Not Saussure

September 22, 2006

Bad news for some from Turkey?

Filed under: Books, civil liberties, EU, Wingnuts — notsaussure @ 7:58 pm

Excellent news, of course, that the Turkish novelist Elif Shafak has had the charges thrown out that were brought against her for ‘offending Turkishness’ in her novel The Bastard of Istanbul in which characters discuss the Armenian Genocide. This never happened, according to the Turkish government, who will prosecute you if you say any different.

In this case, the judge seems to have taken the view that prosecuting the author for crimes, no matter how deplorable, committed by her fictional characters is going a bit far.

However, I can’t help wondering what the more extreme Euro-sceptics make of all this. I assume they’re pleased, too, but — quite apart from the fact that the more people Turkey prosecutes for talking about the Armenian massacres, the less likely it is to get into the EU — I couldn’t help being reminded, when I read in Thursday’s Guardian that in Turkey

nationalism is on the increase, bolstered in part by the sense that Brussels is playing with Turkey over its accession bid. Formerly at the forefront of the reforms that helped it gain EU candidate membership last year, the government, too, is affected by the new scepticism.

Pressured by Brussels and Turkish liberals to get rid of the penal code article under which Shafak is being tried, the justice minister, Cemil Cicek, responded dismissively: “Are we going to change laws just because Europe wants us to? Changing laws isn’t like changing your tie.”

that on Monday I’d seen Simon Heffer warning us in the Telegraph that

as EU competence increases, so the ability of member states to propose their own laws for their own people shrinks until it is extinguished. That is the ultimate goal of the ever-closer union: but it entails a stark and anti-democratic removal of sovereignty from this area which impacts directly on our most basic freedoms and liberties

which seemed an eerily similar objection though from a different point of view.

Similarly, though since the comment is slipped into the Guardian’s news coverage I accept there may be an axe being ground here, the observation that

For weeks, a website belonging to Mr Kerincsiz’s group has called for protests against this “newly chosen princess of capitulationist intellectuals”.

Shafak’s supporters have called on the Istanbul prosecutor to investigate Mr Kerincsiz for incitation to violence.

The trial is symbolic of a deep rift in the country. For nationalists, the clash of civilisations is real, and Muslim Turkey belongs with the east. They claim the EU is trying to strip away this identity.

Seems to mirror — in the sense mirrors show things the other way round — complaints about the possible ill-effects of letting this large Muslim country into the EU; ‘capitulationist’ seems to be the Turkish translation of ‘dhimmitude‘ in this context.

Somehow I can’t Ms Shafak’s excellent attitude that

My ideal is cosmopolitanism, refusing to belong to either side in this polarised world… Ambiguity, synthesis: these are the things that compose Turkish society, and that is not something to be ashamed of.

commending itself to the ultras on either side of the Bosphorus.


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