not! This crimson flag rippling in these dawns will never fade."
rather off-key bawling of the Turkish national anthem by the assembled
children in the playground of the school next door woke me suddenly.
Monday morning, 8.45. Usually I sleep through the song with earplugs
to wake later in my own time, but the battery in my clock dead,
I had decided to use the school's start-the-week flag-honouring
ceremony as my morning clarion call. As the children began their
energetic patriotic chanting I got up and put the kettle on. I
had to be in court at 10.30 to answer a charge which could result
in two years imprisonment.
and ablutions I started getting my act together, wondering why
I always seem to leave things until the last minute. I phoned
the British Consulate to inform them I was going to court that
day. The contact I wanted to speak to wasn't there, but the duty
consular told me he'd pass on the news. He hadn't heard about
my case. I told him that I was about to appear in court for the
third time on a charge of insulting Turkish Prime Minister Tayip
Erdogan for two years ago publicly showing
a collage picture representing him as a pet dog of America.
As I was
about to leave I decided to take some photocopies of my more 'artistic'
collages for possible use in my defence. I also added a 'Complete
Works of Shakespeare' just in case they locked me up again. I
nearly went mad with nothing to read during my last 10-day sojourn
in police custody.
On the way
to the courthouse (only a five-minute walk), I had another idea,
and popped into a grocery store selling newspapers. "Any comics?"
I asked the bearded old proprieter. "Caricatures no!" he stated
rather vehemently, but at another shop a couple of streets away
I found plenty of comics on display.
The front cover of the latest 'Girgir'
showed the cartoon caricature of a very sick-looking Erdogan
with a scarf tied round his mouth like a bandit, a reference to
his party lifting the ban on headscarves at universities, and
some of his recorded comments which seem to suggest that he is
bent on introducing Islamic Sharia law into Turkey, using democracy
as a tool.
on time at the courthouse I found that my usual lawyer was on
another case elsewhere, his place taken by a young woman barrister,
equally qualified. We sat outside in the corridor with police
and prisoners and waited our turn in one of the little courtrooms.
A man and woman arrived and introduced themselves as journalists
for the Sabah newspaper.
them the 'artistic' collages I'd brought along to let the judge
see that my art doesn't soley consist of lampooning politicians.
But I'd added one picture, made in 2002 in the countdown to the
attack on Iraq, showing Tony Blair as Geoge Bush's dog, to show
that Erdogan was not the only politician I had depicted as a canine.
We looked at the front cover of the Girgir comic and I asked if
it was insulting to the Prime Minister? If so, where did it end?
I leafed through a few pages which showed him featured in several
other very cheeky cartoons.
was called and the lawyer and I went into the little room. The
usher told me to remove my skull cap and we stood before the judge.
He asked what the case was, and the lawyer explained. After shuffling
through some files, the judge grumbled rather petulantly that
the Dean's Office of Fine Arts at Mimar Sinan University whom
he had called as a witness to give his opinion on my offending
collage had informed the court in reply that there were not any
faculty members who could act as an expert on collage art. The
named witness had not turned up for the trial.
The usher was instructed to open the door and call for him just
in case, but there was no reply. Therefore, the judge announced,
the case would be adjourned again until October 25, when a faculty
member from Marmara Univ. will be called and sworn in and asked
to give his opinion as to:
the work is a collage or not, and
would be the perceived thought of a person with an average intelligence
who looks at this work.
was over. The usher opened the door for us to leave and the judge
bent his head over files for the next case. I called for his attention
and, displaying a couple, asked if some of my 'artistic' collages
might be not be used as evidence in my defence, but he said they
were irrelevant. Only the ones of Erdogan were in question.
strange to think that when I made this particular collage
the invasion of Iraq had not yet happened, and there still
seemed a chance of stopping it. And now the country has
been under American occupation for five years, and of
the three characters featured in the picture, Saddam is
dead, Bush is still President, and ex prime minister Blair,
a newly baptised Catholic, is meddling elsewhere.
the courthouse, while sharing telephone numbers with the Sabah
journalists some little flyers for the 2012
World Strike fluttered out of my notebook. One
journalist helped me pick them up and I told him to keep one.
He looked at it and put it in his pocket. I shook hands and said
goodbye. They said they would try to come to the next trial in
October, seven months away.
took some pictures of me in front of the building holding up the
old collage featuring Tony Blair as Bush's pet dog. How ironic
it seemed that only two years before I had been arrested on that
exact spot for showing Tayyip Erdogan in the same role! And how
strange to think that when I made this particular collage the
invasion of Iraq had not yet happened, and there still seemed
a chance of stopping it. And now the country has been under American
occupation for five years, and of the three characters featured
in the picture, Saddam is dead, Bush is still President, and ex
prime minister Blair, a newly baptised Catholic, is meddling elsewhere.
I have seven
months' grace until my next court hearing, but time has a way
of slipping by without you noticing. Time moves on, and it can
bring surprises. Nothing could bring Saddam Hussein back to life,
but who knows?, perhaps in another five years' time we may see
Masters George Walker Bush and Anthony Charles Lynton Blair in
the dock, facing trial for their roles in the bloody war they
helped to create, and their responsibility for inflicting death,
injury and misery upon millions of innocent human beings.
Michael Dickinson is an English teacher working in Istanbul, Turkey.
Dickinson did the cover art for two of CounterPunch's books, Dime's
Worth of Difference and Serpents
in the Garden, as well as Jeffrey St. Clair's Grand
Theft Pentagon. He can be contacted via his website http://yabanji.tripod.com/
or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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