Turkey is still reverberating from the failed coup attempt on July 15. For President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, it means a government purge of thousands or people and the detention of thousands more. It also means a crackdown on the press, including Turkey's lively satirical press.
"Political satire is maybe the most radical outlet for criticism of the government, " says Jonathan Guyer of the Institute of Current World Affairs. He recently spent a month in Istanbul researching the city's comic and cartoon scene and happened to leave just two days before the coup attempt.
"This is one of the funniest societies when it comes to political cartoons and comics," says Guyer. "Turkey has one of the most advanced comic scenes in the world, probably the third largest after Japan and the United States. It has a half-dozen weekly comic magazines, plus political cartoons are just huge in the daily newspapers, online, Facebook, Twitter."
Just after the coup attempt, one of Turkey's most famous comic weeklies, LeMan, published a "special coup edition." The cover showed the Turkish military gambling with soldiers and Erdogan responds: "I'll see you and raise you 50 percent," a reference to his perceived support base and, the cover implies, what doomed the coup.
"It was a really funny cover." says Guyer, who has written about LeMan and its testy relationship with Erdogan and censorship. "It was actually banned quite quickly. Police went door to door to shops confiscating it because it suggested a kind of bigger scheme or conspiracy."
Yasar Ucar, Turkey, July 25, 2016
Guyer spoke to a number of cartoonists during his month in Istanbul. "Every cartoonist I interviewed in Turkey told me that 2016, irrespective of the recent coup and crackdown, has been the most difficult year for cartoonists on record." Guyer says about 1,500 people, including cartoonists, celebrities and journalists, are under investigation for insulting the president.
Nuhsal Isin, Turkey
But Turkey's political cartoonists do not appear to be cowed by government threats. "Literally from the day after the coup, cartoonists in Turkey have been hitting quite hard against their president," Guyer said.
The cartoonists Guyer spoke to told him that they have experience with coups, especially the one in 1980. After that coup, LeMan's editor Tuncay Akgün was on the run for 10 years before resurfacing in 1991 to start his current satirical magazine. Other publications were shut down. "So as frightening as it might seem for us as observers in America and Europe, in Turkey this is kind of what comes with the job for illustrators and satirists."
Guyer says attempts by the Turkish government to shut down satire have failed. "The cartoonists are not softening their radical message. They're acting as ombudsmen and holding the government to account."
Izel Rozental, Salom, Turkey, July 20, 2016