Former Miss Turkey Merve Buyuksarac faces prison for 'insulting' country's president

Merve Buyuksarac

     A former Miss Turkey could be jailed for two years for posting a satirical poem on social media that criticised her country's president.

     The arrest of Merve Buyuksarac, 26, follows a crackdown in the country on critical media in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo shootings in Paris as well as a increasing curbs on press freedoms in the country. Miss Buyuksarac is the latest person to face trial for insulting Recep Tayyip Erdogan - who recently said women are not equal to men - amid fears that the country is in danger of coming under authoritarian rule. Emre Telci, who is representing the former Miss Turkey, said an Istanbul prosecutor is demanding that Merve Buyuksarac be prosecuted on charges of insulting a public official. If she is convicted she could face a two year prison sentence. 

     Her case comes amid further controls being placed on people in Turkey - with curbs on press freedoms and social media posts. Hundreds of people who have taken part in mass protests against the government have also been prosecuted. 
     Armed Turkish police last week stopped delivery lorries leaving a newspaper's offices to make sure that they had not included a section of the French satirical magazine that might be offensive to Muslims. Although officially Turkey is secular, 99.8 per cent of the population are registered as Muslim and there has been heated debate over freedom of expression in the wake of the Paris massacres. Now it appears the Turkish crackdown is extending not just to monitoring the media, but also to its readers.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan 

     Miss Buyuksarac, an educated young professional who works as an industrial designer and writer, was detained last month for sharing a satirical poem on her Instagram account, and has denied insulting the president. 

     The 26-year-old ended up in court in the Caglayan neighbourhood of the western city of Istanbul. 
Looking nervous and flanked by armed police, she told prosecutors that she 'may have quoted a poem' from the weekly humour magazine UykusuzBut she said she deleted it soon afterwards when one of her friends warned that such messages could result in a criminal procedure from Turkish officials.
     She said: 'I shared it because I found it funny. I had no intention to insult the Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.' The Master's Poem, which was shared by Buyuksarac, satirically criticises Erdogan through verses adapted from the lyrics of Turkey's national anthem. The case is continuing and prosecutor Vedat Yigit demanded 'judicial control' for Buyuksarac before the next hearing, which obliges a suspect to regularly go to a police station to sign in. The judge, however, ruled to release Buyuksarac unconditionally, pending a date for the trial set to take place later in the year. 

     It came as a high school student who was jailed last month for allegedly insulting Turkey's leader was released from custody on Friday after his arrest caused uproar and intensified fears that Turkey was lurching toward more authoritarian rule under Erdogan.

     Turkey last week blocked access to the web pages of some online news portals for republishing the cover of the Charlie Hebdo magazine's latest issue that portrays the Prophet Mohammed, labelling it provocative. Deputy Prime Minister Yalcin Akdogan also lashed out at cartoons featuring the Prophet, saying that targeting the sacred values of Muslims and publishing portrayals of the Prophet was an 'open provocation'.  

     (Buyuksarac represented Turkey at the 2006 Miss World pageant held in Warsaw, Poland)

Source: The Daily Mail, UK, February 25, 2015


Update on the bogus Lebanese-based pageant, Miss Universal Peace and Humanity

UPDATE: February 24, 2015. The Daily Star Lebanon published an article written by Mazin Sidahmed exposing Asra Shahid's husband, Dr. Mohammed Shahid Khan, as a fake goodwill ambassador who is not related with the United Nations Organization as he claims on his website. It also mentions Asra Shahid as the founder of a bogus pageant, Miss Universal Peace and Humanity, and mentions Critical Beauty as the pageant blog that "posted several complaints of potential candidates..." 

Read more.


Miss Universe Indonesia 2015 crowned

The new Miss Universe Indonesia 2015 (Puteri Indonesia 2015 is Anindya Kusuma Putri, 23, representing Jawa Tengah. She was crowned on February 20th at the Jakarta Convention Center. Assisting in her coronation was the current Miss Universe Paulina Vega. Anindya will represent Indonesia in the 2015 Miss Universe pageant whose date and venue have yet to be confirmed. 
The finalists were Chintya Fabyola of Kalimantan Barat who was named Miss International Indonesia 2015 and Gresya Amanda Maaliwuga of Sulawesi Utra who was named Miss Supranational Indonesia 2015. 


