Pro-government magazine deletes provocative cartoon upon public outcry

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Pro-government satirical magazine Misvak has removed a cartoon depicting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and ultranationalist Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli steering white Toros automobiles heading to the predominantly Kurdish northern Iraq, the Diken news website reported on Thursday.

The cartoon has Erdoğan and Bahçeli saying, “We can appear suddenly one night,” in speech bubbles, referring to Erdoğan’s threat towards the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq regarding a referendum for independence it held in September. The provocative cartoon showed two cars with license plate numbers 82 KRK, referring to the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, and 83 MSL, short for the northern Iraqi city of Mosul.

Speaking at a parliamentary group meeting of his party and responding to the Kurdish referendum for independence from Iraq, Bahçeli said on Tuesday that “they,” meaning Turkey, would have the right to annex Kirkuk and Mosul as its 82nd and 83rd provinces when the time comes.

The cartoon was deleted from the website of the magazine immediately after a public outcry erupted, Turkish media reported.

After many disappearance reports from the 1980s and 1990s, Renault’s Toros station wagons became a symbol of unsolved murders and kidnappings for many Turks, particularly citizens of Kurdish origin. Especially in the ’90s, it was allegedly used by Gendarmerie Intelligence (JİTEM) members in Turkey’s eastern and southeastern regions. There were many murder and disappearance reports from that period, and white Toros were common in a number of instances. According to witnesses reports, many Kurdish businessman, some drug dealers and Kurdish opponents were abducted in these vehicles. The corpses of some of disappeared people were later found, but most of them remain missing.

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