Why this story matters:
-- by Ans Boersma
The ‘wedding arrest’ is not the first detention that attracts public attention. In March, Turkish singer and actress Zuhal Olcay was sentenced to 10 months in prison for insulting the president during a performance in 2016. Enes Kanter, a Turkish basketball player in the U.S. NBA team New York Knicks, is also standing trial for insulting Erdogan.
Insulting president Erdogan is a crime punishable by up to four years in prison in Turkey.
The groom, Rohat Akboğa, got jailed because he insulted president Erdogan on social media. Twenty-seven social media messages that Akboğa has posted since 2012 were judged to be insults by the court. His vehicle was stopped by the police on the day of his wedding. Upon checking his ID, the police took Akboğa -- who had been issued a prison sentence of more than 2 years -- into custody.
So far, 1800 cases have been filed against people including cartoonists, a former Miss Turkey winner and schoolchildren.
In Erdogan’s Turkey, there is no room for critical writing and online activism, in violation of the right to freedom of expression. There are stories about arrests in the media on a daily basis. You get used to it. But, as a journalist, this particular story caught my attention because it so clearly illustrates the impact of arrests on family life in the country.
Details from the story:
- The bride and groom’s family decided to go through with the wedding, despite the groom’s arrest. The jacket of the groom was placed on his empty chair. Bride Sara Başak cut the wedding cake on her own.
- The couple had already had a civil marriage ceremony.
- The prison sentence got delivered shortly before the wedding. The family went to the prosecutor's office, showed the invitation of the wedding and asked the arrest to be postponed. This request got denied.
- The family is convinced that the police waited until the wedding day to arrest Rohat Akboğa.
** Ans Boersma is a Dutch journalist, currently working in Turkey as an economic correspondent. She also writes about migration, women’s movements and civil society.**