Mehmed Uzun’s defense offered in the Diyarbakir State Security Court No. 4. (19.04.2002)
Members of the Court Committee
I want to answer the claim of separatism made by the Esteemed Prosecutor at the beginning of my small defense in the case. It was wrong to open such a case against my writing and me just because I have defended the rights of Kurds to have their own language and culture. Moreover it does an injustice to my writing. If the Esteemed Prosecutor had read any of my novels or essays or if he had considered everything that I’ve said about the case, it is unlikely that he would have made such a claim.
I am a multilingual, multicultural writer. I am a citizen of both the Turkish Republic and Sweden. I write in several languages, read in quite a few languages and continually think and live in several languages. I am a Turkish Kurd and I have passed more than half of my life in Europe, Sweden and Scandinavia. The legend of Gilgamish, the stories in the Old Testament, the New Testament, the Qur’an and the Zoroastrian faith, the examples of various prophets are inseparable living parts of the cultural atmosphere in which I was born and raised. The Kurdish bards, the Turkmen minstrels, the Armenian songs, Assyrian, Syriac airs, Yazidi speech survive in me as the living voices of my childhood and youth. One of my first sources of historical consciousness was Herodotus of the Aegean; one of the first instructors of my writing was Homer of the Aegean who related the saga of the Trojan War at Canakkale and the Dardanelles. Later when I went to Europe and to Sweden, I began to get deeply involved in the heritage of that extensive language, culture and literature. I learned these, investigated them and brought inseparable riches to my life. Today Swedish modern literature and poetry, Norwegian national literature, Icelandic sagas, Finland’s Kalevala epic, Denmark’s oral tradition and the literary voice of many writers and their writings, so many that one needn’t write their names, now completely belong to me and inform all my writing. If I hadn’ t carried out any literary, intellectual experiments in Europe and Scandinavia, I couldn’t have created my writing that is very tied to Mesopotamia, Anatolia and the Aegean. Perhaps the most important stroke of luck in what has been a very unlucky life is real multiculturalism.
As a writer whose dreams come in different languages and who continually lives in different languages, cultures and atmospheres I don’t carry out separatism and even if I wanted to, I couldn’t. My duty is not to be a separatist, but a unifier. The fundamental element for me is not to divide but to unite. Separatism is not just something foolish; I also see it as a dangerous thought. As a multicultural writer I know from my own personal experiments how racism, nationalism, totalitarian ideology and prejudice against other languages, religions, identities and cultures are monsters and I definitely don’t like these kinds of things. As a writer the one thing I have tried to achieve in all my novels and essays, in my literary conversations and communications is the creation of a literary place in the service of all mankind where languages, religions, cultures and different individuals can meet without hatred and prejudice.
I was born in a small city some 70 kilometers from here, the child of a Kurdish mother and father. My mother tongue was Kurdish and the Kurdish oral literature created the first richness of my soul. For this reason and because I feel a moral responsibility, I write my novels in Kurdish. Despite all the difficulties, creating the art of a modern human novel is the central duty of my life. However I am doing this not to engage in foolish separatism, but to be able to offer a different voice, a different human fate and stories to the Kurds, the Turks, Turkey and the world. I am writing not to engage in separatism but to enrich what already exists.
Even if I hadn’t been Kurdish, I would say that the Kurds have the right to a language, identity and culture and I would defend this. Because according to me everyone in the world has these rights and nothing must ever touch these rights. To defend these rights for one section of people and not defend them for another is not in my opinion civilized behavior to say the least. The rights and freedoms of the individual are very important for me and I defend the need for these rights to be valid for everyone. For example, I defended the rights of the Turkish minority in Bulgaria during the time of the dictator Zhivkov. There the language of the Turks was forbidden, their names were being changed and carrying out religious obligations blocked. This couldn’t be accepted. The witness to what they did to the Turk’s natural rights in Bulgaria, after Zhivkov’s downfall is Blaga Dimitrova, the poet who became vice president. For the Albanians in Kosovo, I did everything in my power. The Serbian regime was using pressure against the language, identity and cultural rights of the Albanian Kosovars and treating them like slaves. They had to be opposed. I can’t claim that I did a lot but the witness to what I did is the poet Ibrahim Ragova who was chosen president in Kosovo in past days.
I cite these examples for the following reason: according to me an individual’s right to language, religion and identity is sacred. All the words, languages, religions, cultural characteristics are born of man’s need and answers man’s needs especially where his spiritual and emotional worlds are concerned. The existence and development of these enriches us all and their prohibition or destruction impoverishes us, that is to say, humanity. Everybody can have an ideology, politics, thought but never should a person use language, religion and identity as an instrument of politics, ideology and profit; he must never forbid the language, religion and identity of others; these must not cause pain. To try to forbid or destroy an individual’s language, religion and identity is separatism. And not just separatism, it is a crime against humanity.
Despite all the wars, the political eruptions and social and economic ups and downs, mankind has infallible measures: human conscience and mercy. The measure for my view of life and human beings for me as an individual is not ideologies or politics; it is conscience and mercy. Most of the time because arguments and daily political noise are disturbances, we can’t hear what the voice of this human conscience and mercy has always said to us throughout history: don’t touch an individual’s language, religion and identity. Human conscience and mercy have always been the distinguishing mark of human development. Even if regimes, states, organizations, politics, ideologies and the legal systems created in conformity to these would want to drown out the voice of human conscience and mercy from time to time and place to place, at the end this voice reasserts itself to understand what is right and correct.
