Monday, August 01, 2005

Scholar arrested for taking books 

There's an interesting story from Armenia of a Kurdish-Turkish scholar, doing doctoral research at the Armenian National Archives (the first fellow to do so) that was arrested attempting to leave the country with old books. According to Katy at Blogrel -- an outstanding blog in Armenia, btw, which I read daily -- the books dated back to the 17th century, were purchased legally, and only required a special permit to take out of the country. In my travels to Armenia I have had to obtain such permits -- they are time-consuming but not difficult to obtain. This is particularly true for art and rugs, and happens in every country in the xUSSR I've visited. The biggest problem is that you don't know you need one unless you ask. It appears that the student, Yektan Turkyilmaz, did not know he needed such permits when he bought the books from an open-air bazaar in Yerevan (probably the Vernissage, where I've seen many used book sellers.) Turkyilmaz is a bibliophile and speaks six languages, including both common dialects of Armenian.

Katy also has the text of an open letter sent by 200 scholars to Armenian President Robert Kocharian and includes some additional factual information:
The effort is being made to publicize this news and hopefully pressure the government to let Turkyilmaz go free and continue his research. Stories are out in the academic community at SSRC and the Chronicle of Higher Education (subscriber link.) He is a doctoral student at Duke University, and his dissertation advisor is traveling to assist him.

The actions of the government to seize the backup CDs indicate that the government is interested in burying Turkyilmaz' research. I can find no reports to suggest he is in any way harming the Armenian side of the story about the genocide, which the Turkish government still denies. As I write this I am bothered by the possibility that there's something here I do not know about Turkyilmaz, but based on all reports his detention is an act of injustice. If the country wants to brag about its economic freedom it should also account for its political freedom.