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ISSN 1409-6900 | UDK 82+7     Blesok no. 45 | volume VIII | November-December, 2005



                     Peer-reviewed journal
Blesok no. 45November-December, 2005

Crossing the divide

p. 1
Maureen Freely

Orhan Pamuk

Last Friday, Orhan Pamuk, Turkey's most celebrated writer, was subjected to a grotesque public shaming. Branded a “traitor” by fascist agitators whom a like-minded police force did little to contain, and pelted with stones and eggs outside the court where he was to have been tried for insulting Turkishness, he remained calm and dignified. At a party hosted by his publishers that same evening, he looked relaxed, even cheerful. As did Hrant Dink, the Turkish-Armenian journalist and editor who was prosecuted in the same court earlier this autumn, also for “insulting Turkishness,” and the columnist, scholar, and longtime human rights activist, Murat Belge, who will be going to court on February 7 with four other columnists charged with insulting the judiciary. Also in attendance were several editors facing charges on account of books they have published, the Turkish and European human rights activists, and the dozen EU parliamentarians who had, like Pamuk, been insulted and/or assaulted by fascist agitators in and outside the court earlier in the day.
    This is hardly the first time a Turkish writer has been pilloried for speaking his mind. Nâzim Hikmet, the great modernist poet who who shared the 1950 International Peace Prize with Pablo Neruda, spent most of his adult life in prisons. When an entire generation of writers found itself behind bars after the 1971 and 1980 coups, it kept itself going by reciting his verse. In the 1990s, when the army was waging war against the Kurdish PKK in the southeast, the mantle passed to Yasar Kemal, Turkey's other great living author, who, like Pamuk, has often been tipped as a Nobel contender. He wrote an article about the Kurds that resulted in his being prosecuted and vilified in much the same way that Pamuk is today.
    A recent dirty tricks campaign drew the two authors into a highly publicised dispute, so great significance was given to Kemal's presence at the trial last Friday. Everyone knew he was there to support not just Pamuk but all writers who dare to question the national myth – that Turkey has no black spots in its history, that the path it must follow is the one decreed by its founding father, Atatürk, and that its army never makes mistakes. Sooner or later, most serious writers find themselves branded traitors: therein lies their importance. What makes Pamuk's case different is that retribution came so very late.
    Until last

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