Turkey Watch

Watching the Turkish nail being put into Europian coffin.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Turkey accuses author of 'insult'

From news.scotsman.com

A TURKISH academic who works at an American university has been charged in her home country with "insulting Turkishness" and could face a prison sentence.

Professor Elif Shafak, a Turkish citizen working at Arizona University, said she will stand trial because of the words uttered by fictional Armenian characters in her novel The Bastard of Istanbul, which she wrote while she was living in Tucson. In the book, an Armenian character refers to "Turkish butchers".

The Turkish government and some international historians reject the claim that a mass evacuation and related deaths of up to 1.5 million Armenians living in Turkey from 1915 to 1923 was genocide. Turkey also says the death toll is inflated.

However, most Armenian and western scholars say the massacres were genocide. Turkey says only that many Armenians died of starvation, disease and exposure on forced marches to Syria in retaliation against the Christian minority for reportedly collaborating with Russia during the First World War.

Prof Shafak, 35, is on a one-year leave from her teaching post at Arizona University's department of Near Eastern studies. She said her book was released in Turkey on 8 March and has sold more than 50,000 copies already.

Prof Shafak added: "[The book] questions two big taboos: the Armenian question and incest. So it was not easy to digest for some people and it caused a lot of stir."

The charges against her were filed under the controversial Article 301 of the Turkish Criminal Code. The European Union has frequently warned Turkey that its efforts to join the EU could be hampered by Article 301, which sets out penalties for insulting the Turkish Republic, its officials or "Turkishness", and has been used to bring charges against dozens of journalists, publishers and scholars.

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