Monday, 7 March 2016

Armenian News... A Topalian... Nişanyan won’t be forgotten in jail

Please sign the following petition for the reason given in the article that appeared in Today's Zaman before it was stormed by the Turkish police to enforce a pro-government editor on the paper (this violent takeover is the subject of numerous articles in the international press)

March 04 , 2016, Friday

Nişanyan won’t be forgotten in jail 

Sometimes, one man's destiny is the mirror of an entire society. Sometimes, one man's status is the evidence of a rotten system. Sometimes, changing one man's life is changing a nation's life.

Savan Nişanyan is what can be called an intellectual, not because of his knowledge, but because of his curiosity and thirst for learning and sharing his knowledge. He is interested in languages, architecture, philosophy, history, tourism, mathematics, geography and religion. He “is a man of multiple achievements. Graduate of Yale (BA 1979) and Columbia (MA 1983), he taught linguistic history at the prestigious Istanbul Bilgi University. His Etymological Dictionary of Modern Turkish (first ed. 2002, currently in 3rd ed.) is the main work of reference in its field.” His website on toponymy (names of places) of Turkey is an irreplaceable tool for all researchers.

But, Nişanyan is also what the French call an “agitateur intellectual.” All of his writings, books and articles, and his pieces on his blog ( ) have similar targets: dogmas. He has written on all the dogmas that became traps in Turkey, writing against Kemalism, against Turkish nationalism, against the state system. His book “Yanlış Cumhuriyet / Atatürk ve Kemalizm Üzerine 51 Soru,” (Wrong Republic / 51 Questions on Atatürk and Democracy) (İstanbul, Kırmızı Publications, 2008) is a masterpiece of this agitation in the good sense of the term. Especially during the last six years, he wrote many articles on religion and particularly on Islam. As with all good atheists, Nişanyan knows religions very well, and he asked some disturbing questions denouncing religious dogmas and childish, ignorant beliefs. Nişanyan's knowledge and opinions are healthy for a society to go further if one agrees with him, like me, or even if one disagrees, as many do. I don't know him. I have never met him. When I see his writing style, I tell myself that if we were to meet, we probably wouldn't like each other. But he is essential to Turkey. He has an unusual, frank personality and never acts as expected, even by his supporters. Oh, I almost forgot a detail: He is Armenian.

Being Armenian, atheist, anti-nationalist, anti-Kemalist and a contrarian is too much for Turkey.

“Nişanyan is also known for Şirince, an ancient hill village in the South Aegean, where he has lived with his family since 1992. A self-taught architect, Nişanyan led the effort to preserve and renovate the village, using strictly traditional techniques and forms. Along with Ali Nesin, a prominent mathematician, and others, he founded a series of unconventional academic institutions in Şirince, including a mathematics institute, a philosophical academy and a theatre school. His work received awards, and was nominated for the prestigious Aga Khan Award for architecture.”

The system was searching for a pretext to punish him for his personality, identity and opinions. In a country where even the presidential palace is constructed illegally, where the construction industry and a savage capitalist system never follow any rules or laws, in a country where entire cities, especially İstanbul, are full of the scars of ugly, unsafe, huge constructions, Nişanyan's achievements in Şirince are seen as illegal because of a law declaring the entire village a “protected site” (irony of ironies). At the same time, the Ministry of Tourism presents this ancient Greek village recreated by him in its advertising. In Şirince, Nişanyan built, on his own land, a small stone house in the old style of 63 square meters (To see pictures: ). The house was first used for a mathematics institute and now it has become one of the houses of a philosophy village. For this construction he has been sentenced to two years in prison. In total, he was “handed a cumulative jail sentence of 16 years and 7 months after he made the fatal mistake of using mocking language about Islam in a blog entry in September 2012 . He has been held in a maximum-security Turkish prison since January 2, 2014. He will not be eligible for parole until 2024.”

No doubt, changing Nişanyan's life is changing our lives. Not only because a society where people like him are silenced cannot get better, but also because injustice, double standards and the ideological application of laws are mirrors of the entire system. 

If someone reads these lines, one may join almost 22,000 signatories of the Free Nişanyan petition here: Free Sevan Nisanyan 

The lines between quotation marks in this article were taken from this petition.

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