Monday, January 9, 2012

The Turkish Winter Never Ends

Ismail Besikci is a Turkish sociologist, who has served 17 years in prison for his writings on the lives and rights of Kurds in Turkey. In 2011, Besikci was again sentenced to 15 months in prison for 'PKK propaganda' in his article 'The rights of the nations to self-determination and the Kurds' that he wrote for the Association of Contemporary Lawyers.

Read and listen to the story of Ismail Besikci and other Turkish writers, editors and academics, who are prosecuted or jailed for their views in PBS's Frontline Story, A Turkish Winter, by Nicholas Birch and David Gross, aired March 27, 2007.

"I've been in prison 17 years since 1971, at different times and in different places, of course. I was in jail between 1971 and 1974. Then I began writing again. I was in jail again in 1980, briefly. When I got out, I carried on writing. 1981 brought another prison term, till 1987 this time. I went back to writing afterward. Then, from 1991 to 1999, I was in jail again. But you know all of this, I think, don't you?
My life is normal enough. You do what you have to do from day to day. You can walk in the street without stopping and looking behind you the whole time. But if you are investigated for expressing your thoughts, that's a threat. You can't plan. You don't know when you might have to go to the police station or to the prosecutor. You might even get a jail sentence. Planning becomes impossible.
And then, a writer has to be able to live off his books. But that hasn't been possible for me because you write a book and it's taken to court, banned. This publishing house -- Yurt Kitap -- has published 33 of [my] books. Thirty of them ended up in court. Some got let off, but others were banned. So what happens? Neither I nor the publisher can make any money.

Turkey is stuck. It can't give up on Europe, but it can't give up these thought crimes either. What happens? It leaves everything hanging. [laughs] No solution, always the same problem."

To see a recent intervention letter written for İsmail Beşikçi's case by the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) -- Committee on Academic Freedom, please visit: