Project’s regional meeting in Diyarbakır was held on 7 April 2015 at Liluz Hotel with attendance of various local publishers, journalists, writers and translators. Poet Ahmet Telli, publisher Tugrul Pasaoglu and lawyer Tora Pekin made short speeches reflecting their personel experiences and observations regarding freedom to publish in Turkey.
Tora Pekin, also lawyer of Cumhuriyet Daily,started his speech by commenting that Diyarbakır is a city where mother tongue as a verbal or written tool has been forbidden for long time and a great fight to regain it has been put up. Pekin said freedom of expression is the primary problem of Turkey now and gave examples of the court cases to Cumhuriyet columnists for Charlie Hebdo illustration, Penguen comic magazine’s case and increasing restrictions over social media.Stressing that the problem has got bigger after 17-25 December investigations,Pekin argued that limitless bans over internet has become a major tool to erase a certain period from social memory. He added that Penal Code Article 216 which originally intended to protect the minorities has been used for a while to protect majority and supress minorities, thus has replaced the Article 301.
Poet Ahmet Telli said, before writers autocensored themselves not to be sued under Articles 141 and 142 of Penal Code. Sharing his earlier experiences regarding censorship and autocensorship including threats and imprisonment, Telli said “Before, anything regarding ‘Kurd’ and Kurdishness was a cause for punishment. When we look back now, we have come a long way. If today people can publish Kurdish texts, it is not a favour of the authorities in charge or a gained right but a must gained by struggle.”
Publisher Tugrul Paşaoğlu expressed that he himself was also sued for his magazine distirbution activity. He added that İletişim Publishing has been sued for its books on various issues such as Kurdish question, Alawism, Armenian genocide with the accusation of provoking different sect against one another or abuse of religion. He commented that these cases gave clues about which issues the state saw as dangerous and should-be-stopped and silenced.
After opening speeches, the participants expressed their comments and discussed on the problems against freedom to publish around Diyarbakır. Among main problems expressed were the Kurdish writers’ books not being distributed to and cannot have place on the bookshelves western cities of Turkey, depriving the Kurdish readers there of the Kurdish publications.