Free speech disappearing in Turkey

January 4, 2017 • 12:15 pm

Under the despot Recep Erdoğan, the wonderful country of Turkey is becoming a nightmare, with people arrested for insulting the President (this includes a former Miss Turkey), the media muzzled, social media shut down when it calls attention to the President’s malfeasance, and an increasing censorship that is going to take a once-enlightened Nation back to an Islamist theocracy.

The latest incident, as reported by ClarionProject and Middle East Eyeinvolves the deportation of a Turkish fashion designer from Cyprus for making an anti-regime video, and his beating and arrest as he arrived in Turkey,

The fashion designer is Barbaros Şansal, 59, who made a video deemed by the regime to be “insulting to Turkey.” In Cyprus at the time, he was deported back to his homeland, and, in a really horrible move, the government broadcast when his plane was going to land in Istanbul:

Sansal, an outspoken critic of the ruling Islamist AK party [AKP], was forced out of the self-declared state of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus after making a video on New Year’s Eve deemed to be insulting to Turkey.

In the video, which was uploaded before the jihadi attack on an Istanbul nightclub that killed 39 people [you can see the video, with English translation here], Sansal rails against the “scores of journalists in prison,” “corruption and bribes” and the increased Islamization of the country:

While scores of journalists are in prison, while children are sexually harassed, raped, while corruption and brides are everywhere, radical Islamist are distributing shit to you in the streets. Are you still celebrating the New Year? I am not … You know what I will do? I will drink all the drinks in this room and bar. I will drink all of them! Will not leave you a single drop. I will take all my dollars to Switzerland. I will not leave a single penny [in Turkey]. OK? On the other hand, I am in Cyprus. The [North] Cyprus is now in the New Year, as they follow Turkey because of pressure. There is still an hour for the Cyprus Republic to enter the New Year. I will go there and I will celebrate there as well. I will drink there, too. I will drink everything. OK, baby? I am not even kissing you. You carry on with your celebration … in this disgrace, misery and dirt. Drown in your shit, Turkey!

On his Facebook page, Ari Murad, a Kurdish human rights activist and filmmaker, reported that “after the video went viral, Sansal was detained by Turkish Cypriot authorities and then extradited to Turkey. While Sansal was being ‘extradited’ to Turkey, Turkish state news agency AA informed readers of the flight airline and hour of departure.”

Other media picked up the gauntlet as well. A tweet by CNN Turk’s presenter Beste Uyanik [JAC: Now deleted] said Sansal “must be cut down to size” and “taught his limits,” when he arrives in Turkey.

What happened is shown in the video below. Sansal was summarily attacked and bloodied by a group of “baggage handlers” (probably government goons) as he walked down the stairs, was beaten viciously, and then dragged to a waiting police car. All for criticizing the government in a video.

And it’s absolutely unbelievable that the government itself would tell people when Sansal would arrive. That’s deliberate encouragement of vigilante justice.

He wound up looking like this:


And yesterday he was charged with  “inciting hatred and animosity among the public” and for “insulting” the public.

I weep for Turkey, as would Kemal Atatürk, the architect of Turkish democracy and secularism. There’s no way Turkey will ever get into the EU, but I suppose it doesn’t care. What has happened is that a petty tyrant has taken over a vibrant country, and is dismantling all the progressivism started by Atatürk and maintained by (some) regimes. The ban on hijabs in public universities has been lifted, and more and more women are veiling themselves. It is a great pity.

h/t: Malgorzata

48 thoughts on “Free speech disappearing in Turkey

  1. A huge part of blame should fall on free, democratic countries. In the beginning Erdogan was praised and coddled. There were even cheers from the “free world” when he dismantled the army’s power and imprisoned many high ranking officers. Since Ataturk times the Turkish army was the guardian of secularism but democratic countries dislike army and much prefer civilian rule – no matter what country and in what role the army is acting. There was no condemnation for Erdogan and his show trials and no support for officers. Neither was there any support for Turkish dissidents. On the contrary, Erdogan’s Turkey was called “the greatest Muslim democracy” – as if democracy with such adjective could remain democracy.Erdogan wouldn’t be able to achieve all this without the help from the well-meaning West.

