Here’s Turkey’s president by our Dutch cartoonist Bart van Leeuwen.
There’s another cartoon controversy that is causing friction for France. This time it is Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan who is outraged by a cartoon that he claims he hasn’t seen, that graces the cover of Charlie Hebdo’s current edition. Turkey has been outraged recently by French president Macron’s defense of offensive cartoons as “freedom of expression” in the wake of the murder of a French school teacher who showed Charlie Hebdo cartoons in his class as part of a civics lesson. Erdogan accused Macron of being mentally unhinged, leading France to withdraw their ambassador to Turkey and both presidents are carrying on a worsening dispute, with Macron backed by European leaders and Erdogan backed by protesting Muslim countries.
The cartoon that offends Erdogan shows him in his underwear, lifting the skirt of a traditionally dressed Muslim woman, exposing her bare bottom, with Erdogan exclaiming, “OOH! THE PROPHET!” Both figures appear to be drinking beverages containing alcohol, a taboo for observant Muslims. The cartoon is signed “Alice,” a cartoonist who I don’t know, who my French cartoonist friends don’t know, and who is not credited in any news reports that I’ve seen.
“Insulting the president” is a crime in Turkey and Erdogan has a history of retaliating against people who insult him; more than 36,000 people faced criminal investigation and thousands have been imprisoned for insulting Erdogan in 2019, according to a report from the Stockholm Center for Freedom.
Erdogan’s lawyer filed a criminal complaint against Charlie Hebdo’s management with Ankara’s prosecutor stating that the Charlie Hebdo cover cartoon amounted to “criminal libel” that is “not covered by freedom of expression,” according to state news agency Anadolu. Turkey is now promoting a boycott of French products. Protests against Charlie Hebdo cartoons are again springing up in a number of Muslim countries, focusing their ire on French President Emmanual Macron and demanding that cartoons criticizing the Prophet Muhammad should be banned in Europe. Here’s a good article from Britain’s Daily Mail.
Erdogan has overseen the mass imprisonment and suppression of journalists who are critical of his regime. Lately, he seems to be picking a variety of fights with many countries about different issues.
Turkish cartoonist Musa Kart recently spent a year and a half in jail for his drawings. Kart famously drew a cartoon depicting Erdogan as an orange cat that landed him in prison on an earlier occasion. Cartoonists around the world drew cartoons in support of Kart; here’s one that I drew in support of Kart when he was in prison.
I did a quick search and I found that we have 716 cartoons about Erdogan on PoliticalCartoons.com. It is no surprise that Erdogan’s short fuse and suppression of the press has made him a favorite target for cartoonists around the world.
Freedom of expression is often brought up in defense of offensive cartoons, especially against tyrants who seek to ban speech that offends them. That said, freedom of expression is not a reason to publish offensive cartoons. Cartoonists have the freedom to be asses, but we should choose not to be asses.
I would have killed the cartoon on the cover of the current Charlie Hebdo issue if it had been submitted to me – but it is a top story in the news today, so I posted it here in our blog. It is the crazy reaction to the cartoon that makes the cartoon newsworthy.
Here is a nice selection from our vast, Erdogan cartoon archive.
Robert Rousso, France
Christo Komarnitsky, Bulgaria
Joep Bertrams, The Netherlands
Marian Kamensky, Austria
Tchavdar Nicolov, Bulgaria
Arend van Dam, The Netherlands
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