Turkish writer unbowed by jail threat

Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk says he is standing by remarks about the massacre of Armenians by Ottoman Turks and about the deaths of Kurds in Turkey, comments that could land him in jail for three years.

    Pamuk faces trial in December for insulting Turkish identity

    Pamuk goes on trial in December for "insulting and weakening Turkish identity" after talking about the massacre, a taboo in Turkey.

    He also said Turkish forces were partly to blame for the deaths of more than 30,000 Kurds in the 1980s and 90s.

    "I repeat, I said loud and clear that 1 million Armenians and 30,000 Kurds were killed in Turkey, and I stand by that," Pamuk said in Frankfurt, where he is due to receive a major literary award on Sunday.

    Turkey's most prominent writer said he had not used the word "genocide" to describe the mass killings of Armenians in 1915.

    "Whether it should be called genocide or mass murder ... or something else, has to be decided by experts," he said. 

    Turkey rejects charges

    Turkey, home to about 60,000 ethnic Armenians, rejects the charge of genocide and says both Christian Armenians and Muslim Turks suffered mass killings in a conflict during the second world war.

    Turkey hopes to join the EU and
    entry talks are under way

    Armenian-Turkish journalist Hrant Dink received a six-month suspended prison sentence earlier this month for insulting Turkish identity in an article.

    Turkey's foreign minister has said he expects the charge against Pamuk to be dismissed.

    The issue of freedom of speech has dogged Turkey's efforts to join the European Union.

    Entry talks between the EU and the largely Muslim country began earlier this month after lengthy wrangling among the EU's 25 member states on conditions. 
     
    Political issue

    Pamuk, whose novels including My Name is Red and Snow have been translated into dozens of languages, said he supported Turkey's bid to join the EU.

    Pamuk is to receive a German
    book association's peace prize

    "I wish with all my heart that Turkey will become a member of the EU but this is totally a political issue, not a cultural one," he said.

    "The entry of Turkey into the EU will also enrich the EU's culture."

    Germany's chancellor-designate Angela Merkel is one of a handful of EU leaders to oppose full membership for Turkey, and opinion polls indicate high levels of opposition to the move among citizens of Germany, home to almost 3 million Turks.

    Pamuk, 53, is the second Turkish author to receive the Peace Prize of Germany's book trade association, Germany's highest literary honour, in its 55-year history.

    Yasar Kemal was awarded the prize in 1997.

    Influences

    Pamuk, whose writing is often lauded for straddling Europe and Asia - as does his home city of Istanbul - named the great European novelists as his biggest influences.

    "I repeat, I said loud and clear that 1 million Armenians and 30,000 Kurds were killed in Turkey, and I stand by that"

    Orhan Pamuk,
    Turkish novelist

    "Dostoyevsky, Thomas Mann, Tolstoy, Proust, Joyce, Virginia Woolf, Faulkner ... all these had a great influence on me, and when I write I speak with them," he said.

    "European writers have helped their countries develop and I count myself among them."

    Pamuk said he had never sought political controversy.

    "I am a Turk. I've lived in Turkey for 43 years, and for that reason my political observations are about Turkey, because that's what I know," he said.

    "I never asked for a political role ... it just happened to me," he said. "Nonetheless, I accept the responsibility gladly."

    SOURCE: Reuters


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