Turkish Law 5816 Against Insult to Ataturk
I could not find any English translation of the Turkish Law 5816 so I thought I would attempt my own. If this does not make sense or you have a better one I would be happy to update it!
This law was enacted nearly 60 years ago and now looks to me like an anachronism. Any fanatical Kemalist can use this to prosecute whoever they like and it is what is happening: Journalist faces 7.5 years in prison for an article containing references to Atatürk, acquitted of insulting Ataturk, Can Dundar facing prison and many others…
So I would love to see this law abolished ASAP but I am realistic that this is not going to be anytime soon. I can imagine AKP proposing such a thing and CHP and MHP shouting treason and starting a revolution in the streets. New parties are needed for Turkey to evolve that much.
On another note I would like to point out I have nothing against Ataturk who was an enlightened, intelligent and wise man and who performed a superhuman effort in shaping the Turkish nation. As I understand he was modern and wanted his country to go towards the West. I believe that he would have been ashamed to see those so called Ultra Kemalist doing many wrong things in his name. I feel he would have disapproved those things and the current taboo around him.
Ataturk did amazing things but he was only a man, an incredible man but just a man. No superman, no god. So an extreme cult of personality more than 70 years after his death is now out of place.
Similar Laws in Europe
Before the translation of the Turkish law in question, here are a few current examples taken from Wikipedia from Crimes of Lèse majesté:
In Germany, Switzerland, and Poland it is illegal to insult foreign heads of state publicly. On 5 January 2005, Jerzy Urban was sentenced by Poland to a fine of 20,000 z?oty (about 5000 EUR or 6,200 USD) for having insulted Pope John Paul II, a visiting head of state. On January 26 – January 27, 2005, 28 human rights activists were temporarily detained by the Polish authorities for allegedly insulting Vladimir Putin, a visiting head of state. The activists were released after about 30 hours and only one was actually charged with insulting a foreign head of state. In October 2006, a Polish man was arrested in Warsaw after expressing his dissatisfaction with the leadership of Lech andJaroslaw Kaczynski by passing gas loudly.
Further information: Freedom of speech by country#Germany and #Poland
In Denmark the monarch is protected by the usual libel paragraph (§ 267 of the penal code which allows for up to four months of imprisonment), but §115 allows for doubling of the usual punishment when the regent is target of the libel. When a queen consort, queen dowager or the crown prince is the target, the punishment may be increased by 50%. There are no records of §115 having ever been used.
In October 2007 a 47-year-old man was fined €400 for, amongst other things, lèse majesté in the Netherlands when he called Queen Beatrix a “whore” and described several sexual acts he would like to perform on her to a police officer.
The Spanish satirical magazine El Jueves was fined for violation of Spain’s lèse majesté laws after publishing an issue with a caricature of the Prince of Asturias and his wife engaging in sexual intercourse on the cover in 2007
Of course this is nothing compared to what is happening in Turkey. One could argue whether the laws can be considered equivalent to the Ataturk law, I thought they were close enough and were probably the worst of the worst in the EU for this subject. I thought it would be interesting to have these for perspective.
I also just found an article explaining the genesis of this law. Rather interesting and confirming some of my feelings about Ataturk it seems. More on the subject later. Long article…
Law No: 5816
Acceptance Date: 25/07/1951
Official Journal Publication Date: 31/07/1951
Official Journal Publication Number: 7872
Article 1 – To anyone offending or insulting Ataturk’s memory, a sentence from one year to three years of prison should be applied.
To anyone breaking, destroying or soiling statues, busts and monuments representing Ataturk or Ataturk’s grave a sentence from one year to five years of prison should be applied.
To anyone encouraging others to perform the above mentioned crimes, the sentence will be the same as the actual crime.
Article 2 – For the crimes written in article 1; if the crimes are performed by two or more people in a collective fashion, or in public or in places open to the public or through the press the sentence to be applied is augmented by half.
If the crimes written in article 1 second paragraph are performed under force or if they are attempted under force the sentence to be given is multiplied by two.
Article 3,4,5 are just related to who is responsible for following charges, when the law is active and that the Justice Minister is responsible for its application.