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Politician sent to prison for criticising Turkish president

A female politician in Turkey has been sentenced to 11 months in prison for

calling the Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, an enemy of women.

Sebahat Tuncel was sentenced on Saturday the 18th of September for saying

that Erdogan was a “complete misogynist.” She made this remark four

years ago.

During a 2016 speech, Tuncel said the president was an enemy of women

and Kurds. Her attorney has argued that the politician’s statement was

within the freedom of speech, however the court disagreed.

Tuncel is just one of thousands of Turkish citizens who have received prison

time for insulting the Turkish president.

Turkey’s penal code criminalizes insulting the president, with an offender

typically facing a prison term of up to four years. The sentence can be

increased if the insult is expressed in the public sphere. Over 3,800 people in

Turkey received prison sentences in 2019 for insulting Erdogan.

Tuncel, a Turkish politician of Kurdish origin, has been described in Turkish

media as a women’s rights activist.

Her characterization of the Turkish president as a “misogynist” followed

two controversial speeches made by Erdogan in 2014 and 2016.

Erdogan said publicly women are not equal to men in 2014, and two years

later said that women who reject motherhood are “deficient” and


Key terms:

1. Freedom of speech

2. Misogyny

3. Prison sentence

4. Kurdish

5. Criminalizes

Key questions:

1. Should everyone have the right to free speech?

2. What is the difference between Erdogan’s criticism of women and

Tuncel’s criticism of Erdogan?

3. What can be done to stop the criminalisation of free speech?

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