He’s a man you should get to know a little. An Englishman in Istanbul, Dickinson, 61, is an artist and member of the stuckism movement. He’s lived in Turkey for over two decades, working as an English teacher. It’s obvious he has a good take on Turkish events, judging by his clever observations noted in his book Not Constantinople.
Turks that have memories that stretch a little remember him for making the headlines in 2006 for a collage of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, depicting him as George Bush’s dog, which he exhibited in an arts festival in Istanbul. He was prosecuted for it, but was acquitted.
However, that decision was lifted in 2008 and eventually in 2010 he was told by judges that he can pay a fine or face two years in prison. He had said that as a matter of principle to defend free speech that he would not pay a fine but was left with no choice. Another condition was that he’s not allowed to produce cartoons of Erdoğan for two years.
I urge you to take a read through his book documenting his time in Turkey. Below are some passages and I hope to interview him soon as well.
And then there was a terrific explosion as he fired his gun at me. “Like wow!” I thought, and a terrified cat streaked across my path. I turned another corner into a side street, but the cop was almost on me and I turned and stopped. We were both out of breath, and he was livid, screaming at me, and I screaming at him that I wanted my rights. Who was he, and why had they brought me here? He took my arm and marched me up the hill and back to the van, both of us panting, he cursing me with every name under the sun.
censorship, culture decay, freedom of speech, media, police, religion
At that same school while using a taped song as dictation (“Imagine” by John Lennon), the midday ezan started, and Ali, one of the cleverer students, made a twisting movement with his hand.
“Sorry. That’s as loud as it goes,” I said, misinterpreting.
“No,” he said. “Turn it off during this.” He pointed over his shoulder at the blaring call to prayer. “Allah.”
“No!” said I, furious, pointing to the portrait of Ataturk on the wall.
“We are not in Saudi Arabia! This is a secular country, thanks to that man! Everything does not stop for prayer! If you want to leave and pray you are free to leave! But this is a lesson, and it continues!”