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Turkey-Syria earthquake: Charlie Hebdo sparks outrage over cartoon mocking disaster

Users slammed the illustration for making light of the disaster, which has claimed thousands of lives and injured tens of thousands
The minimal black-and-white line drawing depicts an upturned car among destroyed buildings (Twitter)

The French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo has come under fire for publishing a cartoon which mocked the devastating earthquakes which hit Turkey and Syria on Monday. 

Shared as the "drawing of the day" on its Twitter account, the cartoon by artist Juin showed a damaged building, a toppled car and a heap of rubble with the caption: "No need to send tanks."

Social media users slammed the magazine for mocking the disaster, which has claimed thousands of lives and injured many others.

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Users said that the illustration was "insensitive", made in "poor taste" and goes beyond the accepted threshold of "clever jokes and dark humour".

Translation: Charlie Hebdo makes no one laugh and it's only intended to stir up hatred by winnowing HORRIBLE situations, but hey, in the name of freedom of expression, we should find that normal according to some

Prominent Imam, Omar Suleiman, from the Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research, also tweeted about the publication stating the cartoon "dehumanizes" Muslims as victims in "every way". 

Many Twitter users, including television personalities and influencers, started to flood the original post with a counter image of Charlie Hebdo written on a roll of toilet paper, in the same artistic style as the magazine. 

Satirical image of 'Charlie Hebdo' logo on a toilet roll
The 'Toilet paper Charlie Hebdo' image was circulated online following the French magazine's publication of the cartoon which depicted the earthquake in Turkey (Twitter)

"French toilet paper brand 'Charlie Hebdo' back at it with its usual 'edgy' take on current events [sic]," one user tweeted.

Charlie Hebdo cartoon on Turkey earthquake sparks outrage
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"Your HQ suffered a tragedy and you came up with a slogan 'Je suis Charlie'. Two countries suffer a tragedy and you come up with a disrespectful scribble. Sewer rats, all of you."

Other users also referred to the 2015 "Je Suis Charlie" campaign. Turkish political commentator, Oznur Sirene, tweeted that Turks were quick to support the marches in support of freedom of speech after a 2015 gun attack at the magazine's Paris headquarters. 

In that attack, two brothers, Said and Cherif Kouachi, claiming to represent the Islamic militant group al-Qaeda, forced their way into Charlie Hebdo's offices and opened fire, killing 12 people and injuring 11 others. 

"You really have to have some nerve to do that when there are still babies waiting for help under the rubble," Sirene continued.

Many users also tweeted that the drawing was typical of the controversial magazine, which had previously published cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad and making light of tragedies in the Middle East.

Some politicians, such as Ibrahim Kalin, Turkish presidential spokesperson, also took to Twitter to slam the cartoon.

"Modern barbarians! Suffocate in your hatred and grudges," he tweeted.

While the reception from the Turkish public was overwhelmingly damning, some chose to interpret it alternatively. 

One comment on the Turkish social media platform Eksi Sozluk called on readers to focus on the earthquake victims and response.

Many say Turkish diplomats should be focusing on emergency response efforts
One social media user said that the public should be focusing on emergency response efforts and not a magazine (Eksi Sozluk)

Translation: Instead of criticising some magazine, criticise what has happened and what is not being done with regards to the earthquake. Our citizens died, are dying and will die yet you guys go and open a topic page about a magazine. Is it your intention to change the agenda, to direct the outrage in another direction?

The platform, which allows users to post anonymous comments on specific topics, had 45 pages of comments on the page for the cartoon at the time of this article's publication. 

The twin earthquakes, which occurred on Monday, have caused widespread devastation, with rescue efforts still in progress. In Turkey, more than 4,500 people have died and over 26,000 have been wounded, while in Syria, over 1,600 people have died, and 3,600 wounded.

The World Health Organisation has said that the final death toll could be as high as 20,000.

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.

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