IN OTHER WORDS: Brave plea

Political scientists evaluate societies with quantitative methods. Literary figures prefer a more telling, qualitative criterion: freedom of expression. The 2006 Turkish Nobel laureate for literature, Orhan Pamuk, delivered a devastating critique of the power elite in his own country last week when he lamented the oppression of Turkish writers at the Frankfurt Book Fair.

Pamuk’s description of the situation of Turkish writers was courageous, and not only because he gave it in the presence of Turkey’s President Abdullah Gul. The novelist’s denunciation of attempts to silence writers was striking because in 2005 he himself had been charged, under the infamous Article 301 of the Turkish penal code. As Pamuk said, “The state’s habit of penalizing writers and their books is still very much alive; Article 301 of the Turkish penal code continues to be used to silence and suppress writers.”

Pamuk was not only protesting the folly of repressing writers in the name of protecting Turkish identity. He also made a plea for Turkey’s writers to “value the richness of our cultural traditions and our own uniqueness.” Turkish political elites should heed this plea. Turkey wants to be both true to itself and truly European. That can happen only when it allows writers to express themselves freely.