Banned books and other forms of censorship

On the banning of books, censorship and other freedom of access issues

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Turkish novelist acquited

Novelist Elif Shafak has been acquited of "insulting Turkishness" under Article 301 of the country's criminal code. The offending passage in her novel, which has sold 50,000 copies so far, contained a reference to the massacre of Armenians in Turkey, in which as many as 1.5 million were killed between 1915 and 1917. An assistant professor at the University of Arizona, Shafak, age 35, was unable to attend the trial as she was giving birth, but expressed satisfaction with its outcome and urged greater freedom and tolerance for writers. Outside the courtroom, a small group of anti-EU nationalists protested, defacing and stamping upon the European Union flag, and burning a photograph of Mrs. Shafak

The European Union has warned that the punishment of writers and journalists under this article hampers Turkey's efforts to join the bloc. The manner in which the article has been enforced "is not in line with the European Court of Human Rights and European standards of freedom of expression," said EU spokeswoman Krisztina Nagy.

AsiaNews of Italy reports a mixed picture of continued repression yet more tolerance than before of criticism of Turkey's past, particularly regarding its treatment of Armenians. The famous writer Orhan Pamuk "received death threats after admitting to a German newspaper that a million Armenians had been killed in Turkey." He was charged under Article 301 but acquited last January.

Turks of Armenian origin have spoken out more strongly about their background, and in some cases have been able to do so. For example, lawyer Fethiye Cetin wrote a book "about Anneannem (My Grandmother), she tells the story of her grandmother who was born in an Armenian village in Elazig province, eastern Turkey. Based on the old woman’s recollections of her life, the tragic events of 1915, the massacre of the men of her village, the deportation of the women, her own adoption by a Muslim family and conversion come alive again. The book has sold 12,000 copies and is in its 7th printing."

See also August 23 entry of this blog for an earlier story.

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