26 Mayıs 2013 Pazar

Liana Aghajanian interview

Here's the full article:

The questions and my answers:

1. Receiving criticism for your writing and thoughts is something you've had experience with in the past - how do you deal with this? Do you take any of these threats seriously, do they scare you?
I receive a daily deluge of extremely graphic insults and death threats. One gets used to them after a while, though. They do not scare me any more. As far as I know no politically-motivated assassination has ever taken place in this country unless ordered from high up. I doubt that in the current atmosphere the powers that be would have either the inclination or the courage to create another Armenian martyr.

2. Prosecutors have accused you of "overstepping the boundaries of freedom of speech and criticism." What is your response to this accusation?
The quality of legal education in Turkey is abysmal. Evidently this young prosecutor was under the illusion that saying something mildly distasteful to the prevailing religious opinion is beyond the boundaries of free speech.

3. You previously said, "Here I am an Armenian doing something no Armenian has done in a Muslim country. This is really the height of boldness, of impudence. This is something you are not supposed to do." How did your ethnic background play a role in this prosecution and lengthy sentence you received?
I believe it was the key issue. People are simply not used to a member of a non-Muslim minority speaking boldly and coherently on sensitive national and/or religious issues. It drives some people mad.

4. What kind of experience have you had as an Armenian writer in Turkey, or just as a citizen of Turkey? What challenges do Armenians or minorities in general face in Turkey today?
Prejudice and ignorance are still rampant, but things have improved vastly in the last decade. Goodwill is now the dominant note among opinion leaders. I have received some very positive, very encouraging endorements from the better-informed segments of the Turkish public.
But even there, you find this underlying sense that an Armenian should never come so openly forward. You know, “we all love our Armenians, but we like them nice and soft.” That about summarizes the dominant attitude. 

5. I noticed that some Armenian Diasporans on social networks have compared what has happened in your case to that of Hrant Dink, calling for the State Department to protest your sentencing. What kind of similarities, if any, exist between you and him?
A hate campaign was systematically mounted against Hrant over a period of two years. There was judicial harrassment, barking mobs, death threats and terrifying headlines in the trashy press. My experience has been very similar so far. Except that Hrant was attacked primarily by the secular nationalists, and I am attacked mainly by the religious camp. These are considered the opposite poles of the political spectrum here.

6. You have vowed to appeal your sentence. What do you think or hope will come of this?
It is an outrageous verdict in legal terms, so I expect the higher court may throw it out. What they will do next, if that happens, is to harrass me on some other, preferably non-political charge. I have a dozen other criminal cases pending on silly bureaucratic charges. That has been going on for almost twenty years now, and I doubt they they will give up any time soon.

7. In your article, you said you argued that hate speech is only criminal if it actually puts the rights or security of a vulnerable group in jeopardy. You wrote the blog post in response to the furor around the film. What in particular struck a chord in you and compelled you to write about it? Did you expect the commotion it caused?
There was an uproar here last year over that cheapo Muhammed film, and several top politicians close to the prime minister took the opportunity sound out a new Hate Speech Law curtailing “disrespect” of Islamic values. I thought then (and I still think now) that this is a serious threat to public freedoms. I had the urge to discuss the idea of “hate speech” and its limits.
I confess that this article by Daniel Pipes http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2012/09/24/mocking-muhammad-is-not-hate-speech/ was the immediate source of inspiration for my note. I am not a fan of either Mr. Pipes or Fox News. But I felt they had a good point here.

8. What are your thoughts on the freedom of expression (or seriously lack thereof) in Turkey today?
Historically, the military establishment has been the biggest threat to civic rights and freedoms in this country. The government of Tayyip Erdoğan has done a great job of dismantling that apparatus of military dominance. It is a pity that now a counter-wave of Islamic bigotry seems to be on the rise.
9. You have previously served time in jail - what was that experience like, if you were to sum it up?
It is like being at a particulary stupid boarding school. Nothing really terrible, just tedious and sometimes infuriating. I had plenty of time to concentrate on my linguistic work. The first edition of my etymological dictionary shaped up in jail. A few months in the cage now might be a good chance for me to work on the next revised edition.

10. You mention in your latest blog post that several individuals around Turkey filed complaints about the article. Do you have any idea who they are? And what does their offense at your post mean in the larger scheme of things?
Muslim opinion was muzzled in this country for almost three generations. Now that the muzzle is off, I think some people are testing their newly acquired voice. 

12 yorum:

  1. "As far as I know no politically-motivated assassination has ever taken place in this country unless ordered from high up."

    I seriously doubt that. There are plenty of loose cannons out there. Uneducated and nationalist kids who got so little to loose and three bricks shy of a load.

  2. I appreciate Mr. Nisanyan overall and I agree with most of what he said in the interview ! But I don't agree with his final comments here. I don't agree that Muslim opinion was muzzled in this country for almost 3 generations. Come on, in Turkey, it has always been mostly Christians, Jews and left-wingers who were killed or persecuted or forced to leave the country. Kurds also suffered but their suffering was due to the ethnicity factor, not religion.

    Observant Muslims suffered too but only in relatively minor stuff, like not being able to wear a headscarf to public offices or universities.

    1. A classic case of elite insensitivity.

  3. hocam, "ne güzel işte, çalışmak için fırsatım olur" diyorsunuz da hapis için, ya bu sefer özellikle müsaade etmezler, imkanınızı kısıtlamaya kalkarlarsa? mümkün mü böyle bir şey? (hiç hapse düşmedik, bilmiyoruz.)

