Orhan Pamuk's Nobel Prize throws Turkish nationalists
by Ron Margulies, Istanbul

Socialist Worker, UK
Oct 19 2006

We may have our own views about Orhan Pamuk's novels, but there can
be no doubt that Pamuk richly deserves the prize both in literary
terms and as a man with deeply-held views which he is not afraid to
express regardless of the consequences.

Watching the Turkish media and political world squirm and agonise has
been as joyful and magnificent as the expression on Pamuk's face must
have been upon hearing the news.

The prize was announced on the very same day that the French parliament
voted to make it a criminal offence to deny the Armenian holocaust. In
1915, the dying Ottoman Empire drove its Armenian citizens into a
forced migration, which caused one million or more to perish.

Turkish governments have always denied that there was a systematic
attempt at ethnic cleansing, that so many Armenians died and that
this was a holocaust. They admit to a figure of 300,000, claim that
there was killing on both sides and that the whole incident was an
unfortunate but unavoidable sideshow of the First World War.

Pamuk, whose every novel is a literary event and sells hundreds of
thousands in Turkey, was prosecuted last year for simply saying to
a German journalist that a million Armenians and 30,000 Kurds had
been killed in Turkey. He was neither the first nor the last writer
to be prosecuted under Law 301 which makes it a crime to "insult
Turkishness", but he was the most prominent internationally. Like
most of those prosecuted under 301, he was acquitted. But he also
became a figure of hate for the right and most of the media.

Normally, a Turk winning an international prize (like a Turkish team
winning a football game abroad) would be cause for jubilation and
nationalistic frenzy. In this case, however, the right didn't know
what to do! On the extreme right, the response was "Pamuk is a traitor,
he sold his country, and this is his reward".

The more common response, expressed in one particular newspaper
headline, was "I don't know whether to be glad or sad".

Even those who praised Pamuk and agreed that he deserved the prize
for his novels couldn't stop themselves from saying that he may not
have been given it if he hadn't spoken out about the Armenians. Prime
Minister Erdogan telephoned Pamuk to congratulate him, but President
Sezer pointedly did not do so.

But most amusing of all was the sight of politicians and journalists
who have never said a word about any of the many anti-democratic
laws in Turkey rage about the anti-democratic vote in the French
parliament. Having never worried about Law 301 here, they suddenly
became very concerned about the democratic rights of any French
citizen who wishes to say that there was no Armenian holocaust.

In ten years time nobody will remember any of these people. Unlike
Pamuk, who has already taken his place in world literary history.

http://www.socialistworker.co.uk/article .php?article_id=9979