rapidly
Of course, all this has really done is increase attention to all of this (gee... doesn't that sound familiar?) and create more people mocking Erdogan and his thin skin. Bruno Kramm, the head of the German Pirate Party, went to the Turkish Embassy in Berlin and conducted a "literary analysis" of Bohmermann's satirical (if over the top) poem -- leading to Kramm being taken into custody by the police
Meanwhile Erdogan's assault on free speech in Europe is spreading. The Turkish consulate in Rotterdam has apparently been urging Turkish nationals to send in reports of any insults directed at Erdogan
. That comes right after the Netherlands realized that it has a similar law to Germany's and decided that it should probably get rid of it too:
The Turkish consulate in Rotterdam has urged Turkish nationals to report examples of president Recep Tayyip Erdogan being insulted and denigrating comments made about Turks in general, Dutch media say on Thursday afternoon.
Various Turkish organisations in the Netherlands have been emailed by the consulate, urging them to make a note of the insults. The call comes a day after the Dutch government said it would scrap legislation which makes insulting a friendly head of state a criminal offence.
And, it appears, the Turkish authorities are not messing around. Just as all of this was happening, Turkish police arrested a Dutch journalist
, Ebru Umar, who was vacationing in Turkey, but who had just written a column critical of Erdogan (and had criticized Erdogan's supporters on Twitter). If Erdogan thinks this will actually suppress criticism, it appears he may have miscalculated. The biggest newspaper in the Netherlands released Monday's paper with a giant caricature of Erdogan
as an ape crushing free speech:
And, that's not all. The Turkish consulate in Switzerland has filed an official complaint
about an art exhibit in Geneva because, it turns out, Switzerland has a law like Germany and the Netherlands. It's quite amazing how Erdogan became such an expert on these laws in Europe so quickly...
The Genevan authorities have confirmed that they have received a complaint from the Turkish consulate to Switzerland. Just like Germany, Swiss law contains a clause prohibiting insults towards foreign leaders.
The offending photograph is part of an exhibition from photographer Demir Sonmez. The photo in question shows a protest in Istanbul in which a banner proclaims that Erdogan was responsible for the death of a teenager.
Thankfully, it does not appear Erdogan has discovered a similar such law over in the UK, where The Spectator has launched a contest
asking for the most offensive and insulting poetry about Erdogan. The prize is £1,000 (and, I assume, a lifetime ban from visiting Turkey).
Meanwhile, back in Turkey, a court in Istanbul has told the editor-in-chief of a local publication, Cumhuriyet, that he must pay approximately $10,000
for "insulting public figures" because the publications released some details on a probe into corruption. But the guy, Can Dundar, is still facing other charges around "espionage, attempting to overthrow the government, and revealing state secrets." He may be sentenced to life in prison for that. So, yeah, as amusing as this is from miles away, actual people doing basic things like reporting on facts are facing their entire lives being destroyed.
In the end, a quote from a Turkish expat, Orhan Selim Bayraktar, living in the Netherlands and working for the main opposition party to Erdogan's made the most sense -- asking why someone so thin-skinned is in politics at all
. As Bayraktar told Sputnik News:
"If the president does not want to be criticized and insulted, he should leave the political arena. Because for me, as a politician, it's obvious that if you choose to enter politics, you will have enemies who will insult you, and friends who praise you. If you cannot get used to this, you have no business being in politics. The Turkish president should abandon the persecution of his own citizens. He must serve as the guarantor of our freedoms, instead of assisting in their limitation."
Seems like common sense. But there's apparently no room for that in Turkey.