Around 40 Warwick students attended a speech about human rights in Turkey on 24 February in the Ramphal building.
The speech was given by Maureen Freely, an American-born journalist, novelist and translator, who is best known for translating the work of the Nobel prize-winning author Orhan Pamuk.
Orhan Pamuk was arrested in 2005 for speaking out against Turkish authorities, specifically for revealing their mass killings of Armenians and Kurds.
This was due to the introduction of Article 301, which states that “A person who, being a Turk, explicitly insults the Republic or Turkish Grand National Assembly, shall be punishable by imprisonment of between six months to three years.”
Pamuk’s prosecution, which took place against the backdrop of Turkey’s request to enter the European Union, generated international outrage.
However Freely, who grew up in Turkey, claims that the media neglect coverage of most of the human rights violations that take place in the country, saying, “I can’t understand why there has been next to no coverage of these trials and arrests in the UK and US”.
Freely began translating prisoner’s accounts for Amnesty International in the 1980s. It was at this point that she discovered atrocities taking place that she hadn’t previously heard about and even more shocking was the fact that she knew many of the people involved.
She discussed the government’s manipulation of Turkish media. After saying she believed it was a woman’s right to choose whether or not to wear a headscarf, the media twisted her words to fit headlines such as “Maureen Freely spits on Islam!”
Furthermore, Pamuk, who is hated by most writers in Istanbul, is “very patriotic and wants to be loved by his country”, she said.
Freely is now a prolific figure in the Freedom of Expression movement in Turkey, saying that “there is not enough of that dialogue. There’s much more disrespect than communication.”
The talk, organised by Warwick Amnesty, was also well attended by members of the Turkish Society. Co-President and talk organiser Emily Death said, “I’m so glad that Warwick Amnesty can attract speakers as influential and high-profile as Maureen. It’s important that people are eager to learn more about human rights violations in other parts of the world.”
Postgraduate student and Warwick Amnesty member Richard Metcalfe said, “The situation in Turkey clearly needs examining, especially given how close it sometimes seems to be to joining the EU.
“People generally have no idea what is going on in the country, but it’s very interesting, especially to hear first or even second-hand accounts.”