When it comes to silencing dissident voices and curtailing freedom of speech and expression, no one does it quite like Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Following the pro-Kurdish HDP’s strong showing at the polls in June of 2015, Erdoğan embarked on a truly epic (not to mention tragic) campaign to stamp out dissent. Journalists were arrested, entire media outlets were shuttered, and coincidentally, violent attacks by the PKK spiked, providing Erdoğan with just the excuse he needed to justify Ankara’s claims that Turkey needed a strong government (i.e. a government run by an autocrat masquerading as a democratically elected leader) to keep the country safe from “terrorism.”
Erdoğan even went so far as to jail a medical doctor for daring to compare the President to Gollum (from the Lord of the Rings trilogy) on social media:
Believe it or not, a Turkish judge took the charges seriously enough to call in a panel of experts to help decide the matter. As The New York Times wrote at the time, “the judge said he did not know enough about the Tolkien creature to make an appropriate decision, [so] five experts were ordered to conduct an investigation into Gollum’s moral character before the next phase of the trial begins.”
That’s a true story.
Well, Erdoğan is reportedly at it again. As Reuters reports, “Turkish authorities have arrested the cafeteria manager of the opposition Cumhuriyet newspaper for insulting the president after he said he would not serve tea to Tayyip Erdogan.” Here’s more:
Senol Buran, who runs the cafeteria at the Istanbul office of Cumhuriyet, was taken into custody after police raided his home late on Saturday, lawyer Ozgur Urfa said. The newspaper is among the few still critical of the government.
Insulting the president is a crime punishable by up to four years in prison in Turkey.
Lawyers for Erdogan, who has dominated Turkish politics for more than a decade, have filed more than 1,800 cases against people including cartoonists, a former Miss Turkey winner and schoolchildren on accusations of insulting him.
Speaking of cartoonists, perhaps the following piece of visual satire says it best…
Don’t forget: this is a NATO member we’re talking about.
The moral of the story: “Ray, if someone asks you if you’d serve tea to Erdogan, YOU SAY YES!!”
For more on current events in Turkey, see here.