Watch the FRANCE 24 interview of Nedim Gursel.
Franco-Turkish writer Nedim Gürsel was prosecuted 30 years ago for “morally offending the public", then again several years later for assaulting a security officer. He is once again sought after by the law, this time for “denigrating the religious values of part of the population” in his latest novel, 'The Daughters of Allah'.
The novelist, appearing before an Istanbul court Tuesday, risks imprisonment for one to three years. It is the same court that prosecuted Orhan Pamuk, winner of the 2006 Nobel Prize for literature, for “insulting the Turkish nation.” Spending his time between France and Turkey, Gürsel has no desire to attend his own trial. “I made a deposition 15 days ago before a judge. I have already explained myself to the Turkish justice system,” Gürsel told FRANCE 24 with a calm and determined tone on the eve of the trial.
The author added: “I am a bit surprised. The investigation in August 2008 [several months after the publication of 'The Daughters of Allah' in Turkey] ended at an impasse. I thought the matter was closed.”
But a government official in charge of religious affairs took a different view and resurfaced the charges a few months ago, in a report accusing Gürsel of blasphemy.
30,000 copies sold in Turkey
“My crime is to have written allegorically and imaginatively of the advent of Islam, with the utmost respect for Muslims, but also I took the liberty of examining all forms of religious beliefs… Should I remind you again that this is a novel and not a theological textbook?” said the author in an open letter, to Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan, published April 30 in the Turkish daily Milliyet.
“This is a novel, written from several points of view, that describes the advent of Islam in the sixth century,” the author told FRANCE 24. “To go after a novelist in the 21st century seems anachronistic.”
Morever, last February, Erdogan said in no uncertain terms that Turkey was no longer “a nation that judges writers.” Gürsel pointed this out. “I thought that Turkey had made progress in the freedom of expression,” he said.
Over 30,000 copies of the novel were sold in Turkey. 'The Daughters of Allah' is scheduled to hit the shelves in France in the second half of 2009.