Erdogan satire shows Sweden’s struggle with Turkey

Erdogan satire shows Sweden’s struggle with Turkey

How long will Sweden dance to the tune of Turkish President Erdogan? This is the message that Swedish magazine Flamman announces an art competition. Cartoonists can earn 10,000 Swedish crowns, about 900 euros, with a satirical drawing of the Turkish president.

“I got my first penis picture. Erdogan’s head is stupid,” Leonidas Aretakis laughs. Flamman magazine’s mailbox has been filling up since Monday and has stopped counting. Erdogan as an excited male genitalia, but also more sophisticated, like the head of the Turkish president as a fortress occupied by the Swedish government without knowing what dangers lurk there.

One was haphazardly written on a handkerchief at the bar, the other wouldn’t sit out of place in a gallery. Aretakis, who has been Flamman’s editor-in-chief for a year and a half, suddenly becomes a guest on all radio and television stations.

Erdogan baby

Attention says a lot about the difficult relationship with Turkey. Ankara has been restless since Sweden applied for NATO membership along with Finland. Compensations such as the lifting of the arms embargo are not enough. The extradition of terrorist suspects blocked by Swedish law by Ankara should be accelerated.

Concessions are causing resentment in Sweden. After 200 years of neutrality, the conservative government’s pragmatism towards Turkey is a thorn for many. Aretakis: “Our foreign minister recently said that Turkey is a democratic country with which we share the same values… It’s a shame.”

An incident last weekend infuriated Flamman’s editors. The Swedish parliament speaker’s visit to Ankara was canceled after Kurdish protesters hung an Erdogan-like doll upside down in front of Stockholm City Hall.

The Swedish government condemned the pop action, calling it an attempt to “sabotage” NATO membership. Aretakis cites evidence that the NATO issue affects Swedish Kurds’ freedom of assembly and expression. He understands that the action may be perceived as unpleasant, but blames the lack of a critical attitude towards Erdogan. “Sweden should not interfere in their business, our government is being held hostage by an autocrat.”


That’s why Flamman relies on satire, a weapon that hit Erdogan. This became clear in 2016 when German comedian Jan Böhmermann mocked and accused the Turkish president. Four years later, a diplomatic feud broke out when the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo published cartoons about Erdogan.

Still, a Pyrrhic victory lurks. Earlier, Erdogan had described the satire about himself as a form of Islamophobia. Isn’t Aretakis afraid that Erdogan will use the painting competition to present himself as a martyr in front of his own audience? “We must take this risk, which can also be seen in other autocrats: Putin talks about Russophobia and Orbàn recently coined the term ‘Macarophobia’.”

He is not concerned with the possible consequences of Sweden joining NATO. Flamman is fundamentally opposed to NATO membership because of his socialist signature. “Also, you have the right to make fun of Erdogan in Sweden. Should we stop criticizing someone who violates human rights just because we are in the process of being accepted into NATO?”

It’s not just Sweden that’s worried. Finland is also struggling with its neighbor’s situation compared to Turkey. Finnish politicians warn that Ankara should not feel that the values ​​of the two northerners are fluid under pressure.

Swedish Prime Minister Kristersson also seems to be aware that the tension is over. Earlier this month, he said no further concessions would be made. Meanwhile, Erdogan is doing everything he can to scold promising members and raise their profile inside. This week it went a step further and demanded the extradition of 130 “terrorists”. As the elections in Turkey approach, a more flexible stance seems far away.

While a Turkish decision has yet to be made, Aretakis will have to make a decision when it announces the winning draws on Monday. The idea that some belong to a gallery may well be true. Flamman is in talks with museums in Stockholm to include entries in a special exhibition.

Despite all the interest, the state has not yet responded to the painting competition. “Maybe after all the fuss they will finally realize that rushing to respond to criticism is not the best strategy.”

Source: NOS