İsmail Beşikçi

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İsmail Beşikçi (born in 1939 in İskilip, Turkey) is a Turkish scholar. He is a PEN Honorary Member.[1] He has served 17 years in prison[2] on propaganda (trumped up) charges stemming from his writings about the Kurdish population in Turkey.

Beşikçi studied at the Faculty of Political Sciences of Ankara University, and graduated in 1962. After his military duty he became an assistant professor at Atatürk University in Erzurum. He prepared his first anthropological study, an investigation of one of the last nomadic Kurdish tribes, the Alikan, here, which he submitted in 1967 to the Ankara Faculty of Political Sciences.

His second encounter with the Kurds was during his military service when he served in Bitlis and Hakkâri where he first saw the nomadic Alikan tribe pass through Bitlis on their migrations from winter to summer meadows and back. [3]

His book "The order of East Anatolia", first published in 1969, in which he sought to adapt and apply Marxist concepts to the analysis of Kurdish society and to the processes of socio-economic and political change taking place, made him a public enemy. While the book did not cause much debate either in academic or left intellectual circles, the university took disciplinary measures against him which would lead to a trial after the 1971 coup. He was detained and put on trial for communist and anti-national propaganda where he was sentenced to 13 years imprisonment for violating the indivisibility of the Turkish nation.

Beşikçi did not have to serve his full 13 years and benefited amnesty in late 1974. He unsuccessfully applied for a position at the Faculty of Political Sciences in Ankara, which in 1970 had appeared willing to employ him. He never found academic employment again and was henceforth to do his research as an independent scholar, in economically precarious circumstances.

For many years, Ismail Beşikçi was the only non-Kurdish person in Turkey to speak out loud and clearly in defense of the rights of the Kurds. Continuing to write and speak in spite of all attempts to silence him, Beşikçi has become a powerful and important symbol for the Kurds and for the human rights movement of Turkey.He was charged for over 100 years[1][4] but released from jail in 1999.[5] In 1987 he was a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize. 32 of the 36 books that he has published have been banned in Turkey.[6]

He has been described as "modern Turkey's pioneer of Kurdish studies". [3]

In 2010 he was again prosecuted, this time by the attorney general of Istanbul for “PKK propaganda” on account of an article on "The rights of the nations to self-determination and the Kurds" that he wrote for the "Association of Contemporary Lawyers". [7] In March 2011 he was sentenced to 15 months in prison.[8] He was announced the Person of the Year by Rudaw Media Network, A major Kurdish Media Network based in Kurdistan Region for his contribution to the Kurdish cause, and inspiring others to do so. [9]


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