68. Today in 1920s Turkey: 9 March 1925 (Freedom of Speech for Mother-in-Laws)

Cartoon by Ramiz (Gökçe), published in Akbaba, 9 March 1925, no. 236, page 3.

Türkçe:
Telaş
Kayın Analar: Hükumet, Takrir-i Sükun için acaba bizim çenelerimizi de kapatırlar mı dersiniz?..

English:
Commotion
Mother-in-laws: Do you think the government will shut down our jaws due to the Law on the Maintenance of Order?

Comments:
On 4 March 1925 the Turkish Grand National Assembly passed its infamous Law on the Maintenance of Order (or Takrir-i Sükun Kanunu) which afforded the government the authority to shut down publications whose content was deemed threatening to “public order.” In recent weeks (February 1925) a major Kurdish counter-revolution led by Sheikh Said had taken root in Turkey’s eastern provinces. Opposing the abolition of the Caliphate, the Sheikh Said Rebellion was swiftly squashed by the armed forced of the young Turkish Republic who saw this as a serious challenge to its power.

Passed at the height of this conflict, the law was used to implement extensive censorship on the press. Since the legislation remained in effect until 1929 (long after the rebellion was over in March 1925) it conveniently served to preemptively dissuade any potential serious criticism from being leveled at the administration during the initial years of the Republic.

Sweeping acts of censorship such as this are rarely supported by journalists and cartoonists. As such, it is obvious that cartoonist Ramiz is attempting to find some humor in an environment that makes his job difficult and unpleasant. After all, who wants to work under the stress of punishment for a mere sketch? Pushing back, Ramiz presents a cartoon that disguises its disapproval of the new restrictions on free speech with a satirization of loose-lipped mother-in-laws —a naturally amusing, and universally relatable trope. Comparing the speed, reach, and effectiveness of the nosy older woman’s range of broadcast to that of the printing press, the cartoon asks the question: will old women also be punished for their words that can potentially shake a nation… or at least a neighborhood. In this way Ramiz highlights an area of “publishing” that cannot feasibly be censored. The “shutting down” of jaws mentioned in the text is in reference to the newspapers that were immediately shut down as a result of the new law.

Entire page, Akbaba, 9 March 1925, no. 236, page 3. Hakkı Tarık Us Collection, Beyazıt Library, Istanbul.

Originally published at https://steemit.com on March 10, 2017.

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Yasemin Gencer

Yasemin Gencer

I am an independent scholar of Islamic art and civilization specializing in the history of Ottoman and modern Turkish art and print culture.