23 April 2016, The Spectator
Well the entries have been flooding in for the ‘Insult Erdogan Poetry Contest’. Thousands and thousands of them in fact, with entries from all over the world. The volume is quite extraordinary, particularly the number that are being submitted in Arabic.
Next week there is going to be a major development as I unveil the international prize jury who are going to help judge the event. I am proud to say that we already have an extraordinary array of international literary stars who are going to help adjudicate what is now the world’s highest paying poetry prize.
But there is one negative development to report too. It appears that President Erdogan’s famously untrustworthy hands are trying to extend as far into Europe as the Netherlands. Indeed the Turkish consulate in Rotterdam has now been caught red-handed, not this time with a goat, but in an attempt to persuade Turkish people in Holland (part of that very well-integrated Turkish-Dutch community) to report anybody in Holland who insults the thin-skinned Turkish President.
For the time-being Holland has a similar idiotic law to that of Germany, criminalising any derogatory remarks about a foreign head of state, even an unpleasant little despot like Erdogan. Fortunately Dutch MPs are already acting to scrap the law.
But there already appears to be a push to prosecute people in Holland for insulting Erdogan. Indeed there appears to be a special push against Holland’s greatest comedian, Hans Teeuwen. Earlier this week I saw the interview which now appears to be a source of some contention. You can find it above and I heartily recommend it.
It is almost, one might say, a prose poem. But it looks like getting Teeuwen into trouble. As you can see, in the interview Teeuwen is being asked his views on Merkel allowing the prosecution of a German comedian for insulting Erdogan, and Teeuwen immediately responds that it is Erdogan he wants to talk about, not Merkel. You will be able to see why. For Hans Teeuwen has much to say about the Turkish President, and not all of it complimentary. It seems that Mr Erdogan has not behaved well with Mr Teeuwen in the past. And as viewers of the video will see, it is too easy to dismiss this as a mere lover’s (or at least casual sexual acquaintance’s) tiff. It is clearly much more than that. And now Mr Erdogan’s representatives are trying to use the Dutch courts to have his revenge.
I can’t remember who said ‘You shall not pass’. It was probably Gandalf. In any case, now Hans Teeuwen has said it. As have thousands of other people in verse. Now we simply need European politicians to say it, though they all seem to be preoccupied with hypothetical bilateral trade relations.