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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Shafak’s acquittal a victory for

    Elif Shafak, a UA assistant professor in the Near Eastern studies department, was acquitted Thursday of charges brought against her by the government of Turkey. She had been charged with “”insulting Turkishness”” in her novel “”The Bastard of Istanbul.”” In the novel, characters reference “”Turkish butchers”” who carried out a massacre that many historians consider to be genocide against the Armenian population of the country.

    The genocide, which occurred in 1915, remains a taboo subject in a nation trying to position itself as a modern player in world politics, most notably through its efforts to join the European Union.

    The charges levied against Shafak were decried by the international community – particularly by other member states of the EU, who viewed such a policy as incompatible with the forward aims of the European community.

    She faced a jail term of up to three years if found guilty of insulting the nation through her reference to the past it would rather forget.

    However, common sense and modern thought prevailed at her trial, and the presiding judge found insufficient evidence that a crime against the state had been committed.

    Shafak’s victory represents something larger than her own freedom – the importance of which certainly cannot be understated. However, the international attention the case attracted – there were 300 riot police surrounding the court where her verdict was announced, and her charges have been in news pages around the globe – serves as an important reminder: Severe restrictions on freedom of speech are intolerable in the modern global community.

    When Shafak was found not guilty, her victory resounded with the UA community. The campus community has stood with Shafak throughout her charges, with multiple departments organizing letter-writing campaigns.

    Students, professors, departments and even Provost George Davis worked together to support a UA associate. Although these endeavors were not the primary reason for her acquittal, they did help increase the international spotlight on her case. And for the cynic, the determined efforts put forth through this campaign demonstrates that our university is more than just an institution; it is a community that cares for its members. When Shafak needed our support the most, it was unquestionably available.

    In a private interview with NTV television, Shafak affirmed, “”You would counter writing with writing, not with a gun.”” Hopefully, her example of tolerance and truth-seeking will continue to resound long after this issue has fallen out of press coverage.

    Shafak’s victory is one not just for her or the UA community, but for a more tolerant Turkey in the future.

    Thank you for your courage, Elif Shafak. The UA community is grateful for your example and celebrates your freedom.

    Opinions are determined by the Wildcat opinions board and written by one of its members. They are Nina Conrad, Lori Foley, Ryan Johnson, Ari Lerner, Nicole Santa Cruz and Matt Stone.

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