Chomsky on Freedom of Speech in Turkey (vs. Europe)

Text of lecture delivered at the Istanbul Conference on Freedom of Speech, April 10, 2010

Turning to Turkey, the immediate tasks are much more difficult. Five years ago, I was asked to submit a comment for a conference on freedom of expression here. I would like to reiterate some of what I said, which seems to me important to keep in mind. Turkey has its share of extremely serious human rights violations, including major crimes. There is no need for me to elaborate on that after todayÕs discussion. But Turkey also has a remarkable tradition of resistance to these crimes. That includes, first and and foremost, the victims, who refuse to submit and continue to struggle for their rights, with courage and dedication that can only inspire humility among people who enjoy privilege and security. But beyond that Ð and here Turkey has an unusual and perhaps unique place in the world — these struggles are joined by prominent writers, artists, journalists, publishers, academics and others, who not only protest state crimes, but go far beyond to constant acts of resistance, risking and sometimes enduring severe punishment. There is nothing like that in the West.

When I visit Europe, and hear self-righteous charges that Turkey is not yet fit to join the enlightened company of the European Union, I often feel, and say, that it may be the other way around, particularly in defense of freedom of speech, a record of which Turkey should be very proud, and from which we can all learn a great deal.



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