Turkish Scholar Challenges Penal Code

The Chronicle of Higher Education
August 10, 2007 Friday
INTERNATIONAL; Pg. 26 Vol. 53 No. 49

Turkish Scholar Challenges Penal Code


A scholar at the University of Minnesota’s Center for Holocaust &
Genocide Studies has filed a case with the European Court of Human
Rights that he says is the first attempt to overturn through that
legal channel a controversial provision of Turkey’s penal code that
criminalizes "denigrating Turkishness."

Taner Akçam, a Turkish sociologist and historian, has faced
retribution in his home country for his academic work about the
killing of as many as 1.5 million Armenians during the waning days of
the Ottoman Empire, which modern Turkish governments have refused to
characterize as genocide.

Mr. Akçam has been outspoken in his willingness to do so, in, for
example, his most recent book, A Shameful Act: The Armenian Genocide
and the Question of Turkish Responsibility, which was published last
year. He has come under attack as a result.

He was charged under Article 301 of Turkey’s penal code, which has
been used frequently against journalists, academics, and writers, and
which Amnesty International says "poses a direct threat to the
fundamental right to freedom of expression."

Hrant Dink, a journalist of Armenian origin who was also charged
under Article 301, was killed by nationalist extremists this year.
Elif Shafak, an assistant professor of Turkish and women’s studies at
the University of Arizona, was acquitted last year of Article 301
charges stemming from her latest novel.