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4th Gathering in Istanbul for Freedom of Expression


The 4th Gathering in Istanbul for Freedom of Expression took place between 19-22 November. 23 guests from 14 countries contributed. The activities were organised in different locations in Istanbul. The gathering was supported by “The Association of Freedom of Expression”, International PEN, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Freemuse and Article 19. The 5th G. was also supported by various municipalities. The Central Municipality of Istanbul played a leading role and local municipalities of Beyoðlu, Beykoz, Pendik, Sarýyer and Üsküdar have opened their resources and facilities to NGOs and hosted dinners for the guests. Bilgi University, Association of Lawyers, Human Rights Association Istanbul Branch, Amnesty International TR Section and The Initiative For Freedom of Expression have all organised events and contributed to the Gathering.


Voltaire’s birthday
Voltaire’s 311th. birthday was celebrated at Tevfik Fikret museum on 20 November. Famous poet Tevfik Fikret’s house on the hills of Boshporoush (called “Asiyan” which means “birds’ nest”) is a literary museum today. The guests of the 4th. Gathering met in the garden of the museum where Tevfik’s tomb is placed extending their respect to the memory of all those  writers and phylosophers who paid for freedom of expression in the past from Nazým Hikmet to Mehmet Akif. Voltaire’s birthday was celebrated with a birthday cake with 311 candles. Fikret and Akif who did not agree and had a lot of debates at the time were remembered side by side on Voltaire’s birthday.

Forum at Bilgi University
New restrictions and threats against freedom of expression introduced in the name of fighting terror were discussed at a forum organised at Bilgi University on 21 November, “The Future of Freedom of Expression after 9/11”. Writers Orhan Pamuk and Mehmed Uzun took part in the discussion. American intellectual Noam Chomsky sent a video message in which he said that Turkey had its share of human rights violations but “People in Turkey continiue to fight so Europe has a lot to learn from Turkey».

Prof. Turgut Tarhanlý chaired the meeting, speakers included Niloufer Bhagwat, Jonathan Sugden, O.Uygun, Corrine Kumar, Bill Strachan, Eva Norstörm, Yusuf Alataþ, Levent Korkut, Ayþe Erzan, Eugene Schoulgin, Klaus Slavensky, Vassilis Vassilikos, Murathan Mungan, Tété-Michel Kpomassie, Fadhila Chebbi, Alexis Krikorian, Mete Çubukçu, Ömer Madra, Chenjerai Hove, Prof. Jeloul Azurra, Agnes Callamard, Aydýn Engin.

«To Freedom… » (Special gala for Guest Writers)
P.E.N. Turkey Center organised an event, supported by Beyoðlu municipality where the guests of the 4th. Gathering were introduced. The event took place on Monday 21 November 2005, at Muammer Karaca Theater. Writer Tété Michel Kpomassie from Togo, writer Eugene Schoulgin (Norway), Mehmed Uzun (Kurdish writer based in Sweden), writer Chenjerai Hove (Zimbabwe), writer prof. Jaloul Azzouna and poet Ms. Fadhila Chebbi (Tunisia), Iranian writer Ms. Fatemeh Sejadi and the writer of unforgettable novel “Z”  Vassilis Vassilikos made speeches and video clips were screened. Extracts from the films “Z”, “Missing” and “The Way” were screened. Muammer Ketencoðlu and Iranian singer Ms. Mahsa Vahdat performed songs. After a video message of Harold Pinter, New Generation Theater (Mehmet Ergen) presented a part of Pinter’s play “Mountain Language”. PEN Chairman Vecdi Sayar did the opening speech and translations, actor Cüneyt Türel and acctress Tilbe Saran presented the event in two languages.Ragýp Zarakolu’s trials and the press statement of the guests
The guests attended the trials of publisher Zarakolu for publishing two books on Armenian tragedy by the writers Jerjian and Sakayan. The trials were at Sultanahmet 2nd. Criminal Court of First Instance on 22 November. The public prosecutor asked the court to penalise Zarakolu for Sakayan’s book under the Penal Code article 301.The guests talking to journalist afterwards said that they observed that the restrictions on freedom of expression remained. Ragýp Zarakolu said «This is also a fight to broaden the limits of freedom of expression”. HRW reporter for Turkey Jonathan Sugden said «The court could have ruled for acquittal under the article 10 of European Convention of Human Rights». The next hearing will be on 15 February 2006.

