Since the rise of the AKP party in 2002, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has filed lawsuits against various journalists, politicians, writers, and private citizens who have criticized his actions and the policies of his government. Erdogan's lawyers have argued in court that these critics insulted him by using "defamatory language," violated his rights, and caused him mental anguish.
Turkish cartoonists who bashed Erdogan got their share of court action as well. On May 9, 2004, Musa Kart, cartoonist for the Cumhuriyet daily, criticized Erdogan's stand on the religious vocational schools known as Imam Hatip schools. After coming into power, Erdogan, himself a graduate of one of these schools, promised to upgrade their academic status. His government fulfilled this promise by putting them on an equal footing with other high schools in terms of the calculation of university entrance scores, but the decision was rejected by Turkey's highest administrative court. Kart responded to this affair by drawing the prime minister as a cat entangled in a ball of yarn symbolizing the Imam Hatip schools. As a result, he was sued and convicted of "publicly humiliating" Erdogan, and ordered to pay damages of 5,000 Turkish lira for mental anguish, though the verdict was later overturned by the Supreme Court.
Erdogan: "Don't create tension, we promised to resolve this problem!"
Cumhuriyet, May 9, 2004
Eight cartoonists from the political cartoon weekly Penguen protested this incident by publishing on the magazine's cover a cartoon titled "The Kingdom of Tayyips," in which the prime minister is depicted as various animals. Erdogan sued magazine owner Erdil Yasaroglu over the cartoon, demanding damages of 40,000 lira for mental anguish.
Penguen (Turkey), February 24, 2005
Penguen has continued to publish cartoons critical of the government. Below are some more examples:
Title: "11 people die in terror attack on police station in Hakkari [in southeastern Turkey]."
Erdogan: "Doctor, I'm confused. Sometimes I find myself defending Iran… And sometimes I feel like an Arab."
Doctor, holding up map of Turkey: "But what do you see in this picture?"
Erdogan: "Oh, I totally forgot about that."
Penguen (Turkey), July 5, 2010
Title: "Erdogan bashed Turkish media for claiming that 'Turkey is shifting its foreign policy axis, and is approaching the Arab world.'"
Doctor: "A shift in axis could be experienced. Refrain from serious talks and rest…"
Penguen (Turkey), June 24, 2010
Title: "The debate on the 10 commandments heating up!
"Head of the [oppositionist] CHP [party] Kemal Kilicdaroglu responded to the statement of the Turkish prime minister, who addressed Israel by quoting the sixth commandment, 'Thou shalt not kill.' Kilicdaroglu told Erdogan, The eighth commandment is 'Thou shalt not steal,' and the ninth commandment is 'Thou shalt not lie."
Kilicdaroglu: "Recep Bey, the ninth commandment is 'Thou shalt not lie.'"
Erdogan: "Are you the one to teach me the Bible?"
Moses (in center): "Don't rely on me to break up the fight..."
Penguen (Turkey), June 22, 2010
The cartoon below criticizes the recent constitutional amendments presented by the ruling party.
Erdogan to Einstein: "Your job is easier than mine, I think splitting the constitution is harder than splitting the atom..."
Penguen (Turkey), April 30, 2010
Title: Unemployment among young people is 24.4%; one in four is unemployed.
Erdogan: "Hey, something is rising [in this country]?!" "Did I get the chart wrong?..."
Penguen (Turkey), March 1, 2010
Title: "Pakistani Prime Minister Gilani said, 'We would like to learn about your Imam Hatip religious schools. We can correct the errors in our religious education by using them as a model.' Prime Minister Erdogan responded, 'I myself graduated from one of those schools.'"
Erdogan: "I set an example…"
Gilani: "Whatever…What was the next subject?"
Penguen (Turkey), November 5, 2009
The following cartoon refers to Erdogan's stance on the Xinjiang riots. In July 2009 dozens of Muslim Uyghurs were killed in the city of Urumqi, capital of the Chinese province of Xinjiang, in violent clashes with the Chinese police and local Han Chinese. Erdogan referred to the killing of the Uyghurs, whom many in Turkey regard as fellow Muslim Turks, as "genocide."
Title: "Prime Minister Erdogan, who called the massacre of the Uyghur Turks 'genocide,' has distributed toys made in China to the children of Antalya.
Toy: "It is genocide!..."
Man: "We produced them in China for cheap…"
Penguen (Turkey), July 25, 2009
During the January 29, 2009 World Economic Forum in Davos, Erdogan asked the moderator for "one minute" to finish his response to Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres' speech. The moderator's refusal prompted Erdogan to walk out of the conference in protest. Following this incident, Erdogan's "one minute" became a key phrase in Turkey, figuring in demonstrations and speeches, as well as in jokes, cartoons and even commercials.
Title: "The student who ranked first place in university entrance exams said that he wrote his lesson notes on the wall."
Erdogan: "What are you looking at? I am studying English!..."
Penguen (Turkey), July 22, 2009
Criticism of Turkish Government's Submission to U.S.
Title: "Prime Minister Erdogan, who, after the passage of the U.S. Congress' Armenian genocide bill, said 'I will not go to the U.S.', could not wait and went to the U.S. for the nuclear security summit."
Erdogan: "No, I will not come again..."
On leaflet: "Nuclear Security"
Penguen (Turkey), April 21, 2010
Title: "Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu had a long talk with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on regional issues."
Davutoglu: "Aha, yes, okay… aha… I see… what?... Okay… yes… aha… yes, okay…"
Penguen (Turkey), September 9, 2009
Criticism of President Abdullah Gul
On June 7, 2010, Turkish president Abdullah Gul and Azerbaijani president Ilham Aliyev signed an agreement for the supply of gas from Azerbaijan to Turkey. In the cartoon below, Gul and Aliyev plot to settle the problem of the gas prices by deceiving the public.
Title: "Following their meeting, Turkish President Abdullah Gul and Azeri leader Aliyev reached an agreement on natural gas prices."
Gul: "Our tactic remains the same: we will lower the price in summer and raise it in the winter… it will be great…"
Penguen (Turkey), June 18, 2010
Criticism of Turkey's Media and Internet Censorship
Title: "Transportation Minister Binali Yildirim responded harshly to criticism of Internet censorship, saying, 'Will this country be ruled by Google?'
Yildirim: "The machines will no longer rule us. Hasta la vista, Google… "
Penguen (Turkey), June 15, 2010
Turkey's largest media company, Dogan Media Group, has been the target of frequent attacks by Erdogan for its criticism of the AKP party government. In February 2009, the company was fined nearly $500 million for an alleged late tax payment, in a step that was seen by many as an attempt to silence it. Following this incident, the company's founder and board chairman, Aydin Dogan, resigned from his post and was replaced by his daughter, Arzuhan Yalcindag. The latter is likewise known for her criticism of Erdogan's government. In 2008, she said in a speech at the George Marshall Foundation in the U.S. that Turkey has been transformed into a "republic of fear" and that there is no freedom of speech.
Title: "Aydin Dogan's daughter Arzuhan Yalcindag replaces her father after he resigned as board chairman of the Dogan Group."
Arzuhan Yalcindag to Erdogan: "You would not hit a woman, right?..."
Penguen (Turkey), January 16, 2010
Title: "[Turkey,] a country where the prime minister tells the public not to buy certain newspapers, celebrates the '101 years of free press.'
Erdogan: "Go ahead, buy, buy… I'm not looking, today you can choose whatever you want. But don't go overboard…'
Penguen (Turkey), August 6, 2009