Middle East

Ousted Miss Turkey faces 'up to one year jail' over tweet

Itir Esen crowned as Miss Turkey World in September 2017.
Itir Esen crowned as Miss Turkey World in September 2017. Source: Getty

The winner of Turkey's national beauty pageant, who was forced to hand back her crown over a contentious tweet, is facing up to one year in jail on charges of "publicly denigrating" elements in Turkish society, a report said on Thursday.

Itir Esen, 18, won Miss Turkey 2017 in September but then had her crown taken away because of what organisers said an "unacceptable tweet" she sent around the first anniversary of the July 15, 2016 coup attempt. 

As a result, she missed the chance to represent Turkey in the Miss World competition in China and prosecutors also opened a criminal probe against her. 

In the tweet, she compared the bloodshed in her menstrual cycle with that of the 249 people who lost their lives during the failed coup and are now celebrated in Turkey as martyrs.  

"I am having my period this morning to celebrate the July 15 martyrs' day. I am celebrating the day by bleeding on behalf of our martyrs' blood," she wrote.

Turkish prosecutors are seeking up to one year jail for Esen on charges of "publicly denigrating some part of society based on their class, race, religion, sect, gender or regional differences," the private Dogan news agency quoted the indictment as saying.

An Istanbul court is due to decide whether to approve the indictment within 15 days, Dogan said. 

After the tweet was discovered, Esen's title was handed to Asli Sumen, who came second and who will now represent Turkey in the Miss World contest in China on November 18.

Esen had confirmed she posted the tweet which she said was written "carelessly" but added that it had no political aims. 

Critics say the state of freedom of expression is deteriorating in Turkey under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as thousands have been prosecuted for social media postings deemed to have insulted the Turkish leader since he came to office in 2014.

Prosecutors in 2015 launched an investigation against former Miss Turkey beauty queen Merve Buyuksarac on charges of insulting Erdogan through social media posts. 

But her 14-month sentence was suspended on condition that she does not re-offend within the next five years.