ERDOGAN CALLS ON TURKS TO EMBRACE DISSIDENT NOBEL WINNER
Anatolian Times, Turkey
Oct 18 2006
ANKARA – Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called on his
compatriots to wholeheartedly embrace 2006 Nobel literature laureate
Orhan Pamuk and "put aside" the controversies he has stirred up in
the past, in remarks published Monday.
"Let’s put aside the polemics. The prize is a first for a son of Turkey
and it will be wrong for us to underestimate it," Erdogan said in a
television interview to be aired late Monday, excerpts of which were
published in the best-selling newspaper Hurriyet.
"We must congratulate him," he said. "It would be wrong to mix what
Pamuk has said in the past and the fact that he has won this award."
The 54-year-old Pamuk, who has long had bad blood with the state,
landed himself in court on charges of "insulting Turkishness" and won
the reputation of a "traitor" among nationalist circles when he told
a Swiss magazine last year that "one million Armenians and 30,000
Kurds were killed in these lands."
His remarks were widely seen as an acknowledgement that the Ottoman
Turks committed genocide against Armenians during World War I,
a label that Ankara fiercely rejects.
Ironically, Thursday’s announcement of his Nobel prize came shortly
after the lower house of the French parliament voted a bill that
would make it a crime to deny that the killings were genocide,
The celebration of Pamuk’s award at home was overshadowed by skeptics
who argued that the author won the favors of the West not for his
literary skills but for his vocal criticism of his country
The divisions plagued even the highest state echelons: while Erdogan
personally called Pamuk, currently in New York, to congratulate him,
President Ahmet Necdet has remained mum, contrary to his tradition
of issuing congratulations to international achievements by Turks.
On Friday, Pamuk joined the chorus of criticism of the French bill,
saying that it flouted France’s "tradition of liberal and critical
The court case against Pamuk, in which he risked up to three years
in jail, was dropped on a technicality in January.
The writer first drew the ire of the state in the mid-1990s when he
denounced heavy-handed policies against the Kurdish minority.
The state extended an olive branch in 1998, offering him the accolade
of "State Artist," but Pamuk declined.