UK artist Michael Dickinson faces a three year prison sentence in Turkey for creating and displaying a collage that portrays that country’s Prime Minister as a prize winning show dog. The collage, titled Best of Show, depicts an anthropomorphosized Tayyip Erdogan receiving a red, white and blue award ribbon from U.S President George W. Bush. The graphic violates Turkey’s constitution, which criminalizes insults against Turkey’s state institutions and armed forces. Dickinson will be charged with “insulting the dignity of the Prime Minister of Turkey”, but as of yet a court appearance date has not been announced.
A year ago Prime Minister Erdogan visited the White House, where President Bush lauded his close ally by saying, “Turkey’s democracy is an important example for the people in the broader Middle East, and I want to thank you for your leadership.” I assume that Mr. Bush’s definition of human rights and democracy does not include the imprisonment of artists for expressing themselves – but in these days of mass wire taps and government sanctioned torture I’m not so sure. It appears the exigencies of the “long war” supercede such trifling things as freedom of expression.
Dickinson, an English teacher who lives and works in Istanbul, Turkey, is also the founder of the Turkish chapter of the Stuckist International. Charles Thomson of the London Stuckists has written a letter to UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, asking Mr. Blair to intervene on behalf of Dickinson; “It is intolerable that a country applying for European Union membership should censor freedom of political comment in this way. I trust you will communicate your strongest condemnation and ask for this case to be abandoned immediately. I ask for your assurance that you will oppose Turkish EU membership in the strongest terms, until Turkey adopts the attitudes of the civilized world towards human rights.”
You can read Michael Dickinson’s own words regarding the collage controversy at CounterPunch Magazine.