ISTANBUL—Imprisoned linguist and writer Sevan Nisanian has been awarded the William Saroyan Medal by Armenia’s Diaspora Ministry, reported the Agos newspaper.
Nisanian has been under arrest since January 2014 on the ground that he carried out “unlicensed construction work” in his private property. His lawyer Ergin Cinmen accepted the medal on his behalf.
At a ceremony held in Istanbul on September 23, Aragats Akhoyan, an independent deputy from Armenian parliament, presented the medal.
Armenians from Armenia, diaspora and Turkey, member of the Turkish parliament Selina Doğan of the CHP, human right defenders, journalists and writers attended the ceremony.
Hrant Kasparyan, member of International Committee for Freedom and Justice for Sevan Nisanian presented the opening remarks, following which Cinmen provided information about the lawsuits against the author and the ongoing legal process.
Nisanian’s mother, Sona, also addressed the gathering via a video link, saying that she wants to consider this medal as a promising development in terms of his son’s release. Selina Doğan stated that she hasn’t received any response to her parliamentary inquiry about Nisanian, which was addressed to Turkey Justice Ministry.
During the ceremony, solidarity messages from Armenian National Committee of America, European Armenian Council, German historian, scholar and author Professor Tessa Hofmann and historican Taner Akçam were also read.
“Armenian writer, linguist, intellectual and thinker Sevan Nisanian is in prison now. The body can be imprisoned, but is it possible to confine free thinking and a free heart? Today, we are here to award a freedom-loving person with a medal of another freedom-loving thinker carrying the name of William Saroyan. Therewith, the Ministry of Diaspora duly appreciates Sevan Nisanian’s devoted activities, aiming to preserve and develop Armenian language and culture,” said Aragats Akhoyan, a member of the Armenian Parliament.
“Though we are outraged by your unjust imprisonment, we are not surprised by the way they treat you, since the head of this government performed the greatest violation of construction law in Turkish history with his presidential palace; not to mention his other countless crimes,” said ANCA Executive Director, Aram Hamparian in his message.
“Today, Sevan Nisanian is awarded with a really meaningful prize. William Saroyan is not only a prominent figure in Armenian literature, but also in world literature. He was one of the last sons of Armenian motherland, Anatolia. Now, an award named after him is given to another Armenian intellectual of these lands,” said Akcam in his message.
“Sevan is not only a writer, he is also a historian, linguist, sociologist and political scientist. His works in these areas, as can be seen his Turkish dictionary and the books on history of Turkish language, are more valuable than the works by the official institutions working in these fields. His sophistication and immense creativity give him an ‘uncontrollable’ quality,” added Akcam.
“His limitless creativity baffled the ones who attacked him. This was so baffling that they couldn’t find a reason to arrest Sevan and they accused him of ‘violation of construction law.’ He is sentenced with 17 years in prison and other sentences are coming,” concluded Akcam’s statement.