On Barbaros Sansal controversy

Barbaros Şansal is a Turkish fashion designer who calls himself a “tailor’s apprentice.” He is a cultural critic, TV host, producer, performer, and a university teacher. He is charming as well as abrasive; controversial while also entertaining. He is a flamboyant gay activist who was expelled from Turkey’s LGBT “Pink Life Association” for transphobic comments.

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On new year’s eve, Sansal posted a video on social media from Turkish Northern Cyprus, where he was holidaying, to his fans in Turkey. Following a short rant about the country, he ends with, “drown in your own shit, Turkey.”

Yesterday Sansal survived a lynch attempt in Istanbul airport after Turkish Cypriot government expelled him for insulting Turkey. Today he was arrested and is to face the court on “incitement’ charges.

This is the speed of turnaround for AKP government opponents now. From ordinary Facebook users to famous fashionistas to seasoned journalists, nobody can say they can speak freely in Turkey anymore. Criticism of the ruling power is considered an insult to the whole nation and may land one in jail, if not in hospital, within a short amount of time.

This particular controversy also proved convenient to the government as it deflected attention from ISIS-claimed Reina club attack in Istanbul. If only the police, not to mention lynch mobs and vigilantes, were as quick and eager to round up known ISIS supporters as they were with Sansal.

 

This article offers more and a roundup of reactions to Barbaros Sansal video, including one from a conservative commentator that this should be a “lesson to keyboard warriors and terrorist lovers.”

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What is noteworthy also is the Atta Turk portrait in the still image used for the piece, reportedly lifted from Twitter. It is not clear whether it was on Sansal or in the hand of an assailant, or whether the photo was altered later. It does not appear in the video.

Here is the comment that got Barbaros Sansal in hot waters (my translation):

“Of course of course. There is no question. 2017 has entered all of you. Happy new year! Enjoy it. Now take a deep breath, lie down to your side, and pull one knee to your stomach, relax your body, and pretend you are strained.

Can you write for me the name of the misery? While so many journalists are under arrest, while so many kids are subjected to abuse and rape, while corruption and bribery are running headlong, while bigots spread filth in the streets, are you still celebrating the new year?

Do you know what I am going to do now? I am going to drink all the alcohol in the bar and at home; all of it, all of it! I am not going to leave you a drop. I am going to transfer all my dollars to Switzerland; I am not going to leave a penny behind.

Moreover, I am in Cyprus. Turkish Northern Cyprus entered the new year -under pressure from Turkey- at the same time as Turkey did. There is another hour before [Greek] Cypriot Republic enters the new year. Soon I am going to Nicosia. I will celebrate it there once more. I will drink there too. All of it! No kisses for you. In the midst of so much scum, disgrace and misery, you go on celebrating too.

Drown in your shit, Turkey.”
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