I blogged earlier about the unpleasant experiences of a Turkish friend, Professor Atilla Yayla, whose remarks got him in hot water in Turkey, including suspension from his post as a professor at Gazi University and public denunciations as a traitor. He has now written a vigorous defense of freedom of speech in Turkey for the International Herald Tribune, “Freedom of Expression in Turkey.” As Atilla explains,
After my fear and panic in the first few days, I think I now understand why this is happening.
I am a well-known classical liberal. I openly defend human rights for everybody. That naturally includes the rights of Kurds and conservative Muslims.
The Kemalists hate my attitude, but they are not able to challenge and refute my ideas. Their opportunity came with this event and they turned my criticism of Kemalism into an insult against Ataturk.
But Turkish journalists, cartoonists, writers and academics face more than just state ideology and trial by media. Law 5816 prohibits publicly “insulting Ataturk’s memory.” Just to be sure, Article 301 of the penal code stipulates prison for “public denigration of Turkishness, the Republic or the Grand National Assembly of Turkey” or “the Government of the Republic of Turkey, the judicial institutions of the State, the military or security structures.”
Yayla is a well known classical liberal in Turkey. He has devoted his life to defending the rights of everyone, regardless of religion, language, nationality, ethnicity, gender, or other characteristics. Now it’s time for others to defend his rights.