September 21, 2006

Novelist Goes On Trial Tomorrow In Istanbul For "Insulting Turkishness"

(20.09.2006; Various Media)

Elif Shafak, a prize-winning novelist, goes on trial tomorrow in an Istanbul court for the crime of "insulting Turkishness" through the fictional dialogue in her best-selling novel, The Bastard of Istanbul.

Shafak, who lives and works in the United States, has been charged under Article 301 of the Turkish penal code. It was this law that also was used to put Orhan Pamuk, Turkey's most famous novelist, on trial.

The European Union, with which Turkey began accession talks last year, has been a strong critic of the law and is expected to condemn curbs on freedom of expression in Turkey in a report to come out on October 24th. Turkey's parliament is holding an emergency meeting this week on further E.U. related legal reform, but has failed to act on Article 301.

The Bastard of Istanbul is a story about the intertwined history of a Turkish and American-Armenian family. The "crime" committed by the characters in it is to refer to the taboo subject of the mass killings of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire in 1915. As an example, the fictional Uncle Dikran speaks of "Turkish butchers" and others talk about "being slaughtered like sheep."

Charging fictional characters "is a new step", according to Mrs. Shafak. "It means they are now trying to control art and this is very alarming in Turkey - a country that has witnessed three military takeovers - art and literature had always been autonomous."

The trial is not just about her book, she says. The case is part of a political effort by extreme nationalists to hamper Turkey's E.U. aspirations by demonstrating just how "un-European" Turkey really is.

For more information on Elif Shafak, her upcoming trial and Article 301 .....

Elif Shafak's Website:
PEN America:
PEN International:


At September 22, 2006, Blogger JLD said...

I just posted about this today. Great blog by the way! i am adding a link to you on my site. Keep up the good work.


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