The Republic of Turkey is known for being one of the oldest permanently settled regions in the world ... and for trampling on human rights.
So news that book bans — all 23,000 of them — have been lifted across the nation was a happy surprise.
After all, the dictum came from the same government that in 2012 had 76 journalists behind bars, according to the Committee for the Protection of Journalists.
Agence France-Presse reported recently that in July of 2012 Turkey’s parliament adopted a bill that lifted all bans on published works unless a court chose to confirm the ban by the end of the year.
So buying, selling and reading books ranging from the “Communist Manifesto” to a comic book are legal now for the first time in decades.
The bans were implemented by different institutions in different cities at different times, Agence France-Presse reports. Many of the bans have been forgotten or ignored for years.
On the other hand, some titles that had been spared from bans were still regularly confiscated.
And in November, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan took to task directors of a television show he said toyed with Muslim morals and talked of the need to teach them a lesson.
The majority of the Turkish population is Muslim.
Turkey’s human rights record has been an issue of concern as the nation appeals to become a member of the European Union. Maybe lifting the book bans will change some minds.
Maybe it also will remind us in the United States to value our freedom of speech.
With political divides widening and deepening, we might not like what we hear from “the other side,” but at least we can hear it — and we can talk back.
And we can write books about it without fear.