Like most of the world, we have watched the rapid decline of civil liberties in Turkey after the election of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his coalition of Islamic parties. Just last month, we discussed the arrest of Mehmet Emin Altunses, 16, who allegedly committed the crime of “insulting” Erdoğan. calling people who use birth control “traitors” and saying Muslims discovered America, you are not allowed to be disrespectful or insulting in discussing Erdoğan. Then there was the prosecution of model and former Miss Turkey Merve Buyuksarac, 26, for criticizing Erdogan for quoting a few lines from a poem called the “Master’s Poem” from weekly Turkish satirical magazine Uykusuz. Erdogan’s totalitarian measures have earned him the nickname “Buyuk Usta” (the Big Master). The fact is that censorship and repressions is that it tends to become increasing absurd as leaders try to punish those who would insult them or question their leadership. This week is another case in point for Erdoğan. His government is investigating physician Dr. Bilgin Çiftçi for allegedly insulting Erdoğan after sharing a meme comparing Erdoğan’s facial expressions to the Gollum character in the “The Lord of the Rings” movies. Now here is the truly wonderful part: a court has reportedly demanded an expert examination by two experts to determine if a comparison to Gollum’s character would be an insult.
Once again, I was convinced that this was an Onion story until I found it on respected websites like the BBC. This clown-like behavior by Erdogan and his government has become something of a signature. The problem is that it is not funny. Çiftçi was expelled from the Public Health Institution of Turkey (THSK) after sharing the meme that compared images of Erdoğan to the fictional character known for his grotesque appearance, showing them both eating, expressing surprise and amazement. That lead to the Aydın 3rd Criminal Court of First Instance to call for an expert examination into the character of Gollum. The investigation will be held by a group composed of two academics, two behavioral scientists or psychologists and an expert on cinema and television productions.
The investigation was ordered after the defense attorney asked if the chief judge or prosecutor had even seen the movie. The chief judge admitted that he had only seen parts of the movie.
The funny thing is that it is the chief judge and prosecutor who seem most Gollum like. These are lines either out of the movies or the hearing, I cannot tell:
“We wants it, we needs it. Must have the precious. They stole it from us. Sneaky little hobbitses. Wicked, tricksy, false!”
“We swears to serve the master of the Precious. We will swear on… on… the Precious!”
Indeed, when it comes to free speech, Turkey has found a replacement: “Master looks after us now. We don’t need you anymore.”