Satirical cartoons of political leaders are widely understood as a crucial form of social commentary around the world. In Turkey, however, they're yet another way the government criminalizes social criticism.
This July, punitive investigations have been launched against a group of technical university students, 72 MPs and the leader of the government's primary political opposition, all 'guilty' of sharing “World of Tayyips”, a cartoon that depicts Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the form of various animals.
The Initiative for Freedom of Expression – Turkey is inviting supporters of freedom of expression around the world to reshare the cartoon in solidarity with those under judicial threat. If you wish to take part, share the cartoon by clicking the tweet below or write your own tweet calling for tolerance of satire, using hashtag #WorldofTayyips.
Satire aimed at political leaders is a fundamental expression right. I stand with those arrested for sharing #WorldofTayyips in #Turkey! #tayyipleralemi goo.gl/VsuaYT
On July 6, 2018, during graduation ceremonies at the Middle East Technical University-Ankara, a copy of 'World of Tayyips” was carried by students alongside other humorous posters, a common practice at the university. In response, the Chief Prosecutor's Office launched an investigation and charged the students who carried the banner with "insulting the president." Four students were arrested on July 11 and remain in detention. The 'criminal' poster is depicted below:
"World of Tayyips", the cartoon on the banner, was originally published in Penguen (Penguin) humor magazine in 2005.
Then Prime Minister of Turkey, Erdoğan filed a claim against the cartoonist for a nuisance compensation of 40 thousand TL- approximately $30.000 USD. The case was rejected by the No.1 First Instance Court of Ankara, on the ground that the caricature in question was within the scope of "freedom of expression" and that politicians should tolerate all kinds of critiques.
The cartoonist drew “World of Tayyips” to show their solidarity with cartoonist Musa Kart, who was convicted of insulting the Prime Minister for his depiction of Erdoğan as a cat. The conviction was overturned by a higher court on appeal.
By sending a supportive tweet under #WorldofTayyips, you can take part in this history of good-humored solidarity.