The voice of human conscience and mercy in regard to Turkey is saying the following to us: everybody who is both Kurdish and a citizen of the Turkish Republic must have free and equal rights for their language, religion and identity. How the problems get solved politically I don’t know but in my opinion the political, legal and cultural obstacles in front of the citizens of the Turkish Republic’s getting on with their lives with their own language, religion and identity must be removed and they have to be helped in developing these. Because only thus can a civilized, prosperous and democratic Turkey be achieved. Because worthy and civilized future for Turkey lies here. There is one reality that we have witnessed countless times everywhere in the world; prohibitions and obstacles bring neither individuals nor societies to modernity and civilization. The condition of being modern and civilized is freedom, equality and tolerance. What I have to say about my case is this. The Esteemed Prosecutor may not be able to agree with this but the cases opened against me because of this, being treated as a terrorist and wanting to judge and punish me under the Anti-Terrorist Law are frightful things.
But Turkey has reached the point today where something comes out very clearly. Despite everything Turkey has long ago listened to the voice of human conscience and mercy. Aside from a few racists and fanatics, the entire society, everyone from President Ahmet Necdet Sezer to the ordinary citizen on the street, including the Kurds, is speaking about the language, religion and identity rights of the citizens of the Turkish Republic, the work that the whole of society has undertaken on these matters and the example of the development mentioned above.
My speech, a brief summary of my views that I have written about more comprehensively elsewhere, is a small literary and cultural contribution. Nothing else.
The Esteemed Prosecutor is blaming me for having said that generosity was not shown to the Kurds and other nations of the last century. I have to repeat here what I said in that speech: generosity was not only not shown to the Kurds in the last century, it was not shown to anyone. The last century in my opinion was the bloodiest, most criminal, most unscrupulous, miserable century in all of human history. It was a century of war, racism, nationalism, totalitarianism and fanaticism. Naturally now I am not here to draw up the balance sheet of that bloody century. However one single example is enough to show what kind of a century it was: around seven million Jews, just because they were Jewish, children, the old, the young, men and women were systematically destroyed by unbelievable methods in Nazi concentration camps. If that century had been even a little generous, if a few people had listened to their conscience and had mercy, could these terrifying human massacres been carried out? I gave the speech that this case is based on January 15, 2000. We were in the first days of a new century and it was incumbent on me to stress to my dear listeners, around 6000 altogether, who had taken the time and trouble to come to listen to me that we had left a murderous century behind and the new century must not resemble the previous one. If I were to speak for myself, I would only be able to praise the previous century for two things. The first is the struggle given for the rights and freedoms, personal dignity and respect of the individual. The second is the magnificent human literature created in that bloody century despite all the difficulties. Saying these things now as a writer, I think of Benjamin who had to commit suicide on a border escaping from the Nazis; Mann who created his novel "Yusuf and his Brothers" under the unbearable conditions of exile; Broch who created "The Death of Virgilius;" Mandelstam who was slaughtered in Stalin’s torture chambers; Pasternak who was continually downgraded and left alone as a result of extraordinary campaigns in order to not offer his pen in the service of a dictator; Neruda who was abandoned to die because a thick headed dictator who had come to power by killing a popularly elected president would not give him the medicine he needed; the countless writers whose pens were broken in the Chinese Cultural Revolution and sentenced to deadly exile; the countless intellectuals who were destroyed in the Nazi concentration camps; the poets who had their tongues locked in the hell of the Middle East; and the artists who passed their lives in prisons because of their thoughts and art. All these writers and intellectuals have left a magnificent artistic and literary heritage that we can be proud of to us, to the generations who came after them, to all of us at the price of indescribable pain. These writers, intellectuals and artists who have been very helpful in my writing and who defend respect for words, I want to thank again in your presence and express my obligation to them.
I was born in 1953 and when I was born, the Second World War had long since ended. But in spite of this I believe that all of us, German, Japanese, American, Kurd, Turk have a collective responsibility for the murders of the last century. It could be that the Respected Prosecutor may not think so but in my opinion it is important to believe in collective responsibility and to behave accordingly and prevent what happened in the last century from happening in the new one.
If Turkey had not been affected by the characteristics of the last century, a large portion of the problems that Turkey experiences today most likely wouldn’ t have occurred and we would not be speaking of the language and identity rights of the Kurds, there would not be this type of arraignment nor would we be worried about Turkey’s being divided and fragmented. As a writer who criticizes the characteristics of the last century and relates these in his novels and essays in literary terms, I see language, religion and identity not as a danger but as an enriching human heritage. The situation is even more important for the languages that are among the oldest languages in man’s history like Kurdish, Aramaic, Syriac, Armenian, Arabic, Persian and Hebrew that are still live on in our region. These ancient languages belong to these lands watered by the Euphrates River, the Tigris River that flows through us in part and Diyarbakir basin; they are the languages of the first civilizations of mankind and the languages of many human religions. If I knew these languages, not just Kurdish and Turkish, I would write in these languages too. It is not to engage in separatism at first hand, I would do it to add to the modern literary world peoples’ fates untold before, human disasters that literature hasn ’t yet borne witness to, voices not yet heard, places that have difficulty in relating themselves and so perhaps enrich the literary world of our day somewhat more. Although I can’t write in these languages there are always many languages, religions, places, identities and cultures in my novels and perhaps this is the reason.
In conclusion I want to say the following: neither this case nor the cases that resemble this suit you and a Turkey that has long since entered the road to human conscience and mercy. Turkey’s future is in the freedom related to words, thoughts, languages, religions and identity.
19.04.2002 - Diyarbakir