2015 should be declared a year of support to Sevan Nisanyan: Hatspanian

Hasmik Martirosyan
Public Radio of Armenia

On the threshold of the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, Turkey continues its policy of silencing intellectuals and taking all measures to prevent them from speaking about the crime perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire. A vivid example of this policy was the arrest of Istanbul-based Armenian writer, philologist Sevan Nisanyan on charges of illegal construction.

An author of 19 books, Sevan Nisanyan, who keeps the Turkish nationalists and anti-Armenian historians in horror, needs the support of his compatriots, says Sarkis Hatspanian, an expert on regional issues.

Mr. Nisanyan is a man of many interests and talents. Linguist, journalist and hotel entrepreneur, Sevan Nisanyan graduated from the Private Armenian School of Pangalti and attended Robert College, then studied philosophy at Yale University, concentrating on Kant, Hegel and Thomas Aquinas. He did graduate studies in political science at Columbia University, where he worked under Giovanni Sartori, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Seweryn Bialer and Douglas Chalmers.

According to Hatspanian, Nisanyan was one of the first to import Commodore 64 computers to Turkey. He travelled all over the country to compile a series of guidebooks on Turkey’s regions. This was part of Nisanyan’s biography that posed no danger to the Turkish authorities, but it would be difficult for an Armenian man to live in Turkey and refrain from addressing the Armenian Cause, at least indirectly.

Sevan challenged the hotel businesses in Turkey, offering the hotels he built for lower prices. Then he wrote the book The Wrong Republic, a critique of what Nisanyan saw as the “founding myths” of the Republic of Turkey. Written in 1994, the book circulated widely in photocopy, until it could be legally published in 2008 without fear of reprisals.

Nisanyan appeared on CNN Turk’s “Contrary to the Questions” to discuss the “The Innocence of Muslims” riots and the Turkish government’s denouncements of the film. The Supreme Board of Radio and Television fined the private broadcast on the grounds that Mr. Nisanyan’s comments “insulted the Prophet Muhammad,” “exceeded the boundaries of freedom of expression” and were “insulting and injurious” to society.

According to Hatspanian, Nisanyan was silenced ahead of the Armenian Genocide centennial. “The Turkish authorities are taking a revenge on Nisanyan, one of the few individuals criticizing the Turkish authorities,” he said and added that “Armenia is also indifferent.”

Remind that Armenian intellectuals also launched a collection of signatures in support of Sevan Nisanyan. “But officials kept silent on the issue,” Hatspanian said.

In an interview with “Haber Turk” agency in late 2014 Nisanyan spoke about the Turkish policy regarding the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.

“With his intellectual values Sevan Nisanyan does not differ from the Armenian intellectuals sent to death on April 24, 1915,” Hatspanian said. “We are sending him to death, he struggles alone and tries to rise up. The Armenian society and the Republic of Armenia should declare a year of support to Sevan Nisanyan.”

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