  4. Dear Mr. Nisanyan,

    I'd like to say a few words about the military interventions and especially the Sledgehammer Case. A schoolmate of mine at Yale has been one of the hundreds of victims of the ongoing trial about the so called attempt to overthrow the government more or less ten years ago. His father has been sentenced to 16 years in prison and already served several years. In your eighth answer, you mentioned the historical dominance of Turkish Army in the politics and Erdogan's role in dismantling it, but, as an outspoken critic of both Islam and state ideology, I reckon you should have noticed the growing jeopardy of politicized Islam as the latter has gradually become less and less effective. Through my friend, whose father is a retired admiral in the Turkish Navy, I had numerous opportunities to attend conferences and meetings both in the US and Turkey and I had the impression that the freedom of speech has become fairy tale and tolerance against the "others" in general has diminished over the course of last two years, during the victorious Islamic AKP's third term. In my opinion, what led to this dramatic consequence in your case is to be sought in the rising dominance of Islam in Turkey. I presume that, as long as the Islamists hold the whip hand, your life and the lives of the "others" in Turkey -atheists, agnostics, members of the Armenian, Jewish communities etc. - will become more and more difficult day by day. Although I am not an expert on Turkish politics, I can see the reasons beyond your hostile attitude towards the secular camp. But I'd give a second thought as to whether or not I should keep supporting the "lesser of two evils" if I were you. The attempts to transform the authoritarian, secular state into a democratic one by backing up the Islamists might lead to a complete catastrophe for you.

    Hope the Supreme Court will be wise enough to reconsider the conviction. No one should be found guilty of expressing opinions freely - no matter how bothersome they are.

  5. Sayın Sevan Bey, ingilizcem iyi değil, ama algıları çok şükür açık bir insanım, bu güne kadar hiç bir şekilde insanları rahatsız etmedim, etmem de. Hiç kimseye zararım olmadı,bildiğim kadarıyla, olmaz da...peki bu dünya şekeri ve iyisi, muhammedin ya da isa'nın benden gram ne üstün yanı var?? bolca hatun edinmiş biri peygamberler, benim tek bir sevgilim oldu, o da beni,sevmedi aldattı)) muhammed ya da isa bence benden iyi insanlar değiller.. ben bir çocuğa bile şunu getirir diyemem, utanırım, komiğime gider bu emrim)) ama bu şizofrenler, bayağı etkililer.. düşünüyorum düşünüyorum,, bulamıyorum muhammedin ya da isa nın benden üstün tek bir yanını.. allah benim gibi akıllı ve efendi bir insanı niye sevmedi de, bu höt zört tuhafları peygamber seçti abim? sorum budur. bunlar tuhaftır ! demek allah seviyor garipliği..bilemedim. inanki ne isa ne muhammed benim kadar sevgi doludur .. atmıyorum, iyi bir insan olmaya çalıştım ben..ama onlar hak etmedikleri halde çok sertler, ben höt zört allahı bile sevemezken, nebilerini niye seveyim???

  6. ha diyeceksiniz, peygamberler çok acı çekmişler... bu da koca bir yalandır! anasız babasız büyüyen bir insan inanki daha mutludur)) ben de öyle büyüdüm,hiç de kendimi eksik hissetmiyorum,bazen anasız babası olmak insanı daha mutlu kılar, çakal bir ana babanın mahsülü olmaktasa.. hiç bir peygamber acı çekmemiştir)) hatta bu yüzden şımarıktırlar)) ben allaha soruyorum, ben peygamber kıldığın tuhaf yaratıklardan daha insan ve sevgi doluydum, niye beni bir kenara attın???

  7. isa bir yana pardon!!! allah baba isa'ya en baba kazığını atmıştır piç! allah o yüzden de orospuçocuğu şeytanın teki kahpedir!
    isa'nın son lafı çarmıhta' allah nerdesin?'beni neden yalnız bıraktın?' olmuştur... o yüzden allahın da anasını sikmek lazım. isa bence iyi ve mazlumdur, bu yüzden daha çok severim onu muhammedten. muhammed te iyidir o allahı sikip atmıştır)) isa allaha kendini murdar etmiştir)) neyse ikisi de kardeştir..

  8. Sevan Abi, peygamberlik öyle efendiliği pek kabul etmiyor bayağı sertlik gerektiriyor,)) İsa da sertti(ki yaşamı muallaktır); Muhammed haydi haydi sertti))İsa'nın çoğu şeyi tevatürdür,.. Ama Muhammed İsa hakkında tek bir kötü laf etmemiştir,ben duymadım, 3 bin yıl önceki yahudilik dersen, herkes bu tutucu garipler hakkında bir şey uyduruyordu zaten..Ama Muhammed İsa'ya karşı bence kötü laf etmedi,sallama lütfen..))ya da ben bilmiyorum))

  9. sakın yanlış anlamayın, belki de hak din yahudiliktir.bu koca allah zırt pırt her şeyi revize edecek kadar keriz değildir, 3 bin yıl önce söyleyeceğini kısaca söyleyip bırakmıştır.madem her şeye kudreti var, neden yahudileri ayrıcalıklı bir halk olarak kutsamasın? sonra da 3 bin yıl rezil etsin bu insanları! allah işte götü sıkılıyor pezevengin))

  10. boş ver abim, seni çok çok severim, senin kılına dokunanın muhammed bile evveliyatını siker! sen muhammede küfretmedin, muhammed seni sever)) allah yolunu açık etsin canişim..bir şey olmaz.