Turkish novelist Elif Shafak will again have to fend off charges that her book The Bastard of Istanbul, which describes the deaths of Armenians in 1915 as genocide, insults “Turkishness” in court on September 21 in Istanbul, The New York Times reports.
Previous charges against Shafak, an assistant professor on leave from the department of Near Eastern studies at the University of Arizona, were dismissed in June after she argued that the statements over which she was being sued were made by fictional characters who could not be prosecuted. However, the leader of a right-wing group opposed to European Union membership for Turkey filed a new complaint, and a higher court overturned the original ruling.
Well-known Turkish author Orhan Pamuk has been similarly charged in the past, but support and pressure from the West led to the charges being dropped in 1995. “Article 301 [of the Turkish penal code] has been used by ultranationalists as a weapon to silence political voices in Turkey,” Ms. Shafak said in The Times article. “In that sense, my case is not unusual. But for the first time, they are trying to bring a novel into court. The way they are trying to penetrate the domain of art and literature is quite new, and quite disturbing.”
And if the possibility of three years in a Turkish prison were not enough stress, Shafak is also due to give birth next week. Still, she says, “I am happy to be giving birth in Istanbul. This city is very dear to me, even though it suffers from a sort of collective amnesia.”
Tough woman, but now might be a good time for more pressure from the West.
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