    1. I think the west really failed to understand the threat he represented. Their failure to realize that Erdogan was slowly dismantling the democratic system seems to have happened through both a lack of awareness (to “credit” Erdogan, he did things slowly and methodically, rather than attempting to become dictator overnight) and wishful thinking. Just three or four years ago Turkey was still *ostensibly* a democracy, but nobody can have such ill-informed impressions any longer.

      1. There were loud warnings, both from inside Turkey and from people in the West. Only nobody in decision (and opinion) making position wanted to listen to these Cassandras. It was groupthinking, wishful thinking and plain intellectual lazyness.

        1. I think you are correct, in part, but you are also (in many ways) I believe too kind in your assessment. There were, at least on political (EU, USA et al) and military (NATO) levels, a large degree of conscious justification going on.

          The tragedy is, this has been done by people (political establishments) who have at the same time been among the most vocal in warning absolutely everyone about the dangers of returning totalitarian expansionist ideologies…

          It is difficult not to see a significant amount of black irony in all of this.

    2. Western countries have been caught in a bind when it comes to Egypt, Turkey, and the like: oppose the results of a legitimate election and be labeled imperialist hypocrites. Or accept the results and watch a would-be dictator take over a previously democratic country.

      Like BJ, I think the west did not expect Erdogan to be able to undermine democratic institutions the way he was able to do, else we likely would have worked to support his opposition more.

      But I think you’re just wrong about the army coup. I don’t personally know anyone who cheered it or thought his reaction was a good thing for democracy. Pretty much every individual I discussed it with, as well as every liberal western paper I read, treated it as a cause for alarm from the very beginning.

      1. I noticed only very feeble expressions of mild worry. No diplomatic consequences, no steps undertaken by NATO, no strong condemnation by EU, USA or other governments of a Western country. I am an elderly woman living in a rural Poland. My only contact with the world is Internet. How is it possible that I knew more than 10 years ago that Turkey goes in a very, very wrong direction but worlds governments, diplomats and journalists didn’t know? They could read Turkish newspaper printed in English (as I did), they could exchange emails with Turkish journalists who wrote warnings in these newspapers (as I did) and they would know. But when you close your eyes and hope for the best you cannot know but you can betray all your ideals.

        1. Honestly, and I don’t mean this meanly, I expect you’re remembering your hits (i.e. fearful predictions borne out) while forgetting your misses (the ones that never came true).

          1. Well, it wasn’t so difficult to know a bit about Muslim Brotherhood and their tactics. But the West wanted fervently to believe that deep down everybody wants liberty, equality and brotherhood (the same word in Muslim Brotherhood’s name was a honey on their souls). The West didn’t want to believe in the power of religion and ideology anymore. With a childhood and youth in a Communist country I knew about the dangers of ideological fervor, whether religious or not. When the West cheered the fall of the Shah, I expected the worst. When clerics of any religion get power only a totalitarianism can follow. When the West cheered the Arab Spring, I was terrified even more. Maybe somewhere I overdone my pessimistic prognosis, but I really doubt it was in cases of countries where people with totalitarian tendencies came to power.

            1. +1

              This! There is so much (almost unbelievable) naivety around this.

              I don’t know if you are familiar with Johan Westerholm? He writes at (mostly in Swedish), but has many (to my mind) interesting thoughts about what is happening, not so much Turkey as such, but re Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Morocco and the broader region.

              1. Ah, varsågod 🙂

                He also writes about many other things, so you may have to search through the postings a bit… I know to little to evaluate and judge his knowledge and expertise, but there are many things that intrigue me, and, it is another source (and perspective).

          2. I would claim that your reasoning and comprehension (as presented, and to my eyes) are historically and politically, somewhat naive.

