Sel Publishing: “The Assaults against Freedom of Thought and Expression are Completely Unacceptable”

Source: Kaos GL, “Düşünce ve Yaratım Özgürlüğüne Yapılan Saldırılar Kabul Edilemez,” (“The Assaults against Freedom of Thought and Expression are Completely Unacceptable,”) 19 December 2013,

The court has decided to delay the prosecution of the case regarding “indecency” against Sel Publishing, which had been brought on because of Apollinaire’s The Exploits of a Young Don Juan. İrfan Sancı, the owner of Sel, answered’s questions about the lawsuit process and the concept of “indecency.”

How were you affected by the lawsuit process regarding The Exploits of a Young Don Juan?

In addition to our other publishing activities, we started publishing erotic literature samples and we have published a lot of books under the name CinSel* Books. That the books that we have taken joy in publishing have become the subject of a lawsuit is really frustrating for us. This process can be extremely annoying but because of it we have been able to expose many problematic opinions to the public. During the lawsuit process, we exposed the arbitrary actions of the Harmful Publications Board. We stood up to the government, which is trying to act as a social engineer and interferes in what can be read or not. All this costs us money, time, and labor.

The “indecency” case was filed against the translator İsmail Yergüz along with you. How do you comment on the fact that translators and publishers are targets in these kinds of cases?

It is a clear message to the publisher, “Do not publish these kinds of books,” and to the translator, “Do not translate these kinds of books.”

The case has been temporarily suspended on the condition that the “same kind of crime” will not be committed again in the next three years. As Sel Publishing, will you continue to commit “similar crimes?”

While we are choosing a book, we do not decide by using criteria such as “Let’s commit a crime.” We have a certain publishing concept and we make our choices in this context. If a book we have published becomes the subject of a case, then it is not our problem. It is judiciary’s problem, or more precisely the state’s problem.

How do you evaluate blocking the publication of literature under the name of “indecency” in a country where children can be judged as terrorists as part of the Law on the Struggle against Terror?

Judging a fictive text is a direct assault on the “freedom of thought and expression” and it cannot be accepted.

Have you seen the solidarity that you expected during the lawsuit process? What’s your opinion about the public’s reaction to a book that is considered “obscene?”

Very interesting, during the case not a single negative evaluation was published by media outlets, though this does not excuse them. Initially, the Turkish Publishers’ Association as well as many national and international organizations supported us. What surprised me is the apathy of the LGBT movement apart from a few individuals, rather than the public opinion.

*Cinsel means sexual in Turkish. The name CinSel is a play with the word sexual and the publishing house’s name.

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