Turkish teacher investigated for recommending novel by Nobel Prize winner

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LONDON, UNITED KONGDOM - JANUARY 26: Nobel Laureate novelist Orhan Pamuk is seen during the opening of the his award-winning 'The Museum of Innocence' exhibition at Somerset House in London, United States on January 26, 2016. AFP PHOTOS

A literature teacher in İstanbul revealed to the BirGün newspaper that they had come under investigation for recommending “The Museum of Innocence” by Orhan Pamuk, Turkish novelist and recipient of the 2006 Nobel Prize in Literature.

The teacher, who spoke to the paper on condition of anonymity, was reported to the authorities via the Prime Ministerial Communication Center (BİMER) by the parents of a student.

In their complaint the parents claimed that the teacher had “made children read obscenities.”

The teacher revealed that during the investigation they as well as students were questioned by prosecutors, who asked the students such questions as “Did you go to the museum?” and “Did you read the novel?”

Regarding the accusations, the teacher argued that Turkish students were asked questions by the Ministry of Education as well as other public authorities with respect to Pamuk and that what is considered in the complaint to be obscenity is something that is part of life.

“The Museum of Innocence is available in the ministry’s electronic library. So if there is a list of banned books, this novel is not on that list. Obscenity is a part of modern novels. Other Turkish classics that we offer have things that even border on incest. I only recommended this one because I thought it could get students to get into the habit of reading since it was an easily readable romance. I was investigated as a literature teacher for having made students read a book, and I really might get a penalty,” the teacher said.

The teacher also claimed that the investigation was the reason for reassignment to another school this year.

“I could not secure the school administration’s support last year. They told inspectors that they had warned me even though they knew very well that I was recommending this novel. They advised the students to tell inspectors that they had not read it,” the teacher added.

The novel tells the story of Kemal, an upper class male character who loves a “distant relative,” Füsun, the daughter of a poor family. The background delves into İstanbul in the 1970s and the popular culture of the time. The novel was accompanied by a museum opened by Pamuk in the city.

After a statement regarding the Armenian genocide, Pamuk was sued by ultranationalists in 2005 and was ordered to pay TL 6,500 in damages in legal proceedings that highlighted freedom of speech issues in Turkey.

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