[Marxism] Insulting Turkishness

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Nov 9 12:36:22 MST 2006

Sooner or later I expect to run into Nobel Prize winner Oran Pamuk on the 
Columbia campus, where he is a visiting scholar. (He was also here in that 
capacity from 1985 to 1988.) I have yet to meet a single Turk who is a fan 
of his novels. I suspect that they resent his pronouncements on Turkish 
oppression of national minorities, even though they are by no means 
ultranationalists themselves. They probably question his use of Western 
platforms since the often serve as outlets of opposition to Turkey being 
admitted to the European Union. There is a feeling of being victimized by a 
double standard, since the West has been far bloodier than Turkey over the 

There were obvious political calculations involved in awarding the Nobel 
Prize to Pamuk. Pamuk is looked at as a bridge-builder between the West and 
the East. He was put on trial in Turkey after telling a Swiss newspaper 
last year that 30,000 Kurds and one million Armenians had been killed 
during World War I under the Ottoman Turks. Such statements constitute 
"insulting Turkishness", which is punishable under Article 301 of the 
Turkish Penal Code as follows:

1. Public denigration of Turkishness, the Republic or the Grand National 
Assembly of Turkey shall be punishable by imprisonment of between six 
months and three years.

2. Public denigration of the Government of the Republic of Turkey, the 
judicial institutions of the State, the military or security structures 
shall be punishable by imprisonment of between six months and two years.

3. In cases where denigration of Turkishness is committed by a Turkish 
citizen in another country the punishment shall be increased by one third.

4. Expressions of thought intended to criticize shall not constitute a crime.

After the case generated terrible publicity for the Turkish government 
worldwide, the charges were dropped. Since the ruling Islamic party came to 
power in a challenge to the secular nationalist Kemalist establishment that 
had been identified historically with such laws and since it was anxious to 
build commercial ties to the West (its religious values are wed to 
conventional neoliberalism), it had little incentive to see Pamuk behind bars.




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