Police raid cartoon show, charge cartoonists (2001-2002)

Cartoonists Seyit Saatci and Askin Ayrancioglu had to appear in court for their cartoons in early 2002. Shortly before their exhibition (June 5-9, 2001) in Boyabat Halk Kutuphanesi, the police raided their show and they were taken into custody for a day, when they were set free to later stand trial. Authorities brought a lawsuit against them because seven of the exhibited cartoons were objectionable, two of which were drawn by Saatci and five by Ayranciouglu. The first hearing took place on the 20th of February, 2002, which was followed by a May 22 hearing, because of a change in the Turkish judiciary system. Their files were sent to the "Fundamental Law of Court" (reporter's translation) which could charge them up to three years in prison. The artists both had stated that their work is "an art of criticism" and that it is "against all kinds of injustice." (The top three cartoons were drawn by Askin Ayrancioglu. The fourth is Seyit Saatci's work.)

Cartoonists jailed in separate incidents (1996)

Free-lance cartoonist Ahmet Erkanli, whose bread and butter comes from his job as an officer in Turkey's Education Ministry, was arrested for one of his works. The cartoon, seen below, was published in Tavir magazine. Erkanli received a ten-month sentence which he immediately appealed. The 43-year-old cartoonist is one of the most decorated of his country, having won numerous international awards, including those from Umoristica and the Simavi Cartoon Competition.

The cartoon that authorities could not tolerate.

Translation: Sign over the judge's head: Give me your money and you won the case;
Lower bubble: "On the East they force us to eat shit your honor;" Upper bubble: Don't you dare to bother the high court with 'shitty' business..."

30-year-old Ertan Aydin, cartoonist for the Turkish daily Evrensel, has also been arrested and jailed. This is the second jail term in less than a year for Aydin, who served four months in the Bayrampasa prison last year for a cartoon he drew for Özgür Gündem, a newspaper later closed by the government.


WittyWorld editor-in-chief Joe Szabo met both Erkanli and Aydin in September 1996, in Istanbul. He has learned that Erkanli was found guilty in three separate cases. On all three accounts he was ordered to serve 30 months in prison. Four and half months later, after increasing pressure by the Turkish Cartoonists Association, and efforts by various organizations including WittyWorld, President Suleyman Demirel pardoned the cartoonist.

Aydin had to stand nine trials for his cartoons since 1994. He was twice convicted and spent a total of eight months in prison. Five trials were closed due to a deal his attorney made with the court. Aydin doesn't know the nature of the deal. He was told not to ask any questions just be happy that the matters are over. Two more cases were pending. In one of his conviction cases the judge initially found him not guilty, which caused fundamentalists to threaten him. Later the Supreme Court reversed the decision.

Szabo with Ertan Aydin (left) and Ahmet Erkanli (right)
on September 26, 1996, in the Turkish metropolis of Istanbul

Turkish cartoonist burned alive (1993)


In the Turkish city of Sivas, Moslem fundamentalists burned dozens of people, many of them artists. One of those burned to death was renowned cartoonist, 34 year-old Asaf Koçak. On July 2, 1993, a festival of the arts and culture was organized in Sivas in memory of poet Pir Sultan Abdal, who was hanged 400 years ago. The annual event drew an unusually large number of famous artists to the city. Thousands of Moslem fundamentalists, who want an Islamic state in Turkey, became angry at the progressive artists participating in the events. They blocked the hotel, broke the statues of Pir Sultan Abdal and Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of Modern Turkey, then set the hotel afire. Koçak, a humanist fighting with his cartoons against illiteracy, exploitation, fundamentalism, torture and injustice, was one of 36 people who died in the inferno.

Magazine editor sentenced to 16 months in Prison for publishing a cartoon about the president of his country (1990-1993)

The editor of one of Turkey's oldest humor magazines was sentenced to 16 months imprisonment for publishing a caricature of high government officials. Ismail Pehlivan, editor of the popular weekly Girgir, was sentenced by a Turkish court which ruled in favor of the aggrieved party, President of Turkey Turgut Özal. The caricature, which appeared on the front page of No. 925, dated October 1990, showed former Prime Minister Yildirim Akbulut, in front of a mirror, saying: "Mirror, mirror tell me, is there a bigger prime minister than me?" The response is the mirror image of Prime Minister Turgut Özal giving the finger to Akbulut. The Turkish press reacted strongly to the punishment of Pehlivan, calling the case a serious threat to press freedom. Some newspapers stated that Özal acted in a hypocritical fashion. They pointed out that in the past, the president hosted dinners for cartoonists, during which he expressed his admiration of them, even going as far as saying that he "loved cartoonists." This action however, as some papers felt, showed that the president was not sincere. WittyWorld reported the incident to the UNESCO sanctioned Commission for Freedom and Justice Through Humour for investigation. Only weeks after the ruling, President Özal unexpectedly died of a heart attack.

In the cartoon former Prime Minister Yildirim Akbulut, in front of the mirror, is saying: "Mirror, mirror tell me, is there a bigger prime minister than me?" The response is the mirror image of Prime Minister Turgut Özal giving the finger to Akbulut.

Museum ransacked, arts destroyed (1989)

The Association of Protecting Contemporary Life organized an exhibition. The subject was "Hats and scarfs." Simultaneously four other exhibitions took place in the same location; one of them for the works of Sema Ündeger, a free-lance female artist and cartoonist. The date of the opening (November 10, 1989) coincided with the 50th anniversary of the death of Atatürk, the legendary Turkish statesman many consider as the founder of modern Turkey. Religious fundamentalists who didn't like the themes and spirit of the show stormed the museum, broke everything in the rooms, including the telephones, and destroyed all of Ündeger's paintings.

Cartoons not welcome for the show (1978)

Sema Ündeger drew for the socialist newspaper Politika between 1976 and 1978, and a collection of her works done for the paper were scheduled to be on a show in the town of Odakule Sanayi Odasi. After a ceremonial opening with lots of visitors present, including people from the Bulgarian and French consulates, she found none of her works on the walls. The organizers told her that members of the MHP, a nationalist party, threatened to destroy the works and even kill her if the cartoons were not taken off.

Leading political cartoonist tortured (1970)

Political cartoonist Turhan Selçuk was tortured for his outspoken cartoons by the military junta.