Michael Thumann (Die Zeit)
The decision on blasphemy which sounds like a verdict by a court in an Iranian city was taken by a 19th Magistrates’ Court in Istanbul. Most famous pianist in Turkey, Fazil Say was convicted on charges of blasphemy against Islam for ten months in prison and controlled freedom. Say tweeted a joke about promises of heavens for Muslims. As a result the authorities were informed by “angry citizens” which are easily invented in every third class dictatorship for political purposes.
Turkey once more was enraged by anger. A commentator was nervous since the developments undermined the long-planned position of Turkey in London Book Fair. Others wondered how Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan could stand by the pianist-hunt, while he himself had gone to prison merely because of misreading a poem 14 years ago. Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk, himself fined for his opinions years before said: “It is a terrible, unacceptable verdict. I’m very sorry for Fazil Say and for Turkey.”
Even that small selection of opinion shows that Turkey has a fundamental problem with freedom of expression. There are three reasons. The jurisdiction of Turkey does, despite ongoing reforms, at the core of its operations function as a retributive justice. The verdicts of the criminal justice system are based on appeasement, retribution and knock-over. Fazil Say, should not be able to, say proponents of the judgment offend “the values of the people” ever again.
The second reason lies in the stubbornness of authoritarian-minded politicians. The Turkish law has more than a dozen articles which could be used to punish free expression. The AKP government has recently adopted its fourth judicial reform with no intention of removal of such articles.
The third reason lies in the continuous climate of intimidation in this country. The newspapers have dismissed at least a dozen columnists who spoke candidly about the abuses in Turkey. Since then an official from Ankara makes a call to the publisher, who usually has other investments in energy and banking. The officer asks why the columnist was allowed to write that and whether the publisher was interested in bidding for the next Power Plant or not. Afterwards surely the power station is built. Many distinguished authors therefore no longer write in Turkish, but only in English language newspapers of Turkish publishers.
(Translation: Stratos Moraitis/Idil Elveris)