Miss Indonesia 2015 crowned

Photo courtesy: Miss World Ltd.

23-year-old Maria Harfanti,  Miss DI Yogyakarta, was crowned Miss Indonesia 2015 on February 16th in Jakarta. Harfanti was also the winner of the Beauty with a Purpose sub contest. Harfanti will compete in the 2015 Miss World pageant whose date and venue have not been confirmed.
Assisting in the coronation was outgoing Miss Indonesia 2014 Maria Rahajeng and Miss World 2014 Rolene Strauss who spent four days in Indonesia, taking part in a press conference alongside Miss World Chairman Julia Morley on Sunday as well as appearances on national television. 


Indonesia: Pageant contestant under fire for refusing to wear headscarf

A Miss Indonesia beauty contestant photo of Ratna Nurlia Alfiandini. (Ratna Nurlia Alfiandini’s Instagram page)

JAKARTA –- A contestant representing the devoutly Muslim Aceh province in the Miss Indonesia beauty pageant has been criticised for not wearing a headscarf, media reports said Monday. 
Ratna Nurlia Alfiandini's participation in the contest has not been approved by the Acehnese government, the Jawa Pos news website reported.
"We don't want the name of Aceh to be used by people who don't represent its values," provincial government spokesman Mahyuzar was quoted as saying.
"Aceh has no interest in a beauty contest and the like but since there is a contestant claiming to represent it, we have to make clear our stance so as not to create a polemic," said Mahyuzar, who like many Indonesians goes by one name.
Aceh is the only Indonesian province allowed to impose Islamic sharia law, as part of the central government's attempts to mollify desires for independence.
Jakarta signed a peace agreement with separatist rebels in 2005, ending decades of conflict that killed more than 15,000 people.
The Association of Pro-sharia Journalists of Aceh said Ms Alfiandini's participation in the pageant tarnished the image of the province, Jawa Pos said.
"Also we hear from the media that she is from Surabaya (in East Java province)," association chairman Muhammad Saman reportedly said.

Source: Bangkok Post, February 16, 2015


Amidst controversy, Mister International crowns a Filipino police officer

Touching moment: police officer Neil Perez of the Philippines gives a salute after winning the Mister International title. The salute is his gesture to honor  the 44 Filipino police officers who were killed last January 25th.

     Neil Perez (real name Mariano Flormata, Jr.), a 29-year-old police officer and a trained bomb and explosives technician from Manila, Philippines, won the 2014/2015 Mister International title at the Hotel Inter-Burgo Grand Ballroom in Ansan, Korea on February 14. He received his sash and trophy from the 2013 winner, José Anmer Paredes of Venezuela. Perez's victory marks his country's first win of the coveted male beauty pageant. His court includes 1st runner-up Rabih El Zein of Lebanon, 2nd runner-up Tomáš Dumbrovský of the Czech Republic, 3rd runner-up Rafał Maślak of Poland, and 4th runner-up Mitja Nadizar of Slovenia.

     Completing the top 10 were the delegates from Brazil, Mexico, Japan, Korea and Thailand. And completing the top 15 were the delegates from Colombia, Indonesia, Guam, Myanmar and Puerto Rico.

     Perez dedicated his victory to his fellow 44 Filipino police officers who were slain on January 25 in Mindanao during a search for a Malaysian terrorist, Zulkifli Abdhir who was eventually killed.

     The pageant sailed smoothly despite controversies that culminated in the withdrawal of fifteen countries that could not participate due to the fact that the date had been pushed out three times (October 2014, December 2014, February 2015), and that they were not reimbursed by the Korean organizing committee for the airfares that they had purchased for the original date. Read here for details on the controversy.




