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May 12 2019

If Judge Dredd lived in Turkey

Whatever is written about Turkey these days is overshadowed by the recent decision to annul the Istanbul mayoral elections. For a lot of people, this decision by the Supreme Electoral Council (YSK) is both lawless and illogical.

However, as Turkey has moved farther away from justice and the rule of law in recent years, this situation is not out of the ordinary. It would have been surprising if the government had remained silent at losing Istanbul, which, just on its own, makes up a quarter of Turkey’s economy. Now that lawlessness has become so rampant, perhaps it’s time to talk about Judge Dredd, one of the greatest defenders of justice and the rule of law.

Judge Dredd, whose adventures come from a British comic series published by the magazine 2000 AD, is a bit different from other well-known heroes. Above all, he doesn’t shy away from executing criminals, using the authorities granted to him by law. At the same time, no whatever he does, he is also extremely careful about following the law.

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Judge Dredd lives in a dystopian post-nuclear war world. In this future, a group of judges has ousted the president and other politicians via a coup because they were responsible for starting the war, and the judges have put themselves in charge. The judges hold all the power, and they have the right to protect and enforce the laws. Judge Dredd is a “street judge” in Mega-City One, a city that covers the entire East coast of the US and Canada. In his war against crime, Dredd upholds the law by capturing criminals and summarily executing them.

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Although it may seem contradictory in today’s society for one person to be the cop, judge, and executioner, it’s an acceptable situation in 2099. Besides, Dredd’s understanding of justice is interesting. When a citizen of Mega-City One does something wrong but doesn’t actually break the law, Dredd finds some sort of crime and doles out a punishment. For example, when a citizen drives away in a vintage car instead of rescuing another person, and Judge Dredd comes up with some minor flaw in the vehicle and blows it up.

First in The Robot Wars and again in Tale of the Dead Man, Judge Dredd resigns because of his dedication to his principles even though he has a lifetime appointment, but whatever happens, he always ends up returning to his post. 

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Judge Dredd has two distinctive qualities, one of which is his age. When the series first began in 1977, the events took place in 2099, but in the stories published in 2019, everything happens in 2141. As explained by the publishers, Dredd will die one day. Still, perhaps because he has his own column in the magazine, he could be replaced by another Dredd, but this is something no one really knows.

His other important characteristic is that his face is never seen. He wears a mask that keeps almost all of his face covered, except for his lips and chin. Although he removes his mask in some issues, large Xs appear in the frames where you might see his face. Creator John Wagner explains this by saying that justice has neither a face nor a soul.

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Although originally published in England, Judge Dredd stories soon began to appear in the US. He even fought alongside Batman at one point, and his fame started growing. As a result, he’s appeared in the cinemas twice. The first one starred Sylvester Stallone, but since that movie did everything it could to enrage fans, it didn’t take off. In the other movie, Karl Urban plays Dredd and it was a much better film. In this second film though, Dredd is adapted from The Raid, a Gareth Evans film shot in Indonesia.

From time to time, a lot of people have wondered what Judge Dredd would do if he lived in their country. For example, if he lived in the US, what would he say and do to his colleagues who were violent towards minorities? If he lived in Russia or Iran, would he resign his post and free all of the jailed political dissidents? These questions of course change country by country.

However, Judge Dredd is a street judge, so given recent events, it’s even more interesting to wonder what he would do if he lived in Turkey. For example, in Giresun in Turkey’s Black Sea region, there’s the case of Rabia Naz Vatan, an 11-year-old girl who died under suspicious circumstances and whose death has never been explained. Judge Dredd would most likely have been a lot more careful gathering evidence. He most certainly would have resigned when there was pressure from above to turn a blind eye, and he would definitely have been against trying to make the death of an 11-year-old child look like a suicide.

Rabia Naz Vatan
Rabia Naz Vatan, an 11-year-old girl, died after she was found fatally injured outside her family home in Eynesil, northern Turkey, in April 2018.
 

Everywhere in Turkey, there are sexual assaults on women and children. In these cases, despite physical evidence and medical reports, the suspects are either acquitted or set free on probation. I’m pretty sure that Judge Dredd, the fighter of everyone who’s a threat to society, would never release these individuals but instead would punish them on the grounds that they were likely to go out and commit the same crime again.

There is no democracy in Judge Dredd’s society. People who want to bring back democracy end up in prison. But if something changed and he came to today’s Turkey as a street judge, there’s a good chance he’d want the ballot boxes protected during elections. It’s not just Judge Dredd—any judge in Mega-City One would stand up and guard the votes because they are the ones who witnessed first-hand what kinds of disasters can be created by power-hungry politicians.

The things that are happening in Turkey today won’t appear in any comic book or science fiction novel or even in an absurd film. It’s not easy to watch a period in history where crime isn’t dealt with and the criminals go unpunished. However much we’d like to see a criminal’s nightmare like Judge Dredd on the streets, what is really needed today are judges who will restore the rule of law.

Judges are needed who will make the same decisions in similar situations, regardless of their fears about how the ruling powers will react, and without making statements that stretch not just legal limits but the boundaries of logic—judges who are completely apolitical and who only make decisions within the framework of the law…

Who knows—maybe the country has reached a point where it’s been too long since there were judges like this. Judge Dredd and his friends will remain in comic books. Still, we cannot lose hope because everything is going to be great.

The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Ahval.