September 8, 2005 11:10 am
Orhan Pamuk, best known to non-Turkish readers for his remarkable works My Name is Red and Snow, is facing possible prison time for “public denigrating of Turkish identity.”
His real crime? Publicly commenting on the Armenian genocide and the state’s oppression of its Kurdish minorities in the ’90s.
“Thirty-thousand Kurds were killed here, 1 million Armenians as well. And almost no one talks about it. Therefore, I do.”
Granted that states aren’t particularly eager to own up to past crimes. Collective amnesia over the 1971 atrocities in Bangladesh is only just starting to lift in Pakistan. Israel denies all responsibility for the dispossession of Palestinians in 1948. And any mention of the American invasion of Vietnam draws blanks stares in mainstream American society.
But the press is (mostly) free in Pakistan. The last few years have seen unprecedented public soul-searching over those dark last days of East Pakistan. Revisionist historians in Israel have challenged the traditional narrative of independence. And Professor Chomsky is free to speak his mind on Vietnam without being charged with denigrating American identity.
Not so in Turkey. EU accession looms, but seemingly Ottoman-era laws remain. In a related incident a few years ago, Professor Chomsky’s Turkish publisher was charged with disseminating separatist propaganda, and acquitted only when Professor Chomsky petitioned to be tried as a co-defendant.
Pamuk is a national — no, international — treasure. The Turkish state sends a clear message by prosecuting someone of his stature. Free speech, that hallmark of free societies, is still a rare commodity in Turkey.
More here, here and here.