Pamuk Addresses Audience of 500, Attends Community Reception in Rhode Island

PROVIDENCE, RI–Nobel Prize winner for literature, Orhan Pamuk was invited on November 14 to Brown University for a week long literary forum entitled Strange Times, My Dear, A Freedom-to-Write Literary hosted by the International Writers Project, at Brown University. The organization provides support to writers who face personal danger, oppression, and/or threats to their livelihood in nations throughout the world because of their freedom of expression in their writings, reported the Armenian National Committee of Rhode Island. Orhan Pamuk was amongst the several writers present at Literary Festival. Known for referencing Turkey’s dark past by stating in a Swiss magazine that "1 million Armenia’s and 30,000 Kurds were massacred by the hands of the Ottoman Turks, and stating that he is the only one that dares to speak about it," he intrigued the audience with his relaxed gestures and amusing commen’s during his speaking events. The first of three events, all held at Salomon Hall, was an introduction to the authors that were present for the festival and then a conversation with Orhan Pamuk. Recounting their own personal experiences of threats and harassment, the panel included Iranian novelist Shahrnush Parsipur, who was imprisoned four times for her writings, which are banned in her country; Shahriar Mandanipour, another Iranian writer who has been subject to harassment; and Pierre Mumbere Mujomba, the Congolese author of The Last Envelope, who fled his country after unidentified men mistakenly kidnapped his landlord instead of him. Other panelists included Joanne Leedom-Ackerman, the chairwoman of the Writers in Prison Committee for International PEN, and Larry Siems, Director of the Freedom to Write and International Programs at PEN American Center. The auditorium filled with approximately 400 people attending, included ANC Eastern Regional Director Karine Birazian, Armenian Youth Federation Central Executive member Levon Attarian, ANC-RI chairman Stephen Elmasian, and a large contingent of members of the Armenian community in Providence. Professor of Literary Arts at Brown University Robert Coover, the driving force behind the International Writers Project, while introducing Pamuk, referenced how Pamuk was on trial because of the reference he made about the Armenia’s and Kurds in a Swiss magazine. Following the lecture, Pamuk taking various questions from the crowd, was asked the following from a local native of Rhode Island, George Chekoyan, who asked "do you feel that by the actions you took, the Armenian Genocide will one day be recognized by Turkey?" Pamuk replied that he hopes one day we will all be free to speak about this subject in Turkey. During the second event, another question asked by a student at Brown University first mentioned that Pamuk’s novel The New Life, changed her life, and then went on to ask whether, in the interview that prompted the charges against him in Turkey, he deliberately avoided using the word genocide, referencing the word genocide by physical quotation gestures she made. Pamuk’s response was "Can I pull myself out of this question for awhile? I don’t want to go into it." In between the lecture series, letters circulating the auditorium was information about various writers and novelist that were facing assault in their country. The letters organized by the International PEN Writers in Prison Committee, Day of the Imprisoned Writer included information about Hrant Dink, a magazine editor of the weekly Agos magazine. The information gathered by PEN states: On 7 October 2005, in another case, Hrant Dink was convicted to a six-months suspended sentence by the Sisli Court of Second Instance in Istanbul. He had been charged for an article published in Agos in which he discussed the impact on present day Armenian Diaspora of the killings of hundreds of thousands of Armenia’s by the Ottoman army in 1915-17. Almost a century later, the issue remains a fraught one, with several countries calling on Turkey to recognize the events as a genocide. Turkey rejects this, saying that the deaths occurred during a civil war during which Turks were also killed. Dink, was accused of "insulting Turkish identity," Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code. The letter encouraged those to write an appeal to the Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, asking the charges be dropped against him. The evening concluded with Cooper, Pamuk, Siems, Parsipur, Mandanipour, faculty from Brown University, and the Iranian community, accepting an invitation from the Armenian community of Rhode Island to attend a reception at La Luna restaurant on Thayer Street, a five-minute walk from Salamon Hall. La Luna restaurant, owned by Simon and Lisa Sarkisian, graciously provided the hungry guests with a variety of delicious appetizers, and drinks, and allowed the guests to relax to what transpired to be a very powerful day for all those present at the function.

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