Ecuador director slams Mister International president Alan Sim & Korean director; defends Venezuelan director

On his Facebook page dated February 7, 2015, Oscar Leopold Espinoza accused Alan Sim, the president of the Mister International Organization (MIO), of being a thief, as well as incriminating Korea's national director (whom he did not name). He also defended Julio Matute Rodriguez, Venezuela's national director, whose franchise has been taken away by Sim after Rodriguez opted to expose the truth about what is happening in Sim's organization.

Here's a screeshot of Espinoza's tirade:

Here's my English translation:

"Who is this character in the world and especially in Latin America? It’s Julio Rodriguez Matute, from our brother country Venezuela, who really is the International Director for all Latinos. Now I wonder who would be foolish enough to quarrel with him; none of us Latino directors would do that, but there is a STUPID MAN IN ASIA, who did quarrel with him knowing that Julio is the one who mentors us and who advices us to which Asian events should we go with our candidates. That stupid man is the biggest thief; he assured us Latino directors that he would reimburse us for all the expenses caused by the other thief from South Korea, the director of Mister International South Korea; the expenses for the two flight changes that we had to make, and in other cases many lost their airfares and don't even have the resources to go to South Korea a to compete in the worst male pageant. After being the best male pageant in the world, it became the worst of Asia due to the lack of earnestness of its owner, Mr. Alan Sim, for whom the title of SIR is unsuitable because that title is only given to men who are well-behaved and who keep their promises. To my dear Latin American directors of the Mister International pageant, some of whom used to have the franchise and some still have it, let's unite to support our friend Julio Rodriguez Matute, whose Venezuelan franchise has been taken away just because he chose to tell the truth about what is happening in the Asian organization; they owe him money and they already told him that they will not reimburse him, just like they did to me and God knows to how many of you also.



     Meanwhile, Luis Trujillo, the director for Haiti, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic, posted on his Facebook earlier today the following rant, though much milder than Espinoza's:

My translation:

"As many of you may already know, our candidates from Nicaragua, Dominican Republic and Haiti will not be taking part in the 9th edition of Mister International which is taking place in Seoul, Korea. Due to reasons beyond our control and the fault of the organizers in Korea, our 3 candidates, who are ready for the competition, have been forced - along with many other candidates - to skip this year's competition and must therefore remain in their countries. We wish the Mister International Organization the best n this edition and we wish to apologize to our candidates, their families, friends, fans and sponsors. We promise that we will be considering other options for our boys including a possible participation in the 10th edition of the pageant. We will analyze those options. The organizers in Korea have lost all our respect and we hope that 
the Mister International Organization will move out of Korea as soon as possible."

     A reliable source also notified me that Slovenia's delegate, Mitja Nadizar, arrived two days before the finals which is scheduled on February 12th, and that Sim's organization had paid for Nadizar's airfare. The organization also allegedly paid for the airfares of the candidates from Guam, Argentina, Poland and Puerto Rico - which alarmed other directors whose delegates were not given preferential treatment. I am sure this is just the beginning of a much larger story behind Sim's troubled organization and pageant, which considers itself to be the male version of Miss Universe.

By Rafa Delfin

***Update: Feb. 11, 2015, 6:05 AM (Boston time) - From Alan Sim's Facebook page: 

     A reader just e-mailed me and said that it was Mr. Slovenia's parents who paid for his airfare. Ahhhh... The advantages of blogging over print. You can always edit anytime! Sim might find this all amusing, but I doubt very much if he'll have the last laugh, especially how he enraged many national directors. And instead of original 60+ countries that were supposed to compete this year, the number drastically dropped to 29! No amount of bullshit excuse(s) can cover up Sim and his cohorts' fraudulent intentions.

***Update: Feb. 11, 2015, 8:37 PM (Boston time) 

     On his website, Belleza Venezolana, Venezuela's director Julio Matute Rodriguez posted an e-mail that Alan Sim had sent to all national directors in which Sim states that his organization will be "proceeding legal actions" against the Korean organizers for failing to fulfill their obligations, which included providing airline tickets to all directors. One wonders how Sim and his organization will be able to afford legal action since he is allegedly bankrupt.   

