By Hambersom Aghbashian
Pinar Selek (born October 8, 1971) is a Turkish sociologist, feminist, and author. She attended the French-language high school Notre Dame de Sion Fransız Lisesi in Istanbul and completed her undergraduate and graduate studies in the sociology department at Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University. She is currently pursuing doctoral studies in political science at the University of Strasbourg. Pinar Selek is known for her work on the rights of vulnerable communities in Turkey, including women, the poor, street children, sexual minorities, and Kurdish communities. She is the author of several books published in Turkish, German, and French, and is one of the founding editors of Amargi, a Turkish feminist journal. She currently resides in France. Selek has been prosecuted over a 15-year period in Turkey in connection to an explosion that occurred at the Spice Bazaar*, Istanbul in 1998. Tried and acquitted of all charges on three occasions (in 2006, 2008, and 2011), her most recent acquittal was amended in November 2012 by the Istanbul Heavy Penal Court No. 12, which sentenced her to life in prison on January 24, 2013. Selek’s lawyers have appealed the verdict and announced plans to bring her case before the European Court of Human Rights.(1)
In December 2008, two hundred prominent Turkish intellectuals released an apology for the “great catastrophe of 1915”. This was a clear reference to the Armenian Genocide, a term still too sensitive to use so openly. The signatories also announced a website related to this apology, and called on others to visit the site and sign the apology as well. The brief text of the apology is: “My conscience does not accept the insensitivity showed to and the denial of the Great Catastrophe that the Ottoman Armenians were subjected to in 1915. I reject this injustice and for my share, I empathize with the feelings and pain of my Armenian brothers and sisters. I apologize to them.” Pinar Selek was one of the signatories.(2)
Pinar Selek is one of the Turkish intellectuals who always tackles the Armenian genocide subject, and according to Cem Sey, who writes for the liberal newspaper Taraf, “the Turkish judiciary often cracks down on artists and writers who tackle taboo subjects like Kurdish rights and the Armenian genocide.” (3)
According to “www.france24.com”, January 24, 2013, “Pinar Selek, cleared three times of complicity in a 1998 explosion in Istanbul, has been sentenced to life imprisonment by a Turkish court. She told France 24 that “the authorities want to silence her research on Armenian and Kurdish issues.” Pinar Selek, lives in self- imposed exile in France.(4)
Pinar Selek, a political refugee in France, who is currently carrying out research into the transformation of the militant Turkish sphere and its influence on movements of the Armenian Diaspora, lunched her new book “Parce qu’ils sont arméniens” (Because They’re Armenians). On this occasion, “www.lianalevi.fr” wrote on February 5, 2015, “April 2015 will mark the centenary of the Armenian genocide—a dark chapter in Turkish history, still controversial, still taboo. What might a Turk born in the 70s make of this community and this period of history? Pinar Selek responds with this personal and engaged account woven from memories, observations, and encounters. We learn along with her, from the inside, what it means to be formed by reciting slogans at school proclaiming national superiority, studying from misleading textbooks surrounded by fearful and silent classmates, wandering through a city where Armenian names have been expunged from public signs, campaigning in extreme-left movements having accepted this denial. The sensitive and controversial testimony of a woman of conviction whose personality and writing continues to be influenced by the Armenian question.”(5)
*The Spice Bazaar (Turkish: Mısır Çarşısı, meaning Egyptian Bazaar) in Istanbul, Turkey is one of the largest bazaars in the city. Located in the Eminönü quarter of the Fatih district, it is the most famous covered shopping complex after the Grand Bazaar.