Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Via Maud Newton, an article about Orhan Pamuk in the Guardian.

He is backing down, it seems:

[...] But on Saturday night, he went on CNN-Turk television to say: "I did not say, we Turks killed this many Armenians. I did not use the word 'genocide'."


I wish I knew the context of this remark better, but even without it, I feel I understand Pamuk: as one person, he has done and said more than enough, a lot more than the rest of them together, in a way - and it's nice to realize that he's not the suicidal type and knows when it's time to stop.

Then again, he could've been just straightening it all out, not retracting: it sucks to be misquoted and then given a three-year prison term.


The fear of "the word 'genocide'" seems so counterproductive. All the energy is being wasted on denial and ignoring, and at the same time so little publicity is given to the Cyprus issue, for example, so little being done to remind the world that it was Greece, not Turkey, that started the conflict in 1974:

The agreement is in line with UN Security Council Resolution 353 demanding withdrawal of all unauthorised troops and seeks to restore the terms of the peace agreed in Nicosia in 1960, which established independence and power-sharing.

Greece breached the 1960 treaty ten days ago by instigating a coup against elected Cypriot president Archbishop Makarios.

Turkey responded by sending in troops, since the Greek puppet regime threatens its minority on the island.

As for the "we Turks killed this many Armenians" - well, if one says this, then it'd be nice if a Kurd came out, too, and spoke about the Kurdish role in the Genocide. And then all those millions who didn't kill anyone - if only because they were not yet born 90 years ago - should follow, declaring their innocence as loud as they can, because the notion of 'collective guilt' is a bullshit notion, very harmful. If 'collective guilt' is okay, then perhaps 'collective blame' is okay, too, right? But isn't 'collective blame' what usually leads to horrors like the Armenian Genocide?


Yashar Kemal wrote a wonderful novel about a Kurdish family caught in the midst of the horror of 1915 - Salman the Solitary.

I read it in 1998 and remember very little: most Kurds were killing Armenians in the Lake Van region, but the main character's family had the guts to save some; the main character's mother told him as she was dying never to settle in a home of someone who'd been chased away violently - she was speaking metaphorically, of a bird's nest, not a human dwelling - and her son, a respected man, later refused to take the best Armenian houses offered to him, and ended up with the worst plot of land available.

These are just the episodes that I remember; the novel's got many other dimensions.

More on Yashar Kemal is here, and here's also a bit from an old Amnesty International item - an illustration of how things like to repeat themselves:


In late October 1995 President Demirel approved amendments to Article 8 under which "separatist propaganda" remains an imprisonable offence, even when the defendant has in no way advocated violence, but the phrase "irrespective of the methods and aims and ideas" was removed. Maximum sentences were reduced from five to three years, and courts were given discretion to impose fines or suspended sentences for first offences. Most of those imprisoned under Article 8 were released pending retrial.


In 1995 Turkey's most renowned living writer, the novelist Yasar Kemal, was tried under Article 8 by Istanbul State Security Court for an article he had written for the German magazine Der Spiegel (The Mirror). He was acquitted. In protest at his prosecution, 1,080 intellectuals, writers, publishers and artists put their names to a book titled Freedom of Thought in Turkey, a collection of articles by people imprisoned or on trial for their writings. The government responded by charging 185 members of the group under Article 8. Those charged represent a major section of Turkey's literary and artistic elite. Their trials are continuing; the latest was opened in February 1996. On 7 March 1996 Yasar Kemal was given a 20-month suspended sentence for an essay titled "Dark Cloud over Turkey", his contribution to Freedom of Thought in Turkey. The conviction was for "inciting hatred" under Article 312, which has been used increasingly by prosecutors since the change to Article 8.

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