The Washington Post reported on that nonsense about Turkey’s forlorn hope of punishing everyone everywhere who insulted Erdoğan.
What should someone in the Netherlands do if someone says something “derogatory” or “defamatory” about President Recep Tayyip Erdogan? According to an email sent out by Ankara’s consulate in Rotterdam, Turkish organizations in the country should write in to report the insult.
This email, uncovered by Dutch news organizations Thursday, has sparked anger in the Netherlands, with the Dutch prime minister demanding an explanation from Turkish authorities.
You can see how it would, seeing as how Erdoğan doesn’t actually own the Netherlands, or the world, or in fact even Turkey.
“I am surprised,” Prime Minister Mark Rutte told reporters in Germany during a joint news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. “It’s not clear what the Turkish government aims to achieve with this action.”
Sure it is – it hopes to make everyone stop it right this minute.
This happened just days after Merkel agreed to the prosecution of Jan Boehmermann for being rude about that nice Mr Erdoğan.
According to German prosecutors, at least 20 “private individuals” had filed complaints against Boehmermann after his poem aired on state broadcaster ZDF. At the request of the Turkish government, Boehmermann will now be prosecuted under section 103 of the German penal code, a section that decrees “whosoever insults a foreign head of state … shall be liable to imprisonment not exceeding three years or a fine.”
Merkel has suggested that while her government will now work to change the law to remove this section, she had to respect the law as it stood. The Netherlands has similar “lèse-majesté” laws against insulting foreign heads of states, which is punishable by a maximum of five years in prison, though Dutch lawmakers are now working to remove them.
My friend Rogier Van Vugt tells me “both the 2de kamer (dutch congress equivalent) and the cabinet are expediting” this work to remove them, so that’s good. Erdoğan, however, remains a power-mad asshole. That’s right, I said Erdoğan is a power-mad asshole. Please report me to the Turkish embassy.
Within Turkey, critics of the government have complained that since becoming president in 2014, Erdogan has abused a law that bars insults to the president, with almost 2,000 cases openedin less than two years.
While these cases have caused controversy, they also enjoy support from many in Turkey: One Turkish man facing charges for allegedly assaulting his fiancee recently suggested that the assault was sparked by his partner’s insult to the Turkish president. According to Hurriyet Daily News, the man’s fiancee was called by police to testify about the alleged insult to Erdogan, which she denied making.
A man assaulted a woman because she “insulted” Erdoğan – not to his face, I imagine, but in absentia. Erdoğan must be remarkably fragile.
The Turkish Embassy in the Netherlands has attempted to downplay the controversy about the recent email, suggesting that the message was being misunderstood and that they only wanted organizations to email the consulate to report racism or hate speech. According to a translation from the BBC, the letter had read: “We ask urgently for the names and written comments of people who have given derogatory, disparaging, hateful and defamatory statements against the Turkish president, Turkey and Turkish society in general.”
That doesn’t make it any better. The “urgently” is sinister for a start – urgently why? What do they plan to do about it? And then the breadth of it – disparaging statements about Turkey or Turkish society should be reported to the Turkish Embassy? Well here’s me forming a very unfavorable idea of Turkish officialdom because of its complete cluelessness about the value of free speech.