December 17, 2005

Turkish ironies: the Orhan Pamuk trial.

Yesterday, I wrote about the trial of Orhan Pamuk, and today, I see the trial has been put on hold. Perhaps the irony impressed the court: putting a writer on trial for damaging the image of the country damages the image of the country. Yet Turkey's prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan seems irony deaf when he complains:
"The EU at the moment is trying to put our judiciary under pressure ... Rightly or wrongly, the issue is in the courts.

"My views concerning freedom of expression are well known," he said. "I am a person who was a victim of a freedom of expression case."

Erdogan served four months in jail in 1999 for reciting what the courts deemed to be an inflammatory poem interpreted as being anti-secular. Turkey is a staunchly secular state.
Here's a collection of different opinons about the Pamuk trial in the Turkish newspapers.

The current New Yorker has a piece about the trial, written by Pamuk himself (and translated by Maureen Freely, who, I take it translated freely):
Comforted as I was by the interest in my predicament and by the generous gestures of support, there were also times when I felt uneasy about finding myself caught between my country and the rest of the world.

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?


Dave said...

The Turkish Daily News has covers this trial well, here.

(The Turkish Daily News is an English-language site. Highly recommended for anyone interested in Turkey and its affairs.)

Dave said...

Pamuk's trial is directly relevant to Turkey's application to become a member of the EU as his plight is seen by many as a violation of his human rights.

Turkish Daily News has an excellent editorial, here, about the initiatives Turkey must undertake in order to be more favorably viewed by the EU's members.


It's no secret that the EU negotiation process for Turkey will take 10-15 years and, unless Turkey makes up its mind and starts paying the price of this endeavor, perhaps even longer. Still, a day will come when the Turks will be asked if whether they want to join the EU. If the Turkey of that day is one that has solved its social problems, including this supra-identity/sub-identity issue -- that is, the Kurdish issue; solved its democracy problems, including individual rights, minority rights and supremacy of law; realized good and transparent governance; managed to solve its chronic economic problems; successfully introduced and consolidated higher standards in the economy; and increased its gross national product (GNP) by several-fold and boosted per capita income to somewhere close or above the EU average, then perhaps the Turks will think it over before saying "yes" to EU accession.

Hakan said...

The founding fathers of Turkish Republic had two fundamental adversaries: dominant emperialist powers who wanted dismantle and colonize Anatolia like the rest of the Ottoman empire and religious fanatics
who were still dreaming about keeping a muslim empire. The present day defenders of the republic are still overly sensitive to anything that reminds them those enemies. This could be a EU politician visiting Turkey and lecturing about human rights or an ordinary citizen with an head scarf. You should see this trial and its legal base in this context. (not that I agree with the prosecutor)