Turkish Cartoonist Bahadir Baruter Says Recent EU Incident Complicates His Situation


Skype photograph by Drew Rougier-Chapman

On December 2, 2011, CRNI Director Robert "Bro" Russell had a Skype exchange with Turkish cartoonist Bahadir Baruter.  Bahadir faces up to one year in prison for drawing a cartoon that appeared in the Turkish humor magazine Penguen.  The cartoon depicts a man praying in a mosque.  Hidden in the background of the cartoon on a wall is a scribble that says, "There is no Allah" and "Religion is a lie."  Bahadir, who has been charged with "insulting the religious values adopted by a part of the population," had his first court hearing on this charge on September 28, 2011.  His trial is scheduled for March 29, 2012.  This is one of only a few interviews Bahadir has given since being charged.  He does though plan to speak with a number of international media outlets and human rights organizations, including CRNI, in the weeks leading up to his trial date.  To read our first news alert about this incident, click on Turkish Cartoonist Bahadir Baruter Charged With Insulting Religious Values.  

During Bahadir's discussion with Bro, Bahadir pointed out that his situation has recently become more complicated.  Earlier in the week there had been a verbal exchange between Barry Madlener, the Dutch delegate to the European Union (EU), and State Minister Egemen Bağış, the Turkish delegate.  During an EU membership meeting, Madlener expressed the opinion that Turkey did not belong in the European Union because, according to him, it has a backward Islamic ideology.  He went on to say that Islam and freedom cannot coexist.  To make his point, Madlener presented a framed copy of Bahadir's cartoon to the Turkish Minister.  As Minister Bağış refused the cartoon, Madlener remarked that even cartoonists in Turkey are arrested.  The remark possibly refers to a recent report by a Turkish human rights organization that there are currently more than 60 journalists in jail in Turkey.  To read more about the testy exchange, click on Minister goes ballastic against far-right MEP in caricature row.  The article appears in the Turkish English-language magazine Today's Zaman.       

The incident was picked up in both the Turkish and the European press.  The charge against Bahadir has become a focus point in the tensions between Turkey's delegates and those EU delegates opposing Turkey's admission to the EU.  Many people in Turkey feel the incident reflects an anti-Islamic and anti-Turkish sentiment of many in the EU.  

While the incident may complicate Bahadir's trial, the CRNI staff is hopeful that Turkey's interest in becoming an EU member will outweigh the anger and resentment engendered by Delegate Madlener's actions.