23 observers from 14 countries made a joint statement after the case. At the press conference (at Nazým Hikmet Foundation), Executive Member of PEN International, writer Eugene Schoulgin and representative of International Publishers Association Alexis Krikorian were present. The joint statement read:

We are sorry that todays court decisions were not acquittals. In 2004 Turkish Grand National Assembly amending the Constitution, decided that the European Convention of Human Rights to be applicable in domestic legislation. The article 10 of the Convention does not allow trials such as Ragýp Zarakolu’s where he was asked to be imprisoned for 6 years. Therefore it is up to the courts to decide acquittal in such cases.

Increasing nýmber of freedom of expression cases is worrying. We invite all prosecutors and the judicial bodies to implement the statements of the Parliament and the government that the freedom of expression would be respected.

Round table:
“Freedom of Expression in Turkey. What have we gained so far?”
The problems of freedom of expression in Turkey was discussed. The discussion was organised by PEN Turkey Center on 22 November in Muammer Karaca Theatre. The meeting was chaired by Nadire Mater and speakers included Metin Celal, Erol Önderoglu, Fethiye Çetin, Nadire Mater, Fikret Ýlkiz, Ferhat Tunç, Emin Karaca, Ragip Zarakolu, Enis Batur. The meeting was supported by Beyoglu municipality.

Common Denominator (Ortak Payda) meetings

Last meetings of «Ortak Payda» in 2005 took place on 19 and 20 November. Contributors from 14 cities and Ortak Payda Working Group came together and evaluated the conclusions of last years meetings which took place in 15 districts. The final reports will be published as a booklet «Ortak Payda 2005» and 550 copies of it will be sent to the Parliament. It will be distributed to the press and sold with a symbolic price.

Panel Discussion of the Association of Members of Legal Profession (Üsküdar borough)
The Association of Members of Legal Profession organised a panel discussion on “The legal and social dimensions of Freedom of Expression” which took place on 19 November in Çamlica Cultural Center. Law. Muhammed Emin Özkan chaired the meeting. Lecturer Dr. Hakan Hakeri (Selçuk Uni.), assistant lecturer Dr. Bekir Berat Özipek (Hacettepe Üni.), Nabi Yaðcý (journalist, writer) were among the speakers. Üsküdar municipality allocated the Cultural Center as venue.

Children’s Festival (Beykoz borough)
“I am a kid! I think, I play” a chain of activities took place in Beykoz Municipality Cultural Center on 20 November. Bengi Su Dönmez’s (aged 13) film “Do not step on it!” was screened, art workshops were organised. Amnesty International Turkey Center organised the event with support from Beykoz municipality and «Universal Children’s Rights, Local authorities » contributed.Panel Discussion: “Children are speaking” (Pendik borough)
Another activity on 20 November World Children’s Day was a panel discussion “Children are Speaking” organised by Human Rights Association Istanbul branch with the support of Pendik local council. Buses were organised to pick children from 7 different localisities in Istanbul with participation of other local municipalities. The meeting was chaired by children, speakers were children, audience were made up of children. Children discussed the restrictions preventing them from expressing themselves freely at home, at school and in society.List of the guests of “The 4th Gathering in Istanbul for Freedom of Expression

Agnes Callamard, GB, ARTICLE 19 (Executive Director)
Alexis Krikorian, Switzerland, IPA (International Publishers’ Association)
Bill Strachan, USA, AAP (Association of American Publishers)
Chenjerai Hove, Zimbabwe, Writer
Corrine Kumar, India, Sociolog
Eugene Schoulgin, Norway, Writer, International PEN (Board Member)
Eva Norstörm, Denmark, Euromed HR Net (Europe Mediteranean HR Network)
Fadhila Chebbi, Tunisia, Poet
Fatemeh Sajadi, Iran, Writer, Swedish PEN member
Hal Fessenden, USA, AAP (Association of American Publishers)
Prof. Jeloul Azzura, Tunisia, Writer
Jonathan Sugden, GB, Human Rights Watch Turkey Reporter
Kemal Kirac, Germany, Federation of  Immigrant Associations (Gen. Secretary)
Kjell Olaf Jensen, Norway, Norwegian PEN President
Klaus Slavensky, Denmark, FREEMUSE (The World Forum on Music and Censorship)
Mahsa Vahdat, Iran, Singer
Mehmed Uzun, Sweden, Writer, Swedish PEN member
Niloufer Bhagwat. India, Lawyer
Ole Gunnar Solheim, Norway, Norwegian PEN
Ronald Boss, Holland, Dutch PEN
Terry Carlbom, Sweden, Swedish PEN
Tété-Michel Kpomassie, Togo, Writer, French PEN member
Vassilis Vassilikos, Greece, Writer, former Permanent Representative of Greece at UNESCO

MESSAGES:  Peter Benenson, Arthur Miller, Joan Baez, Prof. Noam Chomsky, Harold Pinter