11 September 2005

Just Like Actors, Only Different

Today's Times notes that many authors nominated for the Man Booker Prize (the highest-paying award for an individual work in the English-speaking world) are speaking out against Turkey's arrest of one of their number:

The charges against Pamuk followed remarks made in February to a Zurich newspaper. "Thirty thousand Kurds and a million Armenians were killed in these lands and no one dares to speak out on this but me," he said. Turkey is extremely sensitive over its role in what is known as the Armenian genocide. Between 600,000 and 1.2m Armenians are thought to have been killed between 1915 and 1917 during a forced evacuation. The Turks say the figure is much lower and was the result of ethnic conflict, the first world war, disease and famine.

Pamuk's case has been an embarrassment for the Turkish government, which is fighting opposition, especially in France and Germany, to its attempts to join the EU. Abdullah Gul, the foreign minister, said of the charges: "There is no decision yet. I would like to announce to the world that there is freedom of expression in Turkey. People voice their opinions comfortably as long as they do not promote violence."

Tom Pattinson & Alicia Jones, "Booker novelists denounce Turkey for charging author" (11 Sep. 2005) (reparagraphed for clarity; emphasis added).

Leaving aside the veracity and/or gullibility of Mr Gul, and not denying the tragedy of Armenia (the "truth," as usual, is probably somewhere between the two extremes—which does not make it an acceptable or comfortable one), doesn't this sound a great deal like the phenomenon of Hollywood actors sticking their noses into world affairs? At least this time the outrage is directly related to something that writers know about—freedom of expression.