See this gun? So shut up

Poor Turkey, poor Orhan Pamuk.

Pamuk did not hesitate to publicly criticize the Turkish government, judiciary and society, which he held partly responsible for Dink’s death. “The murder of my courageous, golden-hearted friend has soured my life,” Pamuk confessed, “I am furious at everyone and everything, and I feel boundless shame.” As if to reinforce his words, Turkey was in an uproar last Friday over images of several police officers who were photographed in a chummy pose with the young murder suspect. The officers were suspended from duty, but not before the newspaper Sabah condemned the incident, writing that a nationalist murderer was being treated like a hero.

So Pamuk is in (very rational) fear for his life, and has left Turkey.

“Tell Orhan Pamuk to wise up!” one of the principal suspects in the Dink murder, right-wing extremist Yasin Hayal, a man with a criminal record, said publicly. The threat must have made a strong impression on the author. Last week the self-proclaimed “Turkish Revenge Brigade” (TIT) posted a video on YouTube depicting Dink’s corpse next to photos of Pamuk….The video ended with a shot of a Turkish flag and the head of a wolf – the symbol of Turkish ultra-nationalists, and the threat: “More will die.”

How I hate and despise people like that, and how little good it does me.

Pamuk, Turkey’s most famous writer and a man who ought to be the pride of this country as it seeks European Union membership, has been pursued by hate-mongering nationalists for some time, and he is not the only one. About a dozen Turkish writers, journalists and academics are currently the targets of hate-spewing, fanatical right-wing extremists. Pamuk’s hasty departure shines a spotlight on the clash of cultures and the climate of agitation, intimidation and fear dissidents in Turkey currently face, especially those who dare to tackle national taboos – of which there are many, including the 1915 genocide of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire…According to statistics compiled by the Turkish Human Rights Foundation, close to 100 intellectuals have already been hauled before courts for voicing their critical opinions. Most have been charged with the crime of “insulting Turkishness,” or disparaging national institutions. Reactionary prosecutors use a notorious Turkish law known as Article 301 to persecute critical thinkers.

In a way it sounds not as distant and foreign and alien as I would like…

The hostile mood in Turkey reflects the country’s difficult relationship with its intellectuals and its deep distrust of its pro-Western authors who criticize the system from within. “We are always seen as potential runaways, if not potential traitors,” says writer Shafak. “Criticizing the country is considered practically the equivalent of hating it.” In a recent television interview, she was asked: “Did you ever say that you were not feeling at home in Turkey?”

Actually, to an American, it sounds unpleasantly familiar. The rage is not as murderous or as prosecutorial here, but the basic concept is, I’m afraid, the same. It’s the same and it’s deadly for independent critical thought.

Update. I said that last bit very clumsily, as you’ll see from comments. I’ll leave it so that the comments won’t look like gibberish, and for that matter because it serves me right for putting it clumsily. I didn’t mean that the US situation is comparable – I didn’t even mean to change the subject to the US; it’s the Turkish situation that horrifies me. I found the murder of Hrant Dink really upsetting, and still do; Pamuk’s comment on it – that the murder of his golden-hearted friend has soured his life – makes me want to throw ashes on my head. I just meant that it’s the same way of thinking, that’s all. It is; but the way of acting is a whole different ball game.

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