     Rodriguez explains that  out of the 31 candidates who withdrew, four never officially registered (Fiji, Guatemala, Portugal and Tonga), while four others failed to arrive due to visa problems (Cambodia, Nepal, Kyrgyzstan and Nigeria). Seven candidates withdrew because of the numerous date changes of the pageant (New Zealand, Switzerland, Vietnam, Germany, Peru, Macau and Latvia), and thirteen did not arrive in Seoul because they had never received their airline tickets as promised to them by the Korean organizers since September 26th last year. The countries affected by the missing tickets were Bolivia, Chile, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Spain, France, Haiti, Honduras, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Panama and Venezuela. The delegates from Slovenia and Puerto Rico, who also had ticket problems. arrived in Korea barely two days ago because they had decided to buy new airline tickets at the last minute.

     Argentina's delegate, Daniel Cajiao, who had arrived in Seoul over a week ago, decided to withdrew officially from the competition last Monday. Meanwhile, Belgium's Fabio Ronti declined to compete for health reasons, and the U.S. representative Andrew Caban did not arrive either for unknown reasons.

     Directors and delegates express their anger, frustration and disappointment. Chile's national director, Felipe Toledo Gaete, outlined his complaints: repeated breaches in the committed dates for the arrival, finals and departure of Mr. Chile 2014; lack of information and itinerary; failure to provide airline tickets due to constant date changes on the part of the Mister Korea organization; failure to fulfill the contract which stipulates that the candidates would be lodged in 5-star hotels, would be taken to a city tour, be given gym privileges, and be provided with meals paid by the Mister International organization; lack of veracity in the information sent to all national directors; distrust towards the Mister Korea organization as far as providing basic hospitality towards Mr. Chile.

     Mr. Netherlands, Michael Glenn, posted the following status on his Facebook page, accusing the organizers of lying to him:

     Costa Rica's national director, Enrique Gonzalez, on his Facebook page, wrote:

     My translation : "Number of countries duped by Mister International, were charged with franchise fees, and who had their airline tickets - lost the tickets - because of the dirty trick that the director (Sim) played on a number of friends from other countries. It's sad how Mr. Alan Sim dropped his pageant and made enemies with many individuals who supported him, including Costa Rica!"

     And earlier today, he posted that Alan Sim is playing Russian roulette and believes that Sim's pageant is on the brink of falling apart, despite Sim's latest announcement that "the Mister Singapore Organization is now officially known as Mister International Organization!". Gonzalez refutes Alan Sim's claim that Mister International organization is not responsible for the contestants' airline tickets.

***Update: Feb. 13, 2015, 11:12 PM (Boston time) 

     The finals of the Mister International 2014 pageant, which was supposedly to have taken place yesterday, February 12, has now been moved to Saturday, February 14. This umpteenth change in dates has inconvenienced several individuals including China's national director, Adam Lee, who is pissed because he had already bought his departure ticket for the 14th. He posted the following on his Facebook page early today:

     Meanwhile, Ecuador's national director, Oscar Leopold Espinoza, deleted his February 7th posting in which he accused MIO president Alan Sim of being a thief and defended Venezuela's director, Julio Matute Rodriguez, whose franchise had been taken away by Sim after Rodriguez chose to tell the ugly truth about the organization. Why the deletion of the posting? Maybe because Espinoza's candidate, Eli Lopez Zamora, is allegedly one of the "favorites" for the title.

***Update: Feb. 21, 2015, 11:12 PM (Boston time) 

      The mentor/coach for Misters Australia and New Zealand, Tito Schmidt Stowers, sent me a copy of an e-mail that he had just sent to MIO accusing the organization of failing to provide reimbursement to his candidates. Judge for yourself:

***Update: May 7, 2015, 11:05 PM (Boston time) 

     Ecuadorian director Oscar Leopold Espinoza posted the following comment on his Facebook page on May 4, 2015 in which he blasts Alan Sim for being a con artist, trashes the Mister International event, and praises Pradit Pradinunt and Mr. Global competition. 

