Free speech in Turkey & the world – part two

Historian Halil Berktay discusses the denial by the Turkish state that the mass murders of hundreds of thousands of Armenians in 1915 constituted a genocide.

In the second part of this debate on freedom of expression in Turkey, prominent journalist Hasan Cemal says that the Turkish state has for decades exploited the fear of various ideologies, from communism to Kurdish sepratism, to deny its citizens freedom of expression. Cemal adds that while the plight of the Armenians in 1915 and Kurdish identity are now being discussed, criticism of Islam, the Prophet Muhammad or of Atatürk is still taboo today. (You can read the full text of his speech here.) The next speaker, Halil Berktay says he is reluctant to impose restrictions on free speech. A historian at Sabanci University, Berktay has frequently spoken about the 1915 Armenian Genocide, a taboo in Turkish society, without prosecution. He recounts a time at a prestigious event when a number of stories about the genocide surfaced. In one instance, a guest narrated a story about his grandfather, a butcher, who would return at the end of the day drenched in blood after butchering Armenians.

You can watch part one here.

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  1. Politicians the world over are the greatest threats to freedom of expression. A few days ago Michael Ignatieff gave a brief interview to BBC Scotland in which he contrasted the independence movements in Scotland and Quebec. Among other things he said that he thought full Quebec independence was a certainty…The storm of abuse and vituperation his comment provoked from both politicians and elements of the Press was an indication of the intolerance existing here in Canada to freedom of expression. Mr Ignatieff was speaking as an academic, not as the politician he once was. If academics cannot speak their minds, who can? As it is, we have far too many mealy-mouthed academics in Canada. And bigoted left-wing academics too!

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Free Speech Debate is a research project of the Dahrendorf Programme for the Study of Freedom at St Antony's College in the University of Oxford.

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