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‘Nieuwe Kerk disqualifies itself by censorship’

15 April 2007 - The Nieuwe Kerk has ‘disqualified itself as a cultural institution to be taken seriously’ by removing texts from its Istanbul catalogue at the request of Turkey, according to writer Herman Vuijsje. He says it is ‘alarming’ that almost no-one responded.

The Nieuwe Kerk worked with Turkish institutions to prepare the Istanbul exhibition, which was on show until today. Urged by the Turkish government, texts about the Armenian genocide, homosexuality in the Ottoman Empire and the foundation of Istanbul by Greek colonists were removed from the catalogue.

When the authors refused to have their articles changed, these were removed altogether. According to the Nieuwe Kerk, this was done ‘with respect for both the authors and the Turkish government’.

“Purposely rewriting history and censoring scientific contributions is bad enough - the pathetic Stalinist hedging about ‘respect for the authors’ really is the limit”, writes Vuijsje in an opinion article in NRC Handelsblad.

“At least as alarming is the response from the outside world, or rather: the lack of such a response”, according to Vuijsje. He criticises the Amsterdam Municipality for keeping silent, despite having subsidised the exhibition. Intellectuals kept rather quiet too.

While Vuijsje discusses other examples of censorship, he does not mention the Turkish translation of De Brug, a book about the Galata Bridge in Istanbul written by Geert Mak and distributed for free during Book Week in March. In the Turkish version, the ‘deportation’ of Armenians would have been translated as ‘migration’.

According to Mak, this was unintended. The Turkish publisher panicked after the murder of writer Hrant Dink, a friend of him. He therefore started preparing a cleaned up version. However, Mak would have insisted on publishing the original version. The book's publication in Turkey was therefore postponed.

However, the cleaned up text was apparently used for the Turkish version published in the Netherlands. How this could have happened is unclear. Customers who have a cleaned-up version can change it for a correct translation.

Illustration: disputed excerpt from Köprü (De Brug). See also: Istanbul exhibition ‘might have been more critical’


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