Here's my English translation:

"Many directors around the world are probably wondering why Mr. Alan Sim did not keep his promise of reimbursing the cost of the penalties for the flight changes and airfare purchases of those participants who had lost their tickets for not being able to travel to South Korea to compete in Mister International 2014.

The question of the century. "What happened?" Esteemed fellow directors, it's simple.  
Mr. Alan Sim, director and owner of Mister International, fulfilling a promise was a lie that he knew, of a promise that would not be fulfilled; it was a joke on his part and now he is trying to send messages to various disenchanted directors asking them shamelessly if their candidates will participate in Mister International 2015, because if they don't then he has other people interested in the franchise. HOW DARE YOU, MR. ALAN SIM, ASK THAT QUESTION TO LATIN AMERICAN DIRECTORS, WHEN YOU ARE THE BIGGEST TYRANT AND THIEF IN ASIA. Do you really think you'll be able to carry out your 2015 event? Or do you think that we Latinos are stupid to believe in your word? Your event died on the same day that you and the Korean national director lied to us many times.

Latin America - and all the other directors in the world who were affected - will no longer believe in you. From now on, we recognize that the best event in Asia is Mr. Global owned by Mr. Pradit Pradinunt of Thailand (photo, left); this young director always does things right and does not commit the fatal mistakes of his colleague and adventures companion, Mr. Alan Sim (photo, right)."


Miss Universe says yes, she's willing to assist FARC peace talks in Colombia

Miss Universe 2015, Colombian beauty Paulina Vega, says that she is in the ready to help out in whichever way she can to foster peace in her home country.
In a statement to Fox News Latino, Vega responded to an invitation posted over the weekend by the FARC peace delegation headquartered in Havana, Cuba.
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) are a guerilla organization involved in a continuing armed conflict since 1964.
"We have read with interest your desire to contribute with your good works to reaching peace," the online statement read. "We salute your willingness to travel to Havana, and we invite you to … visit to update you about the development of the peace talks, the progress and the enormous contribution that you and the majorities who desire peace can make."
Vega's representatives told Fox News Latino that they were not certain about whether or not any such visit by Vega, 22, would be permitted by the pageant’s guidelines for a reigning Miss Universe. 
However, she is very much willing to lend a hand to her country.
"I remain ready and willing to assist in any and all areas that will help promote further peace, stability and progress," Vega said in her emailed statement to FNL.
“The security of my country and peace within our borders remains a very big concern for me, my family, and all Colombians," she added. 
"Throughout my year as Miss Universe, I will travel the globe and I plan to act as an ambassador for my country, promoting Colombian culture and all of the opportunities that it has to offer," the statement read. 
"That said, the main representative of Colombia is President Santos. If he and the Colombian government think I can be of any help, I remain ready." 
The negotiations began late in 2012 and have yet to see a major breakthrough.

Source: Fox News Latino, February 9, 2015


Puerto Rico wins Supermodel International 2014/2015

Stephanie Cruz of Puerto Rico (center), was crowned Supermodel International 2014/2015 on January 31, 2015.The 4th annual competition was held at the Hilton Convention Center of Grand Hilton Seoul in Seoul, Korea. Throughout the two-hour event, models from nearly 30 countries around the world competed in various categories, including swimsuit and evening gown. The other finalists include the delegates from Vietnam (1st runner-up), Colombia (2nd runner-up), Finland (3rd runner-up), and Korea (4th runner-up).
The pageant originally started in 2011 in Bangkok as Supermodel of Asia Pacific but became international in 2012. During its debut in 2011, it had 33 entries and peaked to 38 in 2012. In 2013, the number of entries dipped to 25 but increased to 28 in the latest edition. The contest is owned and produced by Pradit Pradinunt, the managing director of PDN Co., LTD.

 Photo credit: Pradit Pradinunt Facebook Page