Jill Layton
June 01, 2016 7:40 pm
S. Alemdar/ Getty Images

Last year, Merve Buyuksarac, a 27-year-old model, industrial designer, writer and former Miss Turkey shared a satirical political poem on her Instagram account. She simply shared the poem — she didn’t even write it herself. Sounds harmless, right?

Unfortunately, criticizing President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was Prime Minister at the time, is forbidden in Turkey under the president’s reign. That means anyone who criticizes him in any way could be sent to jail. And unfortunately for Buyuksarac, that’s been a possibility.

Fast forward two years, and Buyuksarac’s verdict has finally come through. A court in Istanbul has convicted the former Miss Turkey of insulting the president via social media.

But likely because of the serious concerns of the country moving toward an increasingly authoritarian form of rule, Buyuksarac’s 14-month sentence has been suspended on the condition that she doesn’t re-offend within the next five years. Literally. She can’t offend the president or else she’ll go to jail.

Can you imagine if that was the case in the U.S.? Literally half the population would be in jail.

The poem in question has since been shared by thousands of people. It’s a satirical adaptation of the Turkish national anthem. It doesn’t mention President Erdogan by name, but hints at a corruption scandal that many believe involved his family.

Since becoming president in 2014 President Erdogan has filed around 2,000 defamation cases against citizens who have insulted him, according to The New York TimesThat includes journalists, academics and even kids.

We imagine it’s a scary time for outspoken people in Turkey. Merve Buyuksarac included. It definitely makes us thankful for the freedoms we have (and often take for granted) here in the United States.

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