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Criminalizing History

Legal Restrictions on Statements and Interpretations of the Past in Germany, Poland, Rwanda, Turkey and Ukraine


Edited By Klaus Bachmann and Christian Garuka

Why do states ban certain statements and interpretations of the past, how do they ban them and what are the practical consequences? This book offers an answer to these questions and at the same time examines, whether the respective legislation was supply-or demand-driven and how prosecutors and courts applied it. The comparison between Germany, Poland, Ukraine, Rwanda and Turkey offers several surprising insights: in most countries, memory law legislation is supply driven and imposed on a reluctant society, in some countries they target apolitical hooligans more than intellectuals or the government’s political opponents. The book also discusses, why and how liberal democracies differ from hybrid regimes in their approach to punitive memory laws and how such laws can be tailored to avoid constraints on free speech, the freedom of the press and academic freedoms.

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Memory laws in Turkey: protecting the memory of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk: Grażyna Baranowska


(Grażyna Baranowska)


In his speech at a conference organized by the youth branches of the Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, AKP) in 2006, professor Atilla Yayla referred to Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder and the first president of Turkey until his death in 1938, as “this man” (original: “bu adam”) and questioned whether Kemalizm,148 the ideology set up by Atatürk, had contributed to the countries progress. He also stated that soon Turks will be asked why there are so many statues of “this man” in the country. For referring to Atatürk as “this man” he was charged with contravening the Law of Offenses Committed Against Atatürk (Law no. 5816). He received a sentence of one year and 3 months of prison, which was subsequently suspended for a two-year period of supervision.149

Punishing an academic for referring to a deceased head of state as “this man” shows the dangers related to Law no. 5816. It dates back to 1951 and has not been amended since, despite major changes in Turkish criminal law. Turkey is well-known for its repressive memory laws, for the provisions protecting the Turkish nation, based on which charges were brought against Orhan Pamuk, among others, for speaking about the ←107 | 108→killings of thousands of Kurds and a million Armenians in Turkey (Article 301 of the Criminal Code). However, this law – and most others that have been used to prosecute persons because...

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