Swedish Newspaper Launches Cartoon Contest to Mock Erdogan

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses his party members, in Ankara, Turkey, Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020InternationalIndiaAfricaFollowing the recent scandal featuring Turkish President Erdogan hanged in effigy in Stockholm, Ankara warned that relations with Sweden may become “much more strained.” Officials warned that Sweden cannot expect Turkey’s support for its NATO membership, as long as it continues to “ignore terrorist provocations.”A satirical drawing competition, targeting Turkish President Recep Erdogan, has been launched by the socialist newspaper Flamman (“The Flame”). The best drawings will be published in the newspaper, and a prize sum of SEK 5,000 ($480) has been promised for the best depiction.According to the newspaper’s editor-in-chief Leonidas Aretakis, the aim is to “raise the problem with the government’s handling of the NATO process”.

"We launched this competition to stand up for free speech and to stand up for the Kurds," Aretakis told Swedish media.

The cartoon contest has been introduced with a remake of “Desecrate the flag,” a left-wing classic from the 1960s by artist Carl Johan De Geer. The reworked illustration featuring a burning Turkish flag instead of the Swedish one was made with the permission of the artist.© PhotoScreenshot of tweet with Carl-Johan de Geer’s work “Desecrate the flag”Screenshot of tweet with Carl-Johan de Geer’s work “Desecrate the flag”On social media, De Geer wrote that he “of course said yes, with joy” when Flamman contacted him to make a pastiche of the classic for the purpose of the competition.

"I hope that our sabotage will have the intended effect. We don’t want to be part of a nuclear weapons alliance," Carl Johan De Geer wrote, referencing NATO.

While the competition obviously may have consequences at the highest political level, possibly affecting Sweden’s NATO bid that hinges on Turkey’s approval, Aretakis argued that the responsibility does not lie with Flamman.”If there are diplomatic consequences because a newspaper uses its right to print the opinions it wants to print, then it is not us who have made a mistake, but then it just shows how ill-conceived this entire NATO process is,” he told Swedish media, calling on other media to do the same.© PhotoScreenshot of tweet with newspaper Flamman’s rework of Carl-Johan de Geer’s work “Desecrate the flag”Screenshot of tweet with newspaper Flamman’s rework of Carl-Johan de Geer’s work “Desecrate the flag”The contentious competition comes shortly after President Recep Erdogan was hanged in effigy outside Stockholm City Hall last week during a demonstration by supporters of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The action had immediate consequences, as Turkey summoned Sweden’s ambassador for talks and canceled Parliament Speaker Andreas Norlen’s visit.Swedish Prime Minister and Moderate Party leader Ulf Kristersson and Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom condemned the effigy protest, calling it “disgusting.” Aretakis, in turn, argued that it is “reprehensible” that Sweden’s government “does everything to appease an oppressive regime.”Turkey’s president himself warned that relations with Sweden may become “much more strained” unless Stockholm takes a stand against the current situation. This was echoed by Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag, who argued that Sweden cannot expect Turkey’s support for NATO membership, while “ignoring terrorist provocations.”In May 2022, three months into the Ukraine crisis, Finland and Sweden submitted their NATO membership applications, citing a shift in the security situation in Europe. In doing so, they abandoned their long-standing principles of non-alignment, whereas the subsequent concessions to Turkey (including lifting a ban on arms exports to Ankara and renouncing cooperation with Kurdish organizations they previously embraced) drew criticism from the opposition. Some argued that the lengths to which both countries went to satisfy Ankara tarnishes their image as champions of human rights.


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