by Gjermund E Jansen
Wed Dec 14th, 2005 at 08:48:51 AM EST
from the diaries. Important freedom of speech discussion. -- Jérôme
This story began in February 2004, when the Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk in an interview published in a Swiss newspaper stated that "a million Armenians and thirty thousand Kurds had been killed in Turkey", and that saying this publicly was taboo and even punishable by law. Now, Pamuk is not the first to stand trial for "denigrating Turkish identity". The Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink was tried in the same court for the same offence, under Article 301 of the same statute, and was found guilty, but according to The New Yorker, Pamuk remains "optimistic" before the trial starting on Friday, 16. December.
The Turkish flag
Orhan Pamuk, awarded one of France's most prestigious foreign literature prizes the Prix Medicis last month, started his literary career in 1974 with his first novel, "Darkness and Light" for which he won a lot of praises and won the 1979 Milliyet Press Novel Contest together with the author Mehmet Eroğlu. Even if Pamuk kept on writing one novel after the other and won a lot of prizes for them, his literary breakthrough in Turkey didn't really come before 1990 with his controversial novel "The Black Book". His international reputation continued to increase with the publishing of his two novels "My Name Is Red" in 2000 and "Snow" in 2002, the latest novel depicting the conflict between Islamism and Westernism in modern Turkey.
The popular Turkish author caused quite an uproar in Turkey after his statements to the Swiss newspaper, and goes on to say in the New Yorker article;
The Turkish author Orhan Pamuk
If the state is prepared to go to such lengths to keep the Turkish people from knowing what happened to the Ottoman Armenians, that qualifies as a taboo. And my words caused a furore worthy of a taboo: various newspapers launched hate campaigns against me, with some right-wing (but not necessarily Islamist) columnists going as far as to say that I should be "silenced" for good; groups of nationalist extremists organized meetings and demonstrations to protest my treachery; there were public burnings of my books. Like Ka, the hero of my novel "Snow," I discovered how it felt to have to leave one's beloved city for a time on account of one's political views.
(...)The hardest thing was to explain why a country officially committed to entry in the European Union would wish to imprison an author whose books were well known in Europe, and why it felt compelled to play out this drama (as Conrad might have said) "under Western eyes." This paradox cannot be explained away as simple ignorance, jealousy, or intolerance, and it is not the only paradox. What am I to make of a country that insists that the Turks, unlike their Western neighbors, are a compassionate people, incapable of genocide, while nationalist political groups are pelting me with death threats? What is the logic behind a state that complains that its enemies spread false reports about the Ottoman legacy all over the globe while it prosecutes and imprisons one writer after another, thus propagating the image of the Terrible Turk worldwide?
What is puzzling though is the way the Turkish authorities handles this by now so widely publicized case. The trial of Orhan Pamuk display's a total lack of understanding of basic human rights, the very rights the European Union is built upon.
This article is also available at Bitsofnews.com