Turkey’s most acclaimed novelist, Orhan Pamuk, faces a possible three years in jail after being charged last week with “publicly denigrating Turkish identity”.
The attack on the 53 year old novelist stems from an interview he gave to the Swiss newspaper Tages-Anzeiger in February this year.
During the interview Pakuk said, “Thirty thousand Kurds were killed here, one million Armenians as well. And almost nobody talks about it. Therefore, I do.”
The references to the Turkish government’s murderous suppression of the country’s Kurdish minority, and to the massacre of Armenians by Turkish soldiers in 1915, have enraged Turkey’s ultranationalists.
This has resulted in the author facing a criminal trial on 16 December under the country’s new penal code.
Pamuk’s novels have been translated into over 20 languages. They include My Name Is Red and his latest book Snow, which examines the conflicts between Turkey’s secular elite and Islamist opposition movement.
The charges against him have drawn condemnation from human rights groups around the world.
The international row is caught up with negotiations over Turkey’s entry to the European Union. The EU is insisting that Turkey’s human rights record is brought up to “European standards”.
Ironically, under the Ottoman Empire Turkey had historically been very tolerant of subjects from different cultural backgrounds. The country’s elite turned to racism and genocide in the early years of the twentieth century precisely as they came to emulate Western “civilisation”.