Turkey’s ethnic and linguistic cleansing

With the prosecution of Orhan Pamuk looming, writer Elif Shafak and other Turkish scholars recently held a panel discussion on Turkey’s failure to acknowledge the Armenian genocide. Shafak emphasized the importance of “putting a face and a name on the victims of atrocities,” and noted that

for today’s Turkish youth, history starts with the year 1923 — the establishment of the Republic of Turkey, whereas Armenian youth have a much longer historical memory. She referred extensively to the life and writings of Zabel Yessayan — an Istanbul novelist at the turn of the last century — who documented the personal suffering of Armenians during both the 1909 Adana massacres and the subsequent Genocide.

Dr. Shafak said she wanted to see a democratic Turkey. “We need to face our past,” she told the audience. “Turkey had transitioned from a multi-ethnic empire to a homogeneous state,” Prof. Shafak said. Turkey has undergone not only “an ethnic cleansing, but also a linguistic cleansing.”

In late October, Orhan Pamuk said he initially felt isolated after speaking out about the mass killings, but that many people “in Turkey and in the international community” have backed him. “It is thanks to their support that I can defend freedom of speech,” he told the Guardian.

Today Pamuk was awarded France’s Prix Medicis.


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