Turkey: Ban on 453 books lifted – new bans on the way

7 January 2013

Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor for Press, Kürşat Kayral, decided after an investigation that a ban on 453 books, 645 newspapers, periodicals, brochures, and banners should be lifted, wrote the Freedom of Expression Weekly Bulletin in its 49th issue on 7 December 2012.

Under the Third Judicial Pack arrangements by the Turkish Government, publishing, distributing and vending has been banned for certain publications since 1949. Among these were books such as ‘Tarihçe-i Hayat’ by Bediüzzaman Said-i Nursi; ‘Komünist Manifesto’ by Marx; ‘Devlet ve İhtilal’ by Lenin; ‘Toplu Yazılar’ by Mahir Çayan; ‘Azizname’ by Aziz Nesin; ‘Bütün Eserleri’ by Nâzım Hikmet; and an issue of Tommiks cartoon comics of 1961.

However, “while hundreds of wrongs were made right, new wrongs are on the way for Turkey,” the Hürriyet Daily News wrote on 7 January 2013, while listing a row of examples of censorship in the literary field.

For instance, following a complaint by a parent, the Turkish Ministry of Education launched a disciplinary investigation on a secondary teacher in Istanbul for giving a reading assignment from Vasconcelos’ ‘My Sweet Orange Tree’ – a book which was on the list of 453 books. The parent’s complaint was made on the grounds that the book included obscene content, slang language and a plot that clashed with Turkish morals and values.

‘Unfavorable to the state’ seems to be the norm in Turkey when banning books and sending authors, publishers and translators to jail, Emrah Güler commented in Hürriyet Daily News:

“Inciting religious hatred and critiquing state terror are the grounds to attack books and those behind those books. The Kurdish question and the Armenian genocide are the biggest literary landmines.

The Turkish translation of writer Richard Dawkins’ book on evolutionary biology, ‘The God Delusion’, had caused its publisher Erol Karaaslan to be investigated by an Istanbul prosecutor back in 2007 for ‘inciting religious hatred’. In 1993, religious hatred led to one of the biggest massacres in the history of modern Turkey. A mob of radical Islamists set fire to a hotel where artist, writers, and musicians had gathered for a festival in the Central Anatolian city of Sivas, where 37 died.

The frenzy had begun upon the presence of Aziz Nesin, who had translated and published extracts from Salman Rushdie’s ‘The Satanic Verses’, the book that had ignited Ayatollah Khomeini, the then-leader of Iran, to issue a fatwa for the death of Rushdie and anyone related to the publication of the book. Unfortunately, banning a book for its slang language or for including dialogue on going to brothels seems innocent when you live in Turkey.”
Read more:

Hürriyet Daily News – 7 January 2013:
50 shades of Turkish censorship
In what amounts to a set of one irony after another, Turkey is freeing hundreds of books from decades of exclusion while simultaneously threatening to ban two world classics. By Emrah Güler

List of ‘forbidden books’ became a book

‘Vaaay Kitabın Başına Gelenler’ (‘What has Befallen the Books’) tells the stories of books that have been banned since the Tanzimat era (1839 reforms) to this day in Turkey.

Comprising of 12 chapters, the book deals with those books which have been banned or confiscated under topics like “Felony against Atatürk, pornographic publications, deriding and defaming the Turkish Armed forces, anti laicist”. Communist Manifesto translated in 1923 by Doctor Şefik Hüsnü; “Vatan Haini Değil, Vatan Dostu Vahidüddin” by Necip Fazıl Kısakürek; an album by caricaturist Mim Uykusuz; “Yürümek” by Sevgi Soysal; Women’s Slang Dictionary; “Mehmed’in Kitabı” by Nadire Mater; “Solcular ve Kızıllar” by Reha Oğuz Türkan; “İhlas Sureleri” by Said-i Nursi are some of the books mentioned in the study.

A separate chapter is dedicated to İsmail Beşikçi since all of his books have been banned. Belge Publishers owner Ragıp Zarakolu in his foreword observes that during the Kenan Evren era, around 50 publishers and 500 bookshop were closed down in Turkey.

Vice President of the Journalists Association of Turkey, Turgay Olcayto, said that Emin Karaca was chosen to edit the book by Publishers League.

This was reported by Antenna-TR on 19 December 2012

Poetry by Yunus Emre censored

In a Turkish Literature textbook for 10th grade school pupils, the editors of the book, Fırat Publishers, have omitted one stanza of eight in a poem by Yunus Emre. The Ministry of Education has approved this, reported Antenna-TR.

Reportedly, the poet Yunus Emre’s words “Cennet cennet dedikleri / Birkaç köşkle birkaç huri / İsteyene ver onları / Bana seni gerek seni” (‘Heaven they say is / so many mansions and houris / bestow them to those who wish so / me, I only need you’) have been censored and removed.

The ministry stated that “out of the eight stanzas in the poem, seven have been rendered purposefully and faithfully by the editors of the book and it is their decision how much they are to quote”.


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