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Expert: Trial of Turkish Author Orhan Pamuk
Symbolic for Muslim-West Relations

DURHAM, N.C., December. 13 (AScribe Newswire)
-- On Friday, Turkish author Orhan Pamuk will go on trial in Istanbul for "denigrating Turkishness," in a case that has attracted attention from the European Parliament, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.

Duke University visiting assistant professor Erdað Goknar, who translated Pamuk's best-selling novel "My Name is Red" into English, said the trial is a harbinger for relations between the West and Muslim nations.

"For Turkey, a prompt acquittal will signal an affirmation of principles of free speech and a willingness to continue seeking its place in the E.U. and international community," said Goknar, who teaches Turkish language and literature. (Turkey is currently in accession talks with the European Union.) "A guilty verdict, or even a long drawn-out trial, will be a victory" for those trying to thwart transnational cooperation.

"Responses from within the E.U. during the trial will be symbolic, too," Goknar said. "Politicians in E.U. countries could let Turkey work out its political freedoms or they could try to stir up resentment against Turkish immigrants in their countries and fuel jingoism."

The charges against Pamuk stem from an interview with a Swiss newspaper in February 2005, during which he said, "Thirty thousand Kurds and one million Armenians were killed in Turkey," and, "Almost no one dares to speak out on this but me." The remarks refer to conflicts between the Ottoman Empire and Armenians during World War I and the Turkish government and Kurdish insurgents during the 1980s and 90s.

Goknar said the symbolism of Pamuk's trial is enhanced by the content and popularity of the author's novels.

Pamuk and Goknar shared the 2003 IMPAC Dublin Literary Award for the English rendering of "My Name is Red," and Pamuk's "Snow" was among The New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2004. This year, Pamuk won the French Prix Medicis literature prize as well as the German Book Trade's Peace Prize literary award.

"His fiction questions the very notion of a national identity based on a single ethnic, religious or cultural characteristic, and often challenges overly nationalistic perspectives in his work," Goknar said.

CONTACTS: Erda Goknar, 919-660-3151,
James Todd, Duke University Office of News &Communications, 919-681-8061,

NOTE TO EDITORS: Duke provides an on-campus satellite uplink facility for live or pre-recorded television interviews. We are also equipped with ISDN connectivity for radio interviews. Broadcast reporters should contact the Office of Radio-TV Services at 919-681-8067 to arrange an interview. The surname "Goknar" is spelled with an umlaut on the "o." AScribe cannot transmit that diacritical mark.

Media Contact: James Todd, 919-681-8061,

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