Nobel laureate Pamuk: I take coup cases seriously

TODAY’S ZAMAN
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Orhan Pamuk
Acclaimed novelist Orhan Pamuk backed ongoing investigations into alleged coup plots, saying he finds details published in the media regarding the coup preparations convincing.

Author Orhan Pamuk voices his support for the ongoing probes into coup plans, saying that he finds the coup attempts serious. Pamuk also said the dwindling influence of the military on politics has been PM Erdo?an’s greatest achievement
“It’s good that the judges [and] public prosecutors are investigating these things. … I take it seriously,” Pamuk, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2006, said in an interview broadcast on PBS’s Charlie Rose Show on Friday night. Remarks from the interview were widely covered in Turkish newspapers on Sunday. The interview will be rebroadcast on Bloomberg TV on Monday.
Prosecutors have indicted dozens of military commanders, including generals, in the Ergenekon and Sledgehammer cases, in which suspects are accused of plotting a coup against the government. The cases, however, recently became controversial amid criticism over the length of pre-trial detention and charges that the cases are turning into a campaign to silence the government’s opponents.
The indictment of Ergenekon revealed that Pamuk was on the gang’s to-be-assassinated list.
“I think that — that there were military coups in Turkey previously and there were attempts of making military coups recently. And what I read in Turkish newspapers in all details about these attempts seems convincing to me,” said Pamuk. “But I’m no judge. And I’m — you know, I’m just behaving like a regular citizen. I think Turkish people is [sic] also convinced about the reality of what’s happening.”

Pamuk, who was once charged with insulting Turkishness for remarks about the plight of Armenians and Kurds in Anatolia, also praised the government for successful efforts to trim the role of the military, which traditionally viewed itself as the guardian of Turkey’s secular state, in politics. “[Prime Minister Recep Tayyip] Erdo?an … has been most successful in this, that army’s power is reduced in Turkey. And I am happy about that. But that also in some people fuels anxieties about [the] preservation and well-being of secularism,” said Pamuk.

‘Turkey is not becoming more religious’

Pamuk also dismissed assertions that Turkey is becoming more religious under Prime Minister Erdo?an’s Justice and Development Party (AK Party), whose leaders are mostly pious Muslims.

“Politics is being handled by people who are certainly more devout than previous generation of politicians. No doubt about that,” Pamuk said. “Is [it] becoming more devout? I can’t tell,” he said. “[The] lifestyle in Turkey or cultural texture, [the] qualities of Turkey are not radically changing. How much of it is we are getting rich? [The] middle classes in Anatolia who are more traditional and devout have more visibility. And how much of it is anxiety about secularism, or this party’s foreign politics? It’s so hard to make a distinction. But I think the country is not getting to be more religious.”

And, according to Pamuk, whether the number of women wearing the headscarf is increasing is irrelevant to claims that Turkey is becoming more religious. “Seeing and not seeing [the] headscarf should not be the criteria [to measure if Turkey is becoming religious],” said Pamuk. “In the end, 75 percent of Turkish women, not making it a political symbol, would naturally wear a headscarf. Some of them loosely. Some of them in a more political way. For me, my value is everyone should be able to do what they want. [The] army shouldn’t tell us, ‘You just take off your headscarf if you want to enter the university or the hospital’.”

‘Turkey not changing its course’

Pamuk also joined debates over Turkey’s new orientation, dismissing charges that it is moving towards becoming an Islamic society with closer ties with the Middle East.

“As [a] lifestyle, as [a] culture, Turkey is getting rich and complex, but I don’t think it’s changing its course,” he said. “I don’t think Turkey is changing its main course to be a member of [the] community of civilized nations, but it’s doing that a bit slowly.”

“I don’t think Kemal Atatürk’s idea that Turkey be a civilized, modern nation is betrayed — but, on the other hand, it’s not that successful. It’s not as successful as we hope. But, on the other hand, the party that is ruling Turkey for the last 10 years is made up of politicians who are pious, more religious than the previous parties and groups. But on the other hand, what’s happening in Turkey is not that new too. That in the last 200 years essentially there were two parties in Turkey and it’s the same thing. That there are reformists, there are liberals — or those who aspire to imitate Western civilization more. And there are the conservatives, people who value values of Islam more in their life.”

Pamuk said Turkey’s democracy remains flawed and that free speech and tolerance are still hindered as the country keeps going back and forth between traditional culture and modernity. But he warned that exaggerated fears over the preservation of the secular order would also pave the way for the army’s involvement in democracy.

The Nobel laureate said he understood widespread public resentment about the “second-class” treatment offered to Turkey by the European Union but warned that this should not lead Turks to seek revenge by turning away from Europe towards the Middle East.

Turkey’s secular left

According to Pamuk, Turkey’s secular left is also realizing that its long-held support for preserving secularism through support from the military is not in line with modern values.

“What is interesting is that some values are changing for the seculars. … Turkey’s left is realizing that unfortunately preserving secularism through the force of [the] army is not modern, is not honoring free speech and human rights anymore. To have military coups with the excuse of ‘Oh, we have to keep the country secular’ just like [former Egyptian President Hosni] Mubarak did … is not honoring Kemal Atatürk’s ideal that Turkey be a modern, open society at all.”

‘I don’t want to lose Turkey’

Commenting on the charges of insulting Turkishness brought against him in 2005, Pamuk said he frequently left Turkey to live abroad as a way to keep things in balance. “It’s very bad, really, because in the end, what’s at stake is this: I don’t want to lose Turkey. I … belong here. But I don’t want to lose my [right] to criticize Turkey. So it means that I have to balance it in — in a way– that I move out of Turkey, I come back, I move out of Turkey, I come back,” he said. He complained of the high interest he receives in Turkey and abroad because of these charges against him. “My visibility is too much and I’m upset by it. I want [to] be by myself. … I’m not a political commentator. I’m a, you know, novelist or artist or whatever,” he said.

A criminal case was opened in 2005 against Pamuk after he said Kurds and Armenians had been killed in Anatolia but that no one talks about it. The case was opened on the basis of a complaint filed by ultranationalist lawyer Kemal Kerinçsiz, who is currently detained as a suspect in the Ergenekon case. The charges were later dropped.

Pamuk said his situation was less difficult compared to the previous generation of Turkish intellectuals, who suffered during coup periods.

“The fact that I’m international makes it a little bit dramatical, [but] so many writers have suffered so much in the military coups. I don’t want to complain. I don’t want to say that, you know, this happened, that happened. I look to [the] future. I write my books,” he said.

Arrest of journalists ‘unacceptable’

In the interview Pamuk also answered a question about the arrest of journalists in Turkey, which he described as “unacceptable.”

He said there are currently more than 50 journalists under arrest in Turkey while lamenting the fact that Turkey’s most-loved politicians such as the late Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit and former President Süleyman Demirel, who had been jailed, carried out no reforms to expand freedom of speech after coming to power. He said these politicians should have implemented the necessary reforms to expand the scope of free speech in Turkey.

A report released in early May by the Washington-based Freedom House showed that Turkey ranked 112th with 54 points among 196 countries with regard to a free press. Turkey is in the category of countries that have a “partly free” media.


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