Politics Follow Turkey To Frankfurt’s Book Fair

POLITICS FOLLOW TURKEY TO FRANKFURT’S BOOK FAIR

Deutsche Welle
20.10.2008
Germany

Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: Pamuk said the habit
of penalizing writes for what they write is still alive in Turkey As
guest nation at the world’s largest book fair, Turkey bathed in the
literary limelight, but the Frankfurt Book Fair, which ended Sunday,
couldn’t wash away all the stains of limits placed on freedom of
expression.

Nobel literature laureate Orhan Pamuk was greeted as a "pop star,"
according to Turkey’s Hurriyet newspaper, while contemporary Turkish
authors trying to improve their international reputations were
almost mobbed.

Under the motto "captivatingly colorful," the book fair’s guest
nation held a myriad of events that gave the impression of a lively,
cultural way of life, without resorting to belly dances and other
gimmicks that tourists to Turkey often find so appealing.

"This country is in motion, both culturally and politically," book
fair director Juergen Boos said.

Turkey had made full use of the opportunities that "appearing on the
greatest literary world stage has to offer," Boos said.

More than the "well-known problems"

Bildunterschrift: Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift:
The last visitors left the book fair on Sunday, Oct. 19 The Turkish
Organizing Committee was visibly anxious to exclude all political
elements from its events.

"The name Turkey should evoke more than just the well-known usual
problems," Istanbul publisher Muge Gorsoy Sokmen said.

Many of the freedom of expression issues other nations have with Turkey
deal with a section of Turkish penal code that makes it a crime to
"denigrate Turknishness" and threatens violators with up to three
years in prison.

But Sokmen said it was important for her that Turkish writers
were perceived "simply as artists" and not as "mouthpieces for the
government or dissidents."

Turkish politics in three acts

Bildunterschrift: Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift:
Turkish literature was in high demand in Frankfurt The contradictions
of Turkish life and the political problems in which the country is
embroiled were acted out during the five-day book fair.

Pamuk entered the stage for the first act at the beginning of the
fair with a soliloquy in which he said, "The propensity of the Turkish
state to ban books and punish writers is unfortunately continuing."

President Abdullah Gul commanded the second act when Turkish
journalists asked him shortly before he left for Frankfurt to react
to Pamuk’s comments and to "negative reports" in the German press.

The questions allowed Gul to portray himself as a defender of criticism
and Turkey as a land of free speech by saying there was no book that
could not be published and "equally extreme views" would be expressed.

"Turkey is not a country of prohibitions," he added.

Turkish publishers took charge of the third act, like children who
had been burnt, but were still unafraid of fire.

They spoke of the state’s and the military’s paternalism and said
that not much had changed.

More changes needed

As long as this "authoritarian mentality" remained, freedom
of expression would remain limited, Etyen Mahcupyan of the
Armenian-Turkish weekly Agos said.

There would be no freedom of expression without a fundamental change
in mentality, publisher Ragip Zarakolu said.

In order to achieve this, he said "much more radical changes" were
needed "than have happened so far."

For its part, Amnesty International said the book fair could have a
lasting, positive effect on the condition of human rights in Turkey
even if the improvements weren’t immediately visable.

"It doesn’t change the situation in Turkey yet, of course, but it is
a step on the path towards breaking taboos," Amnesty’s Turkey expert
Amke Dietert told German news agency DPA. "As long as there are serious
restrictions in Turkey, we can’t talk about freedom of expression."

–Boundary_(ID_uAIRI9f73OKtFhGq rwgwTQ)–

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