BURAK BEKDİL > Say has been sentenced: We are awfully shocked! (Part I)

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- In 2011, the humor magazine Harakiri was forced to shut down after being slapped with a 150,000 Turkish Lira fine by the Prime Ministry’s Council for Protecting Minors, for being a “harmful influence on the morality of minors.” Harakiri had released its first issue in May 2011, but the board quickly declared that three drawings in the first issue were “inappropriate” and banned the sale of the magazine to underage minors, in addition to levying the fine. The board found that Harakiri “directed Turkish people to laziness and adventurism” and “encouraged adultery.”

- In the same year, what this columnist coined “the official Turkish humor machine” invented a profession unknown to the rest of the world when a court indictment labeled the translator of William Burrough’s “The Soft Machine” as a “porn translator.” That happened when the book’s Turkish publisher and the “porn translator” had to stand trial on charges of obscenity.

- “The author identified the book with an undisciplined, anti-social, sex-addicted character who does not respect any system of values … The novel contains unrealistic interpretations that were neither personal nor objective by giving examples from the lifestyles of historical and mythological figures … From a criminological viewpoint, the book develops attitudes that were permissive to crime by concentrating on the banal, vulgar and weak attributes of humanity.” This literary review was written by the Council for Protecting Minors for “The Soft Machine,” first published half a century ago.

- The prosecution of “The Soft Machine” was the second in a row against the same publisher, which faced the same charges after it published Guillaume Apollonaire’s “The Exploits of a Young Don Juan” in 2010.

- And anyone who was “shocked” about the probe into “The Soft Machine” better refresh their memories and try to recall what happened in November 2010, when conservative Turkish writers uninvited Nobel laureate V.S. Naipaul from a gathering of the European Writers Parliament in Istanbul because they believed his work had “insulted Islam.”

- In July 2010, Kemal Duran, a 37-year-old geophysics engineer, ran toward Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s election bus and shouted, “Esteemed prime minister, freedom!” The prime minister was there to promote democratic freedoms, but the unlucky Mr. Duran was arrested and spent 24 days in jail before he was released. Mr. Duran said his act was a solo protest in favor of broader freedoms. He recalled that one of the questions a judge asked him was, “Why are you still a bachelor [at this age]?”

- And last year, something “absolutely normal” happened at the closing ceremonies for the 2012 London Olympic Games, although, strangely, there were still some people who thought that that normalcy was not, in fact, normalcy. The normalcy was how a Turkish presenter for the state broadcaster TRT translated (well, rather avoided translating parts of) a song that was part of the ceremonies. The Turkish presenter had merely omitted part of John Lennon’s lyrics that called for “no religion” during the broadcasting of the 30th Olympic Games’ closing ceremonies. The iconic song “Imagine” was included in the ceremonies and was translated into Turkish by the TRT presenter as it played in the background. The lyrics of the song that called for people to imagine a world with no countries and no reason to kill or die for were correctly translated by the presenter, but the TRT man preferred to just skip the part where Lennon sang “no religion.”

- And on April 15, 2013 we were shocked when world-renowned Turkish pianist Fazıl Say was sentenced to a suspended, 10-month prison sentence for tweeting and retweeting words that conservative Muslims (and “independent” judges) thought insulted Muslims and their faith.

Once again, we were shocked. Uh, ah, so very badly shocked!


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Laz Kemal

4/21/2013 7:18:54 AM

When religion is used as a tool on the masses we should be used to such events. Need centuries of reform before the highest level Islamist cleric washes and kisses the foot of a Catholic female prisoner. Look it up. I guess the most advanced Islamic religious head, Gormez, may be kissing something else based on his recent comment that 2/3rd of humanity suffers from Islamophobia following similar comments from Erdogan and other AKP leaders. That’s what happens when you mix politics and religion

mara mcglothin

4/19/2013 5:02:05 PM

Great wiritng BURAK BEY. It is a sad World that we live in these days.

Stefanos Kalogirou

4/19/2013 12:11:00 PM

Every bachelor above the age of 35 should go to jail! that's for laughs but there are so many other issues in Turkey (not very normally dealt) that are not for laughs. The AKP is already a tyrant but we should not forget the generals, the seculars that were equally or more tyrannic! 30 professions prohibited to be exercised by the Greek minority! The minority is almost extinct today. Shocking? not for the majority of the Turkish society! Turkey is not a party of the ICC! shocking?

Recep Ozel

4/19/2013 11:22:56 AM

Mr Burak, you make valid points, however is it not the case that (now) most of the public in Turkey prefers the limited freedoms they have in favour of promoting the greater good of islam?? In the 70s publishers went to court for publishing novels by John Steinbeck and Ernest Hemingway on charges that the books were harmful to the state. Today children's books, cartoons, magazines, and TV stations are being taken to court for insulting (islamic) religion!! Wow, how democracy has moved on!!

frank reynolds

4/19/2013 10:37:14 AM

It might be convincingly argued that this kind of censorship in the new Islam-Light Turkey is a reflection of the country's lack of confidence in itself. Limiting the publication of books insults the nation because to restrict what is allowed to be read is either to say that you have a nation of fools or of slaves. Even the Catholic Church, no lover of free thought, abandoned it's own Index of Prohibited books in 1966. If you want a good book look at the Inquisitor's list. History as farce!!

turk oz

4/19/2013 3:16:02 AM

Murat keep on going my friend. You have nailed it. But who do we complain? No one at this time. We need more people will speak out. Thank you there are still some of you out there. DO NOT STOP!!!!!!!!
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