Wednesday, December 28, 2005


In November, I blogged about the case of Fatih Tas, a Turkish publisher currently facing trial on charges of insulting the Turkish state and its founder for publishing a translation of a book which included claims that the Turkish military had been involved in widespread human rights abuses during its suppression of the Kurds in the 80's and 90's. Tas is only one of around sixty Turkish authors and publishers currently facing such charges. The most famous of them is novelist Orhan Pamuk, who is being prosecuted for an interview with a Swiss magazine in which he said

Thirty thousand Kurds and a million Armenians were killed in these lands and nobody but me dares to talk about it.

The trial has attracted significant international attention, with a delagation of MEPs travelling to Istanbul to act as observers. Now one of them, Dutch Green-Left MP Joost Lagendijk, is himself under investigation for the same "crime", for saying that the Turkish military wanted clashes with Kurdish seperatists to continue because they boosted the military's importance. In their "indictement", the group of nationalist lawyers who have laid the complaint asked

Where does he [Lagendijk] find the audacity to consider himself above and immune from Turkish laws and to insult the Turkish army and the Turkish judiciary?

Perhaps he believes that, as an aspiring member of the EU, Turkey should act like a free country where criticism of the state is allowed, rather than a tinpot dictatorship?


How is this Turkish law making it illegal to question aspects of their past substantially different from the German and Austrian laws making it illegal to question aspects of their past?

It strikes me as typical European hypocrisy.

Posted by Bomber : 12/28/2005 06:53:00 PM

And French! Looks like Turkey will fit right in...

Posted by Psycho Milt : 12/29/2005 04:21:00 AM

I think t selwyn's stretching things more than a little here.

I do recognise that German laws preventing a one from saying "This well-recorded well-reported historic event 60 years ago never happened" and Turkish laws preventing a one from saying "The army is trying to provoke civil strife right now" are both censorship.

But you're pretending it's only black and white, with no shades of grey. Censorship laws exist on a spectrum - and Turkey's much more towards the dangerous end than Germany is. Because Turkey prevents criticism of the govt and the current military: and that's very bad.

Soviet Russia and West Germany both had censorship laws, but if you pretend they were equally bad you're wrong. That's important because if you pretend they are the same you end up unable to complain about or oppose the bad ones in any coherent way.

Posted by Icehawk : 12/29/2005 11:17:00 AM

I oppose German-style laws against Holocaust-denial, but even I recognise that the Turkish law is far worse, precisely because they forbid criticism of the present government rather than denying history, and because there's no factual benchmark against which a judgement can be made. What is "insulting" to the government or military is entirely in the mind of a judge (or rather, the group of rabid nationalists who are laying complaints in an effort to define Turkish politics in a certain way), and something can be insulting even (and particularly) when it is true - as seems to be the case for the prosecutions over the Armenian genocide.

In a democracy, people have to be free to criticise the government. The Turkish law doesn't permit this. And that is why it has to go.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 12/29/2005 12:04:00 PM

Suppression of free speech in Germany goes way beyond holocaust denial, but you're mostly correct. I do hope though that we aren't subjected to hearing tosser politicians from the EU criticising the lack of freedom of speech in Turkey - not until they've got their own house in order, anyway. That will be way too much to hope for, sadly.

Posted by Psycho Milt : 12/29/2005 06:24:00 PM

Still - All Politicians are hypocritical if you refuse to have hypocrites on your side you have already been defeated.

Posted by Genius : 12/29/2005 07:48:00 PM