FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION IN TURKEY
(Interview of Socialist Laz Poet Serkan Engin from Turkey for Japanese Philosophy and Poetry Journal named Shi to Shisou which has been published on June 2013 by Prof. Masao Sugiyama from Osaka University)
As the whole world knows, there is no enough freedom of thought and expression in Turkey still nowadays. We are obliged to write under the shadows of death and the threat of prison. As a socialist poet and writer, I write political articles in the most popular socialist newspaper of Turkey called BirGun .
I have written an anti-militarist article in BirGun named “I want to alienate you from military service publicly” which is contrary to No 318 Article of Turkish Criminal Law. I had taken the risk of being sent to prison, because my principles in politics and authorship honor as well as my ethical perception demands me to write my thoughts publicly with courage. I think “they” have failed to notice this article and so no case have been opened against me. However BirGun Newspaper refrained the publishing some of my articles because the newspaper could be closed, due to big compensation penalties and also from the fear of prison threat.
I have written an article against Islam Religion named “I want your religion be disappeared”. This article could be considered as contrary to No 216 Article of Turkish Criminal Law and a case could be opened against me as well as against BirGun Newspaper because of publishing of this article. Also I could be killed by an Islamic fundamentalist or an ordinary bigot because of this article. Author Turan Dursun had been killed by Islamic fundamentalists because of his writings against Islam. Twenty years ago in Sivas City of Turkey, 35 intellectual persons (poets, writers, musicians) had been immolated in a hotel by Sunni Islamic fundamentalists, because some of them had Alevi Religion and some of them were atheist. The government never tried to prevent this violence even though he had all the power to control the outrage and anger of these extremist people and organizations. The police and the army have only watched this massacre. Unfortunately, after twenty years there is no difference at that point in Turkey. A few months ago, the worldwide known Turkish pianist Fazil Say stood trial, because only he had retweeted an anti-religious rubaie of ancient Persian Poet Omer Hayyam which had been written nearly 800 years ago. Here is the translation of that rubaie:
“You say wines will be flowed from its rivers
Is the pretty heaven a barrel house?
You say two houries will be given to each believer
Is the pretty heaven a brothel?”
As BirGun Newspaper refrained from publishing my article against Islam Religion, I have published this article myself at my own blog and some places on the web. Also I have written a poem against Islam named “The difference between me and Allah”. I know that no literary journal in Turkey can publish this, so I have published this poem myself on the web. So, I am still under the shadow of death and prison threat. At any time, an Islamic fundamentalist may kill me because of this article and poem or a criminal case may be opened against me because of these.
I have written an anti-nationalist article named “I want to play your nationalist sensibilities” which is against the official ideology of Turkey. This article has been refused by BirGun because of big compensation penalties and prison threat too. In this article I have declared that Armenian Genocide is a historical truth and 1.5 million Armenian people have been killed. Because of this article, a case could be opened against me as No 301 Article of Turkish Criminal Law. A lot of writers have faced the court as a consequence of this law. Armenian writer and journalist Hrant Dink have stood trial according to this law and then he have been killed by a racist six years ago. The organization that have planned this murder has not been discovered yet. Also a few years ago, worldwide known Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk has stood trial because he has declared that Armenian Genocide is real. It’s too much clear that, I could stand trial because of this article or I could be killed by a racist. After BirGun Newspaper refused to publish my article, I have published it myself at some places on the web. In other words, still the prison and the death threat are valid for me.
The problem is not about only the official ideology of Turkey, as well as the government, the laws and the judicial system. Unfortunately most of the people of Turkey are ignorant, bigot, racist, homophobic, sexist and vandal.
It’s a big fact that, I am writing everything I want to express with a madly courage because of the requirements of my politics, authorship honor and ethical perception, but at any time I may face the court or an Islamic fundamentalist’s or a racist’s bullet, because of my articles and poems. Just now, no case has been opened and no armed assault has been taken place against me, because I am not “famous” enough I think, but unfortunately the danger keeps its validity yet for me.