Orhan Pamuk : Good News

News just in that the Istanbul Court has dropped the case against novelist Orhan Pamuk, accused of “insulting Turkish identity” for having mentioned the Armenian genocide and the massacres of Kurds — a victory (though only a small one) for free speech in Turkey. Here is the official Amnesty International commentary on this development:

Amnesty International welcomes reports on 23 January that the case against Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk has been dropped. The writer was facing charges under Article 301 of the Turkish penal code after commenting on the deaths of Kurds and Armenians in the Swiss newspaper Tages Anzeiger. Sisli Court of First Instance No. 2 had been awaiting the authorization of the Ministry of Justice to proceed with the case, but reportedly threw it out after the Ministry wrote to the court declaring itself legally incompetent to intervene.

Amnesty International opposes Article 301 on the grounds that it poses a serious threat to the right to freedom of expression, which the Turkish authorities have a legal duty to uphold. The organization analyzed the article and detailed its concerns about the cases against Orhan Pamuk and others in a statement on 9 December 2005, Turkey: Article 301 is a threat to freedom of expression and must be repealed now! (AI Index: EUR 44/035/2005).

The organization’s concerns regarding the breadth of this article and its potential for arbitrary interpretation remain in spite of Orhan Pamuk’s case being dropped. In fact, Amnesty International considers that Orhan Pamuk’s high profile drew attention to the deficiencies of Article 301, and now fears that the cases of other individuals prosecuted under the same article may continue in relative obscurity.

The cases of Hrant Dink, Sehmus Ulek, Ragip Zarakolu, Fatih Tas, Murat Pabuc, Birol Duru and Rıdvan Kızgın, which Amnesty International detailed in its earlier statement, are still ongoing. In addition on 9 December 2005, the Istanbul Court of First Instance No. 2 sentenced Fatih Tas to a prison term of six months for the publication of another book They Say You are Missing [Kayıpsın Diyorlar] by Ali Aydın. The book is a collection of articles and poems about a journalist who went missing during the 1990s. Fatih Tas is currently appealing the decision. The organization is equally concerned about further cases against other individuals who have peacefully expressed their opinions, such as those outlined below.

Journalists Murat Belge, Ismet Berkan, Hasan Cemal, Erol Katırcıoglu and Haluk Sahin are all facing possible prison sentences under Article 301 for newspaper articles they wrote about a judicial decision to ban a conference on the situation of Armenians during the Ottoman Empire. The first hearing of their case is due to be held at Bağcılar Court of First Instance No. 2 on 7 February 2006.

The trial of Halil Altındere, organizer of the 9th Istanbul Biennale, a festival of the arts, is due to begin at Beyoglu Penal Court of First Instance on 13 April 2006. He is charged under Article 301 in connection with a photograph exhibition which is allegedly “insults” the army.

The Beyoglu Public Prosecutor has brought a case against Abdullah Yıldız, chief editor of Literatur Publishing House under Article 301, after the publication of a translation of a book entitled The Witches of Smyrna [Izmir’in Falcıları] by Greek author Mara Meimaridi. The book is alleged to portray the Turkish people in a bad light. The case is due to be heard on 6 April 2006.

Professor Ibrahim Kaboglu and Professor Baskın Oran, respectively former head and committee member of the Human Rights Committee under the auspices of the Prime Minister’s Office, will go on trial on 15 February 2006 charged under Articles 216 and 301 for a report produced on Minority and Cultural rights at the request of the Prime Minister himself.

On 22 December 2005, Istanbul Penal Court of First Instance No. 2 sentenced author Zulkuf Kısanak to five months’ imprisonment on charges of insulting the Turkish Republic in his book How the Inheritance of Thousands of Years was Burned: Lost Villages [Bin Yılların Mirası Nasıl Yakıldı: Yitik Koyler]. The sentence was commuted to a fine of 3000 YTL [c. US$ 2,260].

The dropping of the case of Orhan Pamuk is too small a step on the road to freedom of expression in Turkey. Amnesty International regards the incident as further evidence of the arbitrary nature of Article 301. It calls on the Turkish authorities to terminate all cases pending under the article, and for the article itself to be abolished in its entirety.

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2 Responses

  1. Murat Nemet-Nejat says:


    One correction: Izmir’s Falcilari is “The Fortune Tellers of Smyrna/Izmir” not “Witches.”

    This dismissal would not have occured without Turkey’s application to The European Community. Turkey’s acceptance or non-acceptance to it will be a crucial historical event.

    Did you read “Snow”? Among other things, the novel is about the absence/invisible presence of Kurds and particularly Armenians in the Turkish landscape. Did you read my essay “Turkey’s Mysterious Motions and Turkish Poetry”?

    A few days ago I was in Europe. at the Paris airport I was talking to a Turkish couple, who by chance saw my copy of Snow. They said I should not read the book because of Pamuk’s betrayal of Turkey in front of foreigners. The ironic thing is that these were intelligent, very nice people. The husband had read Pamuk’s work, including his last, Istanbul.

    Of course, these themes-the tactile presence of outsiders- are always present in Pamuk’s work. Since Ece Ayhan they have been the central theme in Turkish poetry.

    My best to Nicole,


  2. Lilac says:

    One night late in April a person realizes
    they’ve been allowed into the throne room
    to dissect all the crowns, find their hiding places.
    It isn’t known really when admission was granted
    but there it is in the locked box,
    the keys in several paintings done well
    by the obvious European Masters who were
    all already there, knew it was coming
    and knew who would be there.

    The toys on their heads are reminders
    of all the rulers of all the universes
    studded in emerald and (I’ve got it right here)
    not the Kasiki which was found in the refuse
    and sold for three spoons. The actual remedy
    spells moonlight in light when no one is noticing.
    But look at the toys on their heads, who knew?
    Who knows now? Quite obviously, the creators
    of the Lion and Sun Medals, one in particular
    of stunning quality, the sun leaning on the lion’s back.

    By sheer luck a person runs into another person
    outside the armory and well outside the outer
    courtyard of two inner places. (The second
    for ceremonial purposes and the finest in the back
    contains the lillypad pool under the Oriental gazebo.)
    That person happens to be no other than a specific guest
    at the ancient table of numbers. He counts beads
    as fast as one counts anything at all but remembers
    which university in Byzantium is doing all the work.
    He hasn’t any news of the elimination of the signal work
    at the top of a good portion of ‘it’. He must have
    seen the sun dial, the mini complex which was transported
    on a horse with human qualities to the Baghdad campaigns.
    The most fantastic mirrored parabola on record and to date.
    Inconspicuously placed outdoors in the rain and the person is
    from the labyrinths where the Minotaur was last seen in frescoe.

    Two large candlesticks of solid gold were removed to Byzantium
    prior to the onset of trench and mustard, to protect
    the vast empire from the final conquest after Smyrna.
    Saved. For a while. After final consultations,
    one person bids the other adieu, they exchange calling cards
    and know for some reason all is not well
    and the trains only run on time if those that do, will it so.
    The two of them completely undisturbed because of pious behaviors
    although one of them almost followed to the brink that day
    when met at the final stop by three burly youths.
    All the uncertainty in the world led them to believe the person
    was a spy. And the second? Believes the reformer was never born.
    The first tells him the story of Rasputin. They part.
    Closing important meetings never easy and time only follows more time.

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