BOOKS > Turkish poet Edip Cansever’s verses become latest victim of censors


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Turkish Publishers Association President Metin Celal Zeynioğlu says the repressive practices of the reign of the Ottoman sultan Abdülhamit are about to be repeated.

Turkish Publishers Association President Metin Celal Zeynioğlu says the repressive practices of the reign of the Ottoman sultan Abdülhamit are about to be repeated.

Vercihan Ziflioğlu Vercihan Ziflioğlu vercihan.ziflioglu@hurriyet.com.tr

Two verses of the poem “Table,” which was written by renowned Turkish poet Edip Cansever, were omitted from high school books since they include the word “beer.” 

The books, published by Ekoyay Publishing House, were selected to be read in high schools by the National Education Ministry. The omitted verses are as follows: “So many days he had wanted to drink a beer! He put on the table the pouring of that beer.” 

Recently chants written by Turkish folk poets Yunus Emre and Kaygusuz Abdal were also omitted from course books, while French-Lebanese writer Amin Maalouf’s historical novel Samarkand was investigated for allegedly “being vulgar and insulting Islam.” 

There was an attempt ban certain parts of John Steinbeck’s classic “Of Mice and Men” due to “immoral” passages, and an investigation was launched into “My Sweet Orange Tree” by Brazilian writer José Mauro de Vasconcelos on the same grounds. 

“Formerly we were able to follow the [proceedings of] the books that were banned or withdrawn from stores since [the censors and bans] were based on legal grounds, but now it is very hard to follow all the censorship as [the proceedings] are performed through the regulations of the National Education Ministry. They are trying to localize censorship, and it is extremely dangerous to implement them in schools,” Turkish Publishers Association (TYB) President Metin Celâl Zeynioğlu told the Hürriyet Daily News. 

“The books in school libraries are supervised by a commission formed by the National Education Ministry; they have the authority to determine which books can be read by students,” Zeynioğlu said. 

‘Intention is evident’

According to Zeynioğlu, the repressive practices of the reign of Ottoman Sultan Abdülhamid, and the incidents that took place during the 1980 military coup are about to be repeated. 
“Their intention to ban these books is evident. How can one think that a student might become alcoholic when he sees the word ‘beer?’” Zeynioğlu said. 

Zeynioğlu also said neither publishing houses nor the ministry had the right to censor literary works. “It is clearly stated in the Law on Intellectual and Artistic Works. Reading censored works prevents younger generations from learning about authors and poets. It constitutes a criminal offense both legally and morally,” Zeynioğlu said. 

Meanwhile, PEN Turkey head Tarık Günersel said publishing censored works was unacceptable and legal cases must be filed against such activities. 

Turkey is on the blacklist of PEN International, according to Günersel. “Unfortunately, bigotry dominates over our intellectual and artistic activities. PEN International has to deal with such problems all over the world, especially in countries such as Turkey, China, Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia, Iran and North Korea, where repression is intensely felt,” Günersel said.


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2/13/2013 10:09:56 PM

When one reads about the blatant censorship that takes place in Turkey, it becomes rather tacit and or apparent that there is no possible future for the latter within the EU. Regards

mara mcglothin

2/13/2013 4:51:35 PM

I guess tomorrow we will be reading a rebuttal to this latest news. Didn't they say we aren't banning science books? Aren't they now saying it is undemocratic to jail generals for long periods of time without charge? Hasn't THY already come back with other uniform alternatives meant to appease the Kemalist masses? So it goes. It is a slow slide down a slippery slope. "Democracy is like a train...."


2/13/2013 3:56:24 PM

How do you spell Istibdat?


2/13/2013 12:32:38 PM

şerefe! One day the word "Tekel" will be banned and you have to buy your drinks (if you can still afford them) in the underworld. Go on Turkey, foreign holidaymakers will turn their backs and unemployment will spread out over Turkey.

Faruk Beisser

2/13/2013 8:32:50 AM

Hooray for Gülen/Erbakan AKP! Another step towards Iran-izing Turkey! Yes, vote for AKP, so that afterwards we will have a Grand Ayatollah and his Ayatollahs ruling how we must live, what to eat and drink, how to dress, and how many children the baby factories must produce!!

frank reynolds

2/13/2013 4:23:04 AM

I have an idea for the National Education Ministry. Ban from publication not only books that make any reference to alcoholic drinks but all authors that are assumed to have consumed alcohol within their lifetime. There's no real need for any historical accuracy here, a hint at Western hedonism and a bohemian lifestule would be enough. Islamic writers could be deemed safe for the fragile minds of any reader. You're left with a streamlinef curriculum and a generation of sober students. Great!!!

Turiddu Giuliano

2/13/2013 2:10:08 AM

I agree, I find it necessary to censor the word "beer" as it could mislead the virtuous Turkish youth inducing it to alcoholism. Maybe they could replace the word "beer" with the word "ayran", so the moral would be saved and the virtue of the Young Turks too!

euro person

2/13/2013 1:02:46 AM

The AKP government is censoring schoolbooks! What a surprise......

Turk down under

2/13/2013 12:58:02 AM

And soon "Snow White" will be wearing a Burqa as she now does in Iran. turkey on fast track to Sharia law. Incredibly sad.
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