Renowned Turkish fashion designer Barbaros Sansal, beaten and bloody, is in Turkish custody after being deported from northern Cyprus.
Sansal, an outspoken critic of the ruling Islamist AK party, was forced out of the self-declared state of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus after making a video on New Year’s Eve deemed to be insulting to Turkey.
In the video, which was uploaded before the jihadi attack on an Istanbul nightclub that killed 39 people, Sansal rails against the “scores of journalists in prison,” “corruption and bribes” and the increased Islamization of the country:
While scores of journalists are in prison, while children are sexually harassed, raped, while corruption and brides are everywhere, radical Islamist are distributing shit to you in the streets. Are you still celebrating the New Year? I am not … You know what I will do? I will drink all the drinks in this room and bar. I will drink all of them! Will not leave you a single drop. I will take all my dollars to Switzerland. I will not leave a single penny [in Turkey]. OK? On the other hand, I am in Cyprus. The [North] Cyprus is now in the New Year, as they follow Turkey because of pressure. There is still an hour for the Cyprus Republic to enter the New Year. I will go there and I will celebrate there as well. I will drink there, too. I will drink everything. OK, baby? I am not even kissing you. You carry on with your celebration … in this disgrace, misery and dirt. Drown in your shit, Turkey!
On his Facebook page, Ari Murad, a Kurdish human rights activist and filmmaker, reported that “after the video went viral, Sansal was detained by Turkish Cypriot authorities and then extradited to Turkey. While Sansal was being ‘extradited’ to Turkey, Turkish state news agency AA informed readers of the flight airline and hour of departure.”
Other media picked up the gauntlet as well. A tweet by CNN Turk’s presenter Beste Uyanik said Sansal “must be cut down to size” and “taught his limits,” when he arrives in Turkey.
And so he was.
Waiting on the tarmac was a mob (ostensibly made up of Turkish baggage handlers). Brutal video footage of the attack was captured on a smartphone. Sansal can be seen walking down the stairs of the airplane before falling or being kicked or pushed down them, at which point the mob sets upon him until police decide to whisk his bloodied body away into a waiting car.
Commenting on the attack, the mayor of Ankara Melih Gokcek, tweeted, “Turkish Nation reacted against him while he was getting off the plane. Don't irritate People Barbaros!” The mayor uploaded the video footage of the attack to his Twitter account as well.
Since the failed coup last summer, 41,000 Turkish citizens have been arrested for suspected links to Islamist cleric Fethulah Gulen, Turkish President Recep Erdogan’s rival and on whom he has blamed the uprising. Tens of thousands more have been relieved of their jobs – in academia, security forces, the judicial system and more.
Erdogan and his Islamist party have used the coup as a carte blanche to clamp down on everyone from secularists to human rights activists, Kurds and anyone else thought to be standing in the way of his perceived goal of re-instituting the glory of the Ottoman Empire.
Along the way, freedom of speech be damned.
As one twitter user Ankarali Jan said succinctly, “The treatment of Barbaros ?ansal is intended as a warning to anyone in Turkey with a dissenting opinion, anyone who stands out from the herd.”
Another tweeted, “The treatment of Barbaros Sansal should be a wake-up call to all countries if Turkey requests someone’s extradition. They will not be safe.”
Sansal’s lawyer said his client was injured in his back, kidneys and crotch in the mob attack. He was taken directly to a police station where he was interrogated and formally arrested for "inciting hatred and animosity among the public" and for "insulting" the public, both crimes in Turkey since 2005.
The law has been used to prosecute those deemed to be insulting the president (even children as young as 12, 13 and 16 have faced prison time for this crime). One can be sure it will be used in full force against Sansal.