I have written several articles recently praising contemporary Turkey. Today's Guardian reports on the flipside:
"Five Turkish punk rockers and their agent face up to 18 months in jail for insult after a bureaucrat took offence at their song criticising the country's unpopular university entrance exam. The head of Turkey's central examination board, OSYM, Unal Yarimagan reportedly smiled when he first saw a clip of OSYM, Kiss My Arse by Deli (mad), a group from the western city of Bursa. "I'm a tolerant person, but that didn't stop me doing my duty and checking it wasn't breaking any laws," he said. Last month, an Ankara prosecutor said it was, and a court case is due to begin on May 2.
"It's ridiculous," says the lead singer and lyricist, Cengiz Sari, 24. "I was 17 when I wrote that song. I was just your typical rebellious teenager." Sensitivity to criticism is a common trait of Turkey's great and good. Since March 2005, when the prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, sued a cartoonist who portrayed him as a cat tangled in wool, he is believed to have earned at least £100,000 in damages. The cartoon is below.
Turkey's understanding of freedom of expression surfaced again last month when a judge ordered the website YouTube to be blocked. YouTube has a central role to play in Deli's story. Until last June, few had heard of the band. It was then that a fan uploaded a clip of himself lip-synching his way through OSYM. "Let me tell you something:/ screw your exam system," Hako mouthed over a sound track reminiscent of the Sex Pistols. Posted days before 1.5 million Turkish teenagers took the much-criticised university entrance exam, Hako was an overnight sensation."
For more on this story from Istanbul follow this link, and here is the video five young Turks may face jail sentences over:
Now, for a different view of Turkey take this overgrown path.
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