Free Speech Challenged Again in Turkey

October 5, 2006

WRR 2006

October 5, 2006
Media Contact: Kim Nagy or Joy Stocke
Phone: 609-439-8667 or 213-6580

Free Speech Challenged Again in Turkey

 October 5th trials target more Turkish artists and writers. Wild River Review offers new, updated commentary on bestselling author, Elif Shafak, recently tried and acquitted for “crimes against Turkishness”

October 5, 2006 (Philadelphia, PA).  High-profile author and intellectual, Elif Shafak received an acquittal for her “crimes against Turkishness” on September 23rd, 2006. But Turkey’s ongoing persecution of writers and artists continues unabated. This week five new trials involving eight defendants are set to begin in Istanbul. The defendants include writers, musicians, and artists whose work or words “insult Turkishness, alienate the public from military service, or fail to protect the memory of Ataturk.” Wild River Review, a staunch supporter of free speech around the world, offers readers a fresh perspective and new commentary on these trials, their effect on international politics, while featuring recent interviews with both Orhan Pamuk and Elif Shafak.

In her latest piece, “Turkish Authors Face Controversy,” Angie Brenner, presents the Turkish’s public’s conflicted emotions about the trials, including cynicism, protectiveness, as well as profound hesitancy towards Turkey’s entrance into the European Union.  “In fact, the current charges brought upon the literary community appear aimed to ensure that Turkey does not gain acceptance into the European Union,” says Brenner

In her article, Brenner contrasts the approaches of two different generations of writers: Orhan Pamuk and Elif Shafak, two famous Turkish writers acquitted for “crimes against Turkishness.” Orhan Pamuk was prosecuted under Article 301 last year for openly discussing the killing of a million Armenians in 1915. Avoiding politics most of his life, Pamuk felt betrayed by the Swiss journalist who published his off the record comments on the subject.

On the other hand, Shafak “writes as if to bait her readers into discussion, and in each of her novels, tackles subjects bound to stir the Turkish government’s ire: homosexuality, the world of transvestites, Sufism, Armenian genocide. Shafak’s charge resulted from a passage in her latest book, The Bastard of Istanbul, in which a fictional character confronts, head-on, the issue of genocide against Armenians during the waning days of the Ottoman Empire.”

InFor Armenians scars of genocide remain visible” Joy Stocke, Executive Editor of Wild River Review, tells the story of Osman, whose Armenian father watched his neighbors slaughtered. Stocke writes, “Five years ago, most Turks wouldn’t speak openly about what they say is a “so-called genocide,” but with Turkey’s bid to enter the European Union, friends who once were afraid to voice their opinions about an event deleted from their history books are beginning to talk.”

Maureen Freely, author, scholar, translator of Orhan Pamuk’s Snow and outspoken advocate for free speech in Turkey comments. “We at English PEN were very pleased that Elif Shafak was acquitted, but we remain seriously concerned about Article 301, several other related articles in the new penal code, and the prosecution of writers deemed to have insulted the memory of Ataturk. As many as 80 writers, academics, artists, musicians, and activists have been prosecuted in the past year for expressing their ideas, and there are 45 more cases yet to go to court. This number is sure to rise.” Freely elaborates on these cases in her recent article in the UK’s Guardian Unlimited.,,1879061,00.html

Wild River Review maintains a quarterly theme but updates content throughout each month. The publication continually searches for, and offers, high-quality inventive voices, experimental themes, diverse subjects, and riveting images from around the world. It is the creation of a team of professional writers, and artists who form the eclectic cabal known as the Wild River Gang.