            To my mind, it has been very clear for a long time, (and I support Malgorzata in this), on what trajectory Turkey was moving.

            And, if you know your history (or if you should remember one thing about history), it is, to expect the unexpected.

            But, in this case, changes and evidence has been accumulating for a long time. SO, if it is unexpected, it is rather because people have not been paying attention…

            1. If the western nations have “not been paying attention” it is because it suited them not to. Or do you subscribe to the belief that CIA is an acronym for “Can’t Interpret Anything”, and this is just another “intelligence failure”?

        2. EU has long been aware of the direction Turkey is heading, witness the inaction on its EU application.

          I am not sure what we are expected to do in other nations? People are allowed to find their own way. We can cooperate or pressurize, but Turkey’s economy is too big to notice.

          1. I should also add that democracy is spreading, whether or not we cooperate or pressurize. The reason seems to be that indeed it works better (and people want it).

            1. Does it, under all circumstances, and conditions? I am not so sure.

              Democracy (as we practice it in the west today) might be the best solution (as of yet) in the context of highly literate and educated ethnic and cultural homogeneous societies, like countries in Europe, and the Americas, but I am not so certain, when it comes to societies that are cultural heterogeneous and basically still tribal or clan based, like in the middle east and Africa.

              The idea that you could basically take a country like Somalia or Libya, knock off the current dictator or strongman, write a constitution, send in western experts and aid to build and organize democratic institutions, to enforce democracy top down, is incredibly naive.

              The evidence point to the fact that it does not work, and will never work.

              The society’s structure, cultural norms and values, the religion must change to accommodate the trust and social capital that needs to be built for democratic institutions to function.

              And, these are changes that I think experience and history teaches us, take generations to complete, even under good conditions.

              Full democracy might be the endpoint to aim for, but I am not certain that it is the best system for all points along the way.

    3. The anti communist struggle equated Muslim allies with democracy on the right and most of the post WW2 left for some reason also equate Islam with democracy

    4. democratic countries dislike army and much prefer civilian rule – no matter what country and in what role the army is acting

      I think the statistics tells us democracy works better.

      Indeed Turkey is a good example of a failed democracy attempt, and the blame falls on its military that didn’t make the transition before an opportunist like Erdogan appeared.

      Of course the military isn’t to blame for Erdogan’s actions, more than Erdogan is to blame for the military’s failure. Different failures, in a still repeated theme. Thailand is another worry. Et cetera.

  2. What has happened is that a petty tyrant has taken over a vibrant country, and is dismantling all the progressivism…

    Seems to be going around.

  3. And Erdogan is a pipsqueak compared to Putin. The West needs to wake up and learn the lessons from Hitlers rise. Appeasement doesn’t work. The free countries of the world need to push back hard against all these thugs, including the leadership in Iran and elsewhere.

    1. -1. Too easy to blame Putin for everything, especially when evidence is not required and MSM rewrites history with such facility, but NATO is far stronger than the Russian Federation and has nothing to fear from Putin. Look at where NATO is currently positioned and think back to June 22, 1941.

      1. Putin has turned a democratic trending Russia into an oligarchic dictatorship. He’s invaded Georgia and Ukraine, annexing part of Ukraine. I can blame all that on Putin and more. If you think evidence is lacking, that’s all we need to know about your view. I’ll agree that at this point Russia is weaker than Nazi Germany at it’s peak, except for the fact Russia has a substantial nuclear arsenal. Turkey is much weaker than Russia. The free world should act to prevent either from getting any stronger.

        1. Well I guess we know all we need to about your view too. I’m not promoting Putin as Mr Wonderful but the MSM are promoting a great deal of misinformation. Glenn Greenwald says it much better than I can:

          And you might want to find out more about the short war in South Ossetia invaded by Georgia repulsed by Russia after the Georgians killed russian peacekeepers. True after defeating the georgians the russians did occupy parts of Georgia for a while before retreating to their own borders again.

