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Charlie Hebdo's All Time Low Mocking Turkey's Earthquake Victims

posted on: Feb 15, 2023

By: Menal Elmaliki / Arab America Contributing Writer

The publication, Charlie Hebdo, recently came under fire for mocking the victims of the deadly earthquakes in Turkey. The satire, which was posted on Twitter as their cartoon of the day, showcased buildings, overturned streets and cars, and rubble with the caption, “No need to send tanks,” in French.

The 7.8 and 7.5 magnitude earthquakes struck Southeastern Turkey and Northern Syria. According to the Turkish Coordination Center SAKOM, the earthquake is responsible for killing over 33,000 people with the death toll expected to rise and those who survived are left destitute, without food, shelter, and are separated from families. According to the European- Mediterranean Seismological Centre, tremors of the earthquake was felt all throughout the Mediterranean in parts of Lebanon, Greece, Jordan, Iraq, Israel, Romania, Georgia, and Egypt.

Many took to social media to condemn the cartoon, calling it soulless, insensitive, inappropriate and “the banality of evil.” Turkey’s Presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin criticized their latest comic, tweeting, “Modern barbarians! Savor your anger and hatred,” and Turkish political and London representative of the AK Party, Abdurrahim Boynukal, expressed his outrage calling their satire an exploitation of human suffering tweeting, “Charlie Hebdo has sunk to a new low with their latest display of utter disrespect and disregard for boundaries. They show no limits in their pursuit of controversy, always ready to exploit tragedy and suffering for their so-called ‘satire’.”

Even political analyst, Öznur Küçüker Sirene, took to Twitter to express her distaste. “Even the Turks were ‘Charlie Hebdo’ to share your grief and today you dare mock the suffering of an entire people,” she stated. “One must really have some nerve to do this while there are still babies waiting to be rescued underneath the rubble.” Some critics are calling it tasteless for exploiting death for short-lived attention and to also push their political agenda. While others have referred to the publication’s latest actions as racist humor that hides hate and facism behind free speech and sarcasm, expressing that offensive humor should be allowed but it should not be celebrated.

The magazine has a long-history of dark humor, exploiting marginalized groups and human suffering under the banner of free speech. In 2015, this French inclusive magazine became infamous overnight when they published a series of Islamophobic cartoons mocking and denigrating the Prophet Muhammed. In response to the cartoons, a gunman with connections to Islamic terrorism stormed their office and opened fire killing 12 staff members. The Paris Massacre had earned a global outcry as many world leaders came together to stand united in defense of freedom of press, speech and to denounce terrorism. The tragedy had even called into question French law as politicians rallied to form tougher laws to crackdown on terrorism. The attack had not only triggered a global solidarity but it also sparked a debate on what “constitutes free speech.”

Not only were Turks the victim of their lampoon but also Italians and in 2016 Charlie Hebdo had published a comic mocking the victims of a 6.2 magnitude earthquake in central Italy that killed almost 300 people, left many injured and over 2,000 seeking shelter while also destroying cultural heritage. The cartoon shows the victims as different types of pasta; calling a collapsed building with people being crushed between each floor, “lasagna.”

Charlie Hebdo Official-Twitter
Charlie Hebdo’s comic of the earthquake in Italy, translates to “Pasta with tomato sauce, pasta gratin and lasagna.

The recent comic not only sparks debate of freedom of speech but it also highlights a growing concern as many are beginning to question where do we draw the line to freedom, is it at the dehumanization of a marginalized and targeted immigrant population or is it at the exploitation of human suffering and death for a few cheap laughs.

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