On Sept. 12, 2014, Aydın-based physician Dr. Bilgin Çiftçi, an employee of the National Institute of Public Health, shared on Twitter a meme that compared Facebook images of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to Gollum, the fictional character of the “Lord of the Rings,” known for his grotesque appearance.
Shown side by side, pictures depict the President and Gollum eating, expressing surprise and amazement. Arguably, resemblance is uncanny.
An anonymous complaint followed, and the local prosecutor is pursuing the case. Dr. Çiftçi is being charged with allegedly insulting the president. He could face up to two years in jail for posting pictures of the slimy and scary creature juxtaposed with photos of the President. Insulting a public figure is a crime in Turkey.
Consequently, in October 2014, Dr. Çiftçi was fired from his job at the THSK — the Turkish National Institute of Public Health.
Dr. Çiftçi appeared in court in southern Turkey. He claims that Gollum was not a bad character and that he did not insult anyone.
Hicran Danisman, a lawyer representing Çiftçi, asked Judge Murat Saz in the city of Aydin, whether he had seen the movie series “The Lord of the Rings.” Neither the prosecutor nor the chief judge had seen the movies. Saying that he had seen only seen parts of them, the chief judge postponed the hearing until Feb. 13, 2016.
Meanwhile, judge Saz has asked five experts to determine whether comparing Turkey’s president to “Lord of the Rings” character Gollum should be considered an insult. Two academics, two psychologists or behavioral scientists and a movie or television expert should be weighing in on the true nature of Gollum’s character. Dr. Çiftçi’s fate depends on their assessment.
According to BBC News, from August 2014 to March 2015, 105 people had been accused of insulting the president Erdoğan.
I first read about this in Russian news sources. Obviously, these days, the Turkish president is a persona non grata for many Russians, and this piece of news was met with glee, although everyone sympathizes with brave, if hapless, doctor and wishes him well. After all, Gollum isn’t entirely bad little fellow, isn’t he?