Turkish President Erdogan Fined for Insulting Sculpture Celebrating the Reconciliation Between Turkey and Armenia

The giant sculpture carried a message of peace and reconciliation between Turkey and Armenia.


Sometimes, truth is stranger than any piece of activist performance art. An Istanbul court has ruled in favor of artist Mehmet Aksoy and ordered Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to pay the artist 10,000 Turkish Lira ($3,800) in compensation for calling the artist’s sculpture a “monstrosity,” the Independent reports.

But the court rule is the only silver lining to this tragic tale, which started in 2011, when Erdogan visited the site of Monument to Humanity, a giant sculpture featuring two human figures designed by Aksoy to symbolize the reconciliation between Turkey and Armenia.

Some 30 meter-high, the sculpture used to tower over the eastern city of Kars. But when Erdogan visited the site in an official function as prime minister, he made his feelings towards the sculpture very clear and suggested it should be removed.

Local authorities promptly dismantled the artwork. Defiant Aksoy didn’t stand idle and subsequently sued Erdogan for “insult” to his work, the Anadolu Agency reported.

The travesty then turned to a dispute over semantics, as the Turkish Language Association argued in court that the adjective Erdogan used—literally translated as monstrosity or freak—was not an insult, but rather a description for something “very strange and very ugly”, BBC News reported.

The court ordered Erdogan to compensate Aksoy for the psychological distress caused. However, the fine’s amount is only a tenth of the compensation the artist had originally sought.

Turkey and Armenia do not have any diplomatic ties, and relations between the neighbors have long been strained over the mass killings of Armenians under Ottoman rule, and Turkey’s rejection of the term “Armenian Genocide.”

Next month marks 100 years since the start of the massacre. The death toll of the tragedy is disputed, as Armenians say 1.5 million died, but Turkey estimates the total to be 300,000.

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