Turkey’s Bizarre Laws Against Naughty Words


Ever been to a Turkish jail? A Turkish soccer player named Gobbledygook Beelzebub almost went. He was given a two-and-a-half-month suspended jail sentence for calling someone a racial slur. Turkey actually has a law against “insult crimes.” You can even go to jail for insulting Turkey.

Why do I care? Maybe it’s because years ago I learned a little bit of the language from my Turkish best friend and his family. The only phrase I still remember is, “Where is the post office?” but perhaps that’s enough for me to worry that his nice family has thoughtcrime legislation in their homeland.

The law is truly bizarre. Is putting someone in a cage supposed to make them less racist? I guess Turkey’s idea of reforming bigots is to put them in a place where men of all races, creeds, and colors will beat, stab, and rape them until they’re tolerant citizens.

Countries that have a history of genocidin’ it up tend to get weird with their laws. For example, the German government keeps an index of media it considers harmful to children. Video games, films, religious literature, and books are all on the list. Media on that list is made significantly less accessible to both children and adults, effectively censoring it.

A hundred years ago, what is modern-day Turkey was responsible for the Armenian Genocide, yet now it has weird hate-speech laws like Germany does. Did you know that in Turkey all government buildings are made from the shoes of dead Armenians? I read it on a Snapple cap.

In America we have hate-crime legislation and laws against workplace discrimination. But calling someone a racial slur doesn’t qualify as a hate crime by itself. Someone has to suffer some form of hate-motivated real-life trauma for those laws to take effect—either a violent attack or in the case of workplace discrimination, financial harm.

But in Turkey, simply saying the wrong word can land you in the bing. The angry moron who called me the “N” word in an emailed response to my last article? Thrown in jail. The commenter on that same article who called me a wetback? Sitting in the cell right next to him. In Turkey they could both get thrown in jail for being rude assholes, even though the things they said only made me laugh because they were so stupid. The Call of Duty match you just played probably contained enough violations to land your opponents in Turkish prisons for the rest of their lives.

I hope we never cross that line here in the US. No government should be given the power to ban words. I think it’s unacceptable to use racial slurs against people, but I much prefer the way it’s dealt with now—by getting people fired. It beats getting locked up.