2015-01-27

Turkey's satirists mourn Charlie Hebdo

Cartoonists describe the Paris massacre as a dark moment in the history of humour.

By Zeynep Cermen for SES Türkiye in Istanbul -- 27/01/15

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Three prominent Turkish satirical magazines -- Leman, Penguen and Uykusuz -- have mourned their slain French colleagues with a common cover.

  • In 2002, French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo published a joint edition with its Turkish counterpart Leman. [Zeynep Cermen/SES Türkiye]

    In 2002, French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo published a joint edition with its Turkish counterpart Leman. [Zeynep Cermen/SES Türkiye]

  • French doctor and contributor to French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, Patrick Pelloux (right), stands next to flowers placed near the magazine's offices in Paris on January 20th, to pay tribute to the people killed when gunmen attacked the staff on January 7th. [AFP]

    French doctor and contributor to French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, Patrick Pelloux (right), stands next to flowers placed near the magazine's offices in Paris on January 20th, to pay tribute to the people killed when gunmen attacked the staff on January 7th. [AFP]

Written on a black background, the dialogue box on the cover reads "Je suis Charlie" -- meaning "I am Charlie" -- a reference to the cartoonists murdered by terrorists in Paris earlier this month.

The magazines are known for their stands against all kinds of radicalism in Turkey. In interviews with SES Türkiye, their staff members struggled to find words to express the depth of their shock.

"We are at a point where we've been left all alone without words, without drawings and without humour," Zafer Aknar, editor in chief of Leman, told SES Türkiye.

In 2002, Leman hosted Charlie Hebdo cartoonists in Istanbul, including Wolinski Cabu, who was killed in the recent attack. Following the trip, the magazines published a joint issue.

The Charlie Hebdo journalists came to Istanbul to show that Islam actually is a religion of tolerance, Aknar said.

"They contacted us because they wanted to say, 'look; there's a magazine like Leman in a Muslim country. This religion is not what you think.'"

The photo on the cover page was shot in a Turkish bath (hamam). Leman cartoonist Suat Ozkan was pictured rubbing Wolinski with a bath-glove in the hamam, a joke referring to Turkey's EU accession bid.

Charlie Hebdo's special edition included a leading article that read, "Charlie Hebdo encountered its petite Turkish sister."

On the cover page, Charlie Hebdo referred to Leman as its "twin sister."

Ozkan described the days they spent together in Istanbul.

"We understood that no matter who we are, from which part of the world we are, from the T-shirts to the shoes we wear, all the cartoonists in the world are the same," he told SES Türkiye. Aknar added that the Leman team witnessed the great tolerance of Charlie Hebdo's crew.

"If Wolinski had a chance to speak with his murderers, he would've definitely convinced them to put their guns down," he said.

According to Aknar, people who dislike Charlie Hebdo live in an illusion.

"They think that Charlie Hebdo is a Christian club in France and their cartoonists are people who live in hate," he said. "However they were beautiful people, smiling people." Charlie Hebdo's point of view and their drawings about so-called Islamphobia were nothing more than "a glass of water in the ocean," according to Aknar.

"They were only defending freedom of speech, freedom of thought. This was their style. They did not deserve to be killed for that reason," Aknar said.

Aknar added that the magazine has been criticising itself, the government and the system "more than anybody else."

Baris Uygur, editor and columnist at satirical weekly Uykusuz, also said there is no justification for the Paris massacre.

"Charlie Hebdo has proved itself as a magazine which is totally against Islamophobia in Europe. It was Charlie Hebdo that supported the struggle of people of Palestine in Gaza and not for only two days or two years or three years but for dozens of years," he told SES Türkiye.

Uygur added that people who regularly follow Charlie Hebdo know very well that the magazine also criticise Christians, not just radical Islam.

"Charlie Hebdo is a magazine which opposed European Islamophobia in the most distinguished, reasonable, and categorical way," he said. "We will continue to draw. Of course there is another thing that doubles our sorrow. We hope that Muslims living in Europe won't be hurt because of this incident."

Expressing his deep pain, Uygur said "our brothers at Charlie Hebdo were people who had a great impact on our lives."

"They are the ones who were always standing by our sides when we were growing up although we couldn't spend time together."

Turkey's satirists refuse to be deterred by the threat of terrorism. But, Ankar said, the Paris attack has changed the field forever.

"We see it as a black milestone in humour. It will never be the same," he said.

How should journalists respond to assaults on freedom of expression? Share your thoughts in the comments area.

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