By SONJA DECHIAN | Published: OCTOBER 31, 2011
The European Court of Human Rights ruled last week that a Turkish law forbidding use of the word ‘genocide’ to describe the organised killing of more than one million Armenians that began in 1915, violates the right to free expression.
Historian Taner Akçam became the target of harassment after publishing on the Armenian genocide. Although he was not persecuted under the law, he claimed its threat caused him to stop writing on the issue. He brought the case to the European Court of Human Rights in 2007.
Article 301 of Turkey’s Criminal Code has been used to convict writers and journalists, with a penalty of three years prison, for denigrating ‘Turkishness.’ In 2005 Hrant Dink, a journalist and editor of bilingual Turkish-Armenian newspaper Agos, was convicted under the law and subsequently shot to death by extremists.
The court found that there had been interference with Akçam’s right to freedom of expression. The Armenian Mirror Spectator quotes from the court ruling: ‘it was widely believed that Hrant Dink had been targeted by extremists because of the stigma attached to his criminal conviction for ‘insulting Turkishness.’’
After the judgement, Akçam told Today’s Zaman, ‘If you cannot speak freely on history, you cannot call your country a democracy and you cannot create a society and a future that respect human rights. There is no ‘Armenian’ side or ‘Turkish’ side to history. To discuss what really happened in history is to speak freely and openly about it, without legends or myths.’