Miss Turkey: when beauty queens get political

A former Miss Turkey, Merve Büyüksaraç, could soon be trading her designer threads and high heels for a jumpsuit in an unflattering shade of orange after she allegedly insulted her country’s president on Instagram. AAISHA DADI PATEL reports.

Büyüksaraç, who now works as an industrial designer and writer, posted a satirical poem on her Instagram page some time in mid-2014. The post, which has since been removed, subverted verses from the Turkish national anthem to criticise Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

mervebuyuksarac with catwoman ears on InstagramBut the former beauty queen denies that she did anything wrong. “I shared it because it was funny to me,” she told a prosecutor at an Istanbul courthouse, according to Turkish newspaper Today’s Zaman. “I did not intend to insult [the president].”

The prosecutor demanded that Büyüksaraç be put under supervision as “the remarks shared by the suspect could not be considered within the terms of freedom of expression”, but this petition was rejected and the 2006 Miss Turkey was released pending trial.

Büyüksaraç could face up to two years in jail if she is convicted. While her case has attracted international attention, due to her high profile, it is far from unusual.

Since Erdoğan assumed the presidency in August last year after an 11-year stint as prime minister, more than 60 people in Turkey have been charged under the insult laws.

Büyüksaraç is not the first to find out that fans and critics alike prefer their beauty queens to be seen and not heard. In January, Miss Lebanon became mired in controversy when she posted a selfie – also on Instagram – with Miss Israel in the picture.

– All images: Via Merve Büyüksaraç’s Instagram account.