United Kingdom

Turkish influencer, 23, prosecuted for posting 'sex toy' photos from Amsterdam sex museum

A Turkish social media influencer has said she is being prosecuted in her country for posting pictures of sex toys from Amsterdam's sex museum to her Instagram page.

Merve Taskin, 23, shared the 'joke' pictures of objects she bought from the world-famous museum during a birthday trip to the Netherlands in January last year.

But a few months later, she was arrested in Turkey, where the sharing of pictures considered obscene is deemed a crime.

Turkish social media influencer Merve Taskin has said she is being prosecuted in her country for posting pictures of sex toys from Amsterdam's sex museum to her Instagram page. Pictured: Ms Taskin pictured in the museum in January 2020

Now, the prominent Instagram influencer with almost 600,000 followers says she has been summoned to court to face obscenity charges.

Under Turkish law, anyone who publishes 'obscene' material can be fined, or can even face a jail sentence of up to three years.

'My purpose was to make jokes,' Ms Taskin told the BBC, recalling that she visited Amsterdam with friends at the beginning of 2020 to celebrated her 22nd birthday.

One of the items on her to-do list while in the city was to visit the Sex Museum, which is a popular tourist attraction to visitors from around the world.

Inside, Ms Taskin - from Istanbul - shared pictured of the objects that are on sale in the museum, including penis-shaped pasta and a 'sexy bottle opener'.

She didn't think twice about the pictures, thinking that they were innocent enough, but back in Turkey authorities considered them obscene.

Merve Taskin, 23 (pictured), shared the 'joke' pictures of objects she bought from the world-famous museum during a birthday trip to the Netherlands in January last year

Pictured: The entrance to Amsterdam's sex museum (file photo). Ms Taskin was visiting the museum during a birthday trip to Amsterdam last year, when she shared a picture of some of the merchandise that can be found inside the museum

She told the BBC that in the months following her return home, she was arrested twice - once during a summer holiday and then on a second occasion.

During her second arrest, she said she gave a statement to a prosecutor, believing it would be the end of the matter.

However, earlier this year, she says she was surprised to receive a text message summoning her to appear in court in Istanbul over the pictures.

According to the BBC, a screenshot of the text message showed that Ms Taskin has been told to appear in court on October 26 for violating Article 226 of Turkey's penal code, which refers to a variety of offences relating to obscene material.

The court summons prompted her to delete a number of tweets 'so they wouldn't complain again'.

While Ms Taskin said she was afraid to testify in court, she said that she would do so willingly. 

Under Turkish law, anyone who publishes 'obscene' material can be fined, or can even face a jail sentence of up to three years. Pictured: Influencer Merve Taskin

A tweet she posted about the court case received widespread coverage of the case in the Netherlands, with Monique van Marle - the director of the museum - telling the BBC that she found the situation 'absolutely ridiculous'.

She added that the museum has sent a supportive message to Ms Taskin, saind the museum was 'sorry to hear about the trouble you are in' and calling her a 'great role model to other women', the BBC reported.

'Our museum is intended to educate people all around the world about the history of sex. We admire you for expressing yourself and posting such pictures,' the message added.

Those that have been prosecuted under Turkish law for obscenity include websites, publishers and government critics. 

Human rights groups have criticised the government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan over a decline of freedom of expression online, calling him an autocratic leader intolerant of dissent.    

'Turkey remains one of most challenging places in the European region to exercise one’s right to free speech and expression,' according to human rights group Freedom House. 

'In 2019, it maintained its status as the world’s of professional journalists. Many others, including writers, civil society activists, artists, political figures, leaders from marginalized communities, digital rights activists, and everyday citizens face widespread persecution for criticising the government,' it added. 

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