2006 January 01 Sunday
Turk On Trial In Turkey For Insulting Turkishness

Talk about Turks killing Armenians during World War I is forbidden in Turkey.

Turkey's best-known novelist, Orhan Pamuk, faces criminal charges and the prospect of time in jail. His crime? Publicly insulting Turkish identity. Pamuk, in an interview published in February, said that "30,000 Kurds and a million Armenians were killed in these lands, and nobody but me dares talk about it."

Those words constitute a criminal violation of Article 301 of Turkey's penal code. The charges that have landed Pamuk in court highlight a fast-approaching day of reckoning for Turkey. The nation has been unwilling and unable to confront its past and that clouds its future. Turkey wants to join the European Union, but the prospects for that are jeopardized by its failure to allow freedom of expression.

Pamuk will not be tried for insulting the Turkish military (though he violated that law too). But he will be tried for insulting "Turkishness".

Turkish prosecutors have dropped their case against novelist Orhan Pamuk for allegedly insulting Turkey's armed forces, but the writer still faces charges that he insulted "Turkishness."

Pamuk's case has become a hot potato in Turkey getting passed around Turkey's ruling elite. A judge has decided to force the elected government to decide whether to go ahead with the trial.

The lose-lose scenario became clear this week when a judge kicked the case against Orhan Pamuk back to the country's Justice Ministry, demanding that the government first approve it.


Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his Cabinet will discuss the case Monday analysts say the government likely will recommend that the case be dropped but it is clearly an issue the government was trying to avoid.

Erdogan's Muslim religious party is between a rock and a hard place. They want to prosecute Pamuk. But they also want to gain admission to the European Union. The EU ought to take a hard look at a country that would prosecute someone for such an insult and realize that such a country is too unlike the existing EU members to warrant admission.

To many nationalists, Pamuk's remarks were especially upsetting because they were made to a foreign newspaper.

"To the great majority of the Turkish people Pamuk is a heretic," said Duygu Bazoglu Sezer, a professor of political science at Ankara's Bilkent University.

Erdogan's party's gut reaction is to oppose "what they would call a slur on Turkish identity," she said.

"The more pressure that came domestically and internationally the more confused (the government) became," she said.

Once Turkey makes it into the EU will Turkey's government become more repressive? Once they no longer have to worry about being rejected by the EU will they feel less constrained to pursue their preferred domestic policies?

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2006 January 01 01:34 PM  Civilizations Clash Of

seelow heights said at January 1, 2006 9:23 PM:

Turkey wants to join the European Union, but the prospects for that are jeopardized by its failure to allow freedom of expression.
Existing EU countries already have laws that limit freedom of expression to a degree that would seem barbarous in the US. Nick Griffin is facing charges based on his referring to Islam as an (I believe these were his words ) "evil religion" at a private meeting infiltrated by police-spies . David Irving faces 10 years in prison in Austria for "holocaust denial" of some sort. There have been many other cases of this type. It seems like Turkey is being held to a higher standard than those countries already in the EU.

Engineer-Poet said at January 2, 2006 11:27 AM:

It looks like criticism of one's own is legit; it's criticism of the other that's potentially blank-ist.

Jorge D.C. said at January 2, 2006 11:13 PM:

Turkey wants to join the European Union

The question is will the EU disintegrate before this stage is reached. Probably. But maybe it will endure. If so, since Turkey ain't Europe and never has been, the EU should be renamed. Something like the People's Union. Or Up With People if the trademark can be acquired.

Bob Badour said at January 3, 2006 7:24 AM:

When did they move Istanbul to a different continent?

Jorge D.C. said at January 4, 2006 1:10 AM:

To Bob the Geography Geek,

How's that letter-writing campaign to make the Panama Canal the official border between North & South America coming along?

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