          1. I don’t know what MSM is. I know Glen Greenwald is a liar (and won’t read anything he writes). I know your account of the Russia-Georgia war is way off, and worthy of Greenwald, perhaps he is your information source.

            1. Sorry. I see you know everything already. I won’t try to confuse you with facts any further. Have a nice life.

  4. In 20 years time, I wonder which of these documentaries will be made by BBC2?

    Recep Erdogan: A Warning from History

    Vladimir Putin: A Warning from History

    Donald Trump: A Warning from History

    1. In 20 years’ time, I wonder if BBC2 will be around at all; or if it is, whether it will be allowed to make documentaries with such incendiary titles.

  5. While I have no reason to disbelieve the specific article linked at, be aware that this site (also) publishes fake news.

    I’m specifically referring to , which is nonsense, see (in German);art930,3187550

    1. The German media, politicians even police have by now left behind such a solid as it is sordid trail of coverup, trivialization, minimizing, justification, rationalization and outright coddling of immigrant “refugee” outrages that their credibility now skirts Goebbelsian lows.

      Merkel, in a public forum, tells a woman who expressed her fear of Merkel’s Muslim mass immigration to “go to church”. The mayor (female) of Cologne after the mass sexual assault on new years eve tells women “to keep more than an arms length distance from strangers”.

      The author of the ruhrnachrichten article you linked tells us that “terrorists misuse the phrase allahu akbar before carrying out attacks”…

  6. Erdogan is a thug, but, as an American who has lived in Turkey, I disagree the claim that wants to make Turkey into a theocracy. He is much more comparable to the Christian Right in America. Like America’s Christian Right, he wants the traditional religion of his nation to be respected, but doesn’t want actual theocracy. Even if he is secretly a theocrat, he knows that theocracy is not what Turkish voters want. I’ve talked to many of Erdogan’s voters, and every single one has told me they don’t want Sharia law. They live in the Middle East and they know how it is in countries like Saudi Arabia. Their worldview is similar to the American Christian Right. They want to preserve traditional gender roles, children having two parents, and a more than 2.0 fertility rate. Personally, I don’t see that as being very objectionable, in any case, it’s a far cry from Saudi Arabia.

    1. Assuming you are correct about the Turkish population, what institutions are in place to prevent Erdogan (or anyone else) from abusing their support to do what he wants rather than those of the population?

    2. The problem with traditional values is that their practitioners tend to demonize anyone who doesn’t rigidly conform to them. Istanbul used to have large gay parades–now excuses are found to cancel and harass them. Bars have been closed down, while a record store owner was threatened with a beating for having a listening party during Ramadan. Violence against women is rising and the AKP’s politicians are notorious for their anti-feminism (remember the one who said women shouldn’t laugh in public?). America would be a nightmare if ruled by politicians from the religious right and so would Turkey. It might not conform 100% to sharia law (and in any case there are multiple versions of Sharia–the Ottomans practiced the most liberal version, Hanafi) and Erdogan will rule instead of a Sultan or Sheikh ul-Islam, but it will be a religious dictatorship. The most backward values of village life will wipe out those forged by cosmopolitanism.

      Furthermore, when a man believes he’s on a mission from God, he can justify any action he takes, and we know Erdogan is on a mission to walk back secularism (as he once said, “Democracy is like a train: when you reach your destination, you get off.”) Since the failed coup Erdogan has conducted one of the most massive purges in post-WWII history, and jailed even more members of opposition parties and journalists for the flimsiest of reasons. Turkey is now a police state, and because Erdogan looked the other way and let Islamist fighters enter Syria through Turkey, he has made possible a wave of horrible terrorist attacks. The most recent–ISIS machine-gunning New Years partiers at a nightclub–was preceded by the Chief Mufti attacking New Year’s celebrations as unislamic. Nice to know the values of the terrorists and the AKP coincide. Through it all, Erdogan knows he has God on his side.

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