Thousands of books no longer banned in Turkey as objection deadline passes

PUBLISHED : Monday, 07 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 07 January, 2013, 4:40am


From communist works to a comic book, thousands of titles banned by Turkey over the decades have been taken off the restricted list as part of a government reform.

In July, the parliament adopted a bill stipulating that any decision taken before 2012 to block the sale and distribution of a published work would be voided if no court chose to confirm the ruling within six months.

The deadline came and went on Saturday and no such judicial decisions were recorded, the head of Turkey's TYB publisher's union, Metin Celal Zeynioglu, said. City prosecutor Kursat Kayral had announced last month that he would let lapse every ban in his jurisdiction, a decision that cleared 453 books and 645 periodicals in that area alone.

Among them were several communist works including the Communist Manifesto of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, as well as writings by Soviet tyrant Joseph Stalin and Russia's revolutionary leader Vladimir Lenin.

Others included a comic book, an atlas, a report on the state of human rights in Turkey and an essay on the Kurds.

But the books under Kayral's jurisdiction were only a fraction of all the titles affected, as many as 23,000 works according to Zeynioglu, who said the number came from the justice ministry.

"The bans were ordered by different institutions in different cities at different times," he said. "Most have been forgotten over the years and publishers have resumed printing banned books."

For example, the complete works of Turkish poet Nazim Hikmet, who died in exile in Moscow in 1963, had been stocked in libraries for years despite the ban. The reform is thus largely symbolic, and some are sceptical of whether it reflects any true change within the Turkish state.

"The mindset hasn't changed and people (in the administration) will continue to do whatever they think is right," said Omer Faruk, a former head of the Ayrinti publishing house.

One of his published books, the erotic Philosophy in the Bedroom by Marquis de Sade was banned, but the Supreme Court overturned the decision. "Despite the ruling, the book